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Government Pauses Inquiry Into Sue Gray Labour Talks

Chief Partygate Investigator Sue Gray (alamy)

2 min read

The Cabinet Office has put an inquiry into circumstances surrounding veteran civil servant Sue Gray's departure on hold pending an update from the government’s appointments watchdog, Acoba.

In a written statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden also noted that Gray had chosen not to engage with the inquiry into whether she had discussed the possibility of becoming Labour's chief of staff with party leader Keir Starmer while working as second permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office.

Gray rose to public prominence after she led the inquiry into allegations of lockdown breaching gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall during the Covid lockdown.

The long-standing civil servant was appointed by Boris Johnson to investigate whether illegal parties were held in Downing Street. Although the former prime minister claimed he was vindicated, her report delivered a scathing assessment after it claimed those in No 10 had shown a "failure of leadership and judgement".

In March it was reported that she had applied to the government's Advisory Committee on Business Appointments – Acoba – to become Starmer's chief of staff. Her new role comes after a long career in the civil service, including a recent four year stint as "propriety and ethics" lead at the cabinet office. 

News of her appointment prompted fury among some Conservative MPs, who believe her decision to take up the new job with Labour cast doubts on political impartiality in relation to the partygate investigation.

In today's statement Dowden said the Cabinet Office is still considering its next steps regarding Gray's appointment as Starmer's chief of staff. The investigation has involved many interviews over the exact details on the contact between Gray and Starmer. Dowden confirmed Gray was asked if she wanted to engage but chose not to.

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