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By Ben Guerin
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Sue Gray Set To Join Keir Starmer's Team As Watchdog Gives Green Light

Former senior civil servant Sue Gray is set to join Labour leader Keir Starmer's team as his chief of staff. (Alamy)

3 min read

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), which oversees appointments of senior civil servants after they leave their roles, has given the green light for former senior civil servant Sue Gray to join Labour as leader Keir Starmer's chief of staff.

Gray, who was second permanent secretary to the cabinet office and appointed by Boris Johnson to lead the investigation into Partygate last year, sparked controversy in March after it emerged she was leaving the civil service to join Labour. 

The move triggered allegations of bias by Gray against Johnson by Conservative MPs, with Johnson himself saying: “I leave it to others to decide how much confidence may now be placed in her inquiry and in the reports that she produced.” 

However, ACOBA confirmed on Friday that Gray is free to take up her role as Starmer's chief of staff after six months from her final day in her post in the civil service, meaning she is expected to start working for Labour in September.

Other terms included not drawing on "any privileged information available to her from her time in Crown service". 

It also said it found "no evidence... that Ms Gray’s decision making or ability to remain impartial was impaired whilst she remained in her Civil Service role". 

Labour leader Starmer has said he was "delighted" by ACOBA's decision and thanked the board for their work, adding Labour "have followed the process and accept their advice".

"Sue will lead our work preparing for a mission-led Labour government," he said. 

"She brings unrivalled experience on how the machinery of government works and is a woman of great integrity.

"After 13 years of the Tories, we know there is much to do to tackle the cost of living crisis, grow our economy and rebuild our public services. Should we be privileged enough to be elected, Sue will ensure we're able to hit the ground running."

The news is likely to cause a renewed wave of anger among some Tory MPs, particularly fervant backers of Johnson who claim he has unfairly treated over the partygate saga.

In her report, Gray said there were "failures of leadership and judgment in No 10 and the Cabinet Office", and that events investigated "were attended by leaders in government" and "should not have been allowed to happen". 

 “Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government," said Gray in the report. "The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”

Johnson and his allies have also repeatedly accused the privileges committee, which found the former prime minister had knowingly misled parliament earlier this month, of using Gray's report to draw their conclusions. 

“It is surreal to discover that the committee proposes to rely on evidence culled and orchestrated by Sue Gray, who has just been appointed chief of staff to the leader of the Labour Party," said Johnson in March. 

However, allegations the committee relied on Gray's report to draw their verdict have been vehemently denied by the privileges committee, who said it was not used in their investigation nor in the conclusions the reached. 

A privileges committee spokesperson in May said: "It was the duty of the chair to make contact with anyone, including Sue Gray, who might be able to indicate potential witnesses.

"The only evidence the committee will rely on it is that which is separately and independently verified by the relevant witness. The privileges committee is not relying on evidence gathered by Sue Gray."

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