Boris Johnson’s allies have claimed Sue Gray’s plan to join the Labour leader’s office as his chief of staff proves the Partygate probe was ‘a deliberate and manufactured plot to oust a Brexit-backing Conservative prime minister’.
Tories close to the former British leader reacted furiously after a ‘delighted’ Keir Starmer confirmed that the senior civil servant hopes to ‘accept the role subject to the normal procedures’.
Jacob Rees-Mogg raged ‘so much for an impartial civil’, while Nadine Dorries described the Gray Partygate report as a ‘stitch-up’.
Ms Gray has not yet made any public comment, while Mr Johnson is also yet to comment himself.
Her investigation into law-breaking parties held in Downing Street played a key role in his downfall – as she detailed how officials drank so much they were sick, became involved in fights and abused security and cleaning staff amid Covid lockdowns.
Mr Johnson made history by becoming the first sitting PM in history to be found to have broken the law when he was fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending a party on his birthday.
This scandal came amid the Owen Paterson debacle and his controversial flat refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
His promotion of MP Chris Pincher – despite knowing there were sexual misconduct allegations against him – was the catalyst for a wave of humiliating resignations from ministers before he finally stepped down.
It is unclear if Ms Gray’s move will go ahead, as it will be scrutinised by Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba).
Rishi Sunak will make a final decision on whether it is ‘unsuitable’. Under the civil service code, officials of Ms Gray’s seniority must wait a minimum of three months before taking up outside employment.
Speaking on Thursday, former cabinet minister Mr Rees-Mogg called for an inquiry into Ms Gray’s contacts with the Labour Party.
‘It is hard not to feel that she has been rewarded and offered a plum job for effectively destroying a prime minister and creating a coup’, he said.
This blows apart the idea of civil service impartiality. This appointment stinks.
‘This appointment invalidates her Partygate report and shows that there was a socialist cabal of Boris haters who were delighted to remove him.’
Nadine Dorries, who served as Mr Johnson’s culture secretary, described the Gray report as a ‘stitch-up’ and said the reported move to Sir Keir’s office was ‘not surprising’.
Meanwhile, Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said he was ‘genuinely shocked’, and accused Sir Keir of having ‘scant regard for the public image of the civil service and the damage this will do’.
One well-placed friend of Mr Johnson claimed the validity and findings of Ms Gray’s Partygate report had been ‘completely destroyed’.
‘Keir Starmer appointing Sue Gray as his chief of staff reveals what many have suspected all along: Partygate was a deliberate and manufactured plot to oust a Brexit-backing Conservative prime minister’, they alleged.
Whitehall officials have been left stunned by the ‘pretty unprecedented’ move, with one reacting to reports by saying: ‘Oh Christ.’
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We are reviewing the circumstances under which she resigned.’
A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘The Labour Party has offered Sue Gray the role of chief of staff to the Leader of the Opposition.
‘We understand she hopes to accept the role subject to the normal procedures. Keir Starmer is delighted she is hoping to join our preparations for government and our mission to build a better Britain.’
On Thursday a No 10 spokesman confirmed Ms Gray had resigned from the post of second permanent secretary in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
‘This was accepted by the department’s permanent secretary and the Cabinet Secretary with immediate effect’, he said.
‘We will not be commenting further on individual personal matters. But you asked me specifically when, that took place this afternoon.’
Asked whether there were concerns about unpublished Partygate details being passed to the Opposition, the spokesman said: ‘All civil servants leaving the civil service have to abide by the Acoba process.’
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