Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to make Sue Gray his chief of staff proves he is a “man of the establishment” and will harm Labour’s chances of winning the Red Wall, a former Conservative party chairman has claimed
Sir Jake Berry said the appointment underlined that the Labour leader would run a “dull as ditch water government” if he wins power at the next general election.
Sue Gray, who has served for decades in Whitehall departments, became a household name during the “partygate” scandal which preceded Boris Johnson’s downfall as prime minister. She authored a report which found “a failure of leadership and judgement” in Number 10 during Mr Johnson’s premiership.
Conservative MPs have reacted with anger to the appointment of the veteran official, who resigned from her civil service role last night to begin the appointment process.
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Former cabinet minister and current GB News host Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted: “So much for an impartial civil service, the Gray report now looks like a left wing stitch up against a Tory prime minister”.
Key Boris Johnson supporter Nadine Dorries also tweeted: “Sue Gray move to Starmer’s office [is] not surprising. Whilst writing report, she … tweeted out pro-Labour anti-gov tweets whilst Alistair Campbell heaped praise upon her. Her comms assistant briefed against Johnson from day 1. The Gray report was a stitch up of PM and [civil servants]”.
Sir Jake Berry, another Johnson ally, told Talk TV: “I had some dealings with Sue Gray when I was in the Cabinet Office, I always found her very, very good to deal with.
“But what I would say is I think this tells you a little bit about what a Keir Starmer government is going to be like. He is a man of the establishment having been the chief prosecutor for the UK.
“He is going to take in the civil servant of all civil servants Sue Gray to run his charisma-bypass, dull as ditch water government if he wins the election.
“The people who I represent in Lancashire want a disruptor who cares about the things that matter to them, not an SW1 civil service-type government and I think Keir Starmer has made a terrible mistake”.
Making Labour’s case for the appointment this morning, shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said Sue Gray is “impartial” and “really good at her job”.
Ms Powell said: “I’ve actually had some previous dealings with Sue Gray and I always found her to be an incredibly professional, impartial and generous person who was really good at her job”
She told ITV‘s Good Morning Britain that she doesn’t think “there are many people” who would have said “anything different” about Ms Gray before her announcement as Labour’s chief of staff.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has also been criticised for contradictory comments on the famous Whitehall Mandarin. He had described Ms Gray as “independent” and someone who will not come “under pressure from the government” during the partygate inquiry.
The general secretary of the FDA civil servants union, Dave Penman, has further rebutted comments made by Conservative MPs which accuse Sue Gray of a plot to oust Boris Johnson.
“It was only 18 months ago everyone was lauding the integrity and impartiality of Sue Gray”, Mr Penman told Sky News, referring to her role as partygate investigator.
He added: ”Every civil servant and minister sees things that are private to government. … She is bound by the restrictions of all civil servants.”