Keir Starmer ‘confident’ Sue Gray did not break rules ahead of update on her new Labour party role

Sir Keir Starmer has said he is confident that partygate investigator Sue Gray has not “broken any rules” during the process that led up to her appointment as the Leader of the Opposition’s chief of staff. 

It comes as the cabinet office will later publish an update into the “circumstances leading to the resignation of a senior civil servant”. This is understood to refer to Ms Gray’s departure from the civil service to join the Labour party.

The statement to MPs, made by the paymaster general Jeremy Quin, is expected to shed light on how Ms Gray made the shift to a party political role and when she began talks with Labour about the role.

Asked whether Ms Gray broke any code of conduct while talking to Labour while working as a civil servant Sir Keir said: “I had no discussions with her while she was investigating Boris Johnson whatsoever. I don’t think anybody is suggesting that that is the case. I’m confident she hasn’t broken any of the rules. 

“Whenever a senior civil servant leaves the civil service, there’s always a process they have to go through before they take up another job. That’s the process she’s going through, quite rightly to process I would expect her to go through”, he added. 

Sir Keir also accused the Conservative party of “resurrecting” the Sue Gray story in order to avoid talking about the cost of living crisis 48 hours out from the local elections. 

“There’s nothing much new about this and I am afraid with 48 hours for the election — what’s going on is the government is trying to sort of resurrect a story about Sue Gray, mainly because they don’t want to talk about the cost living crisis”, he told BBC Breakfast. 

He added: “You have to smile when the government raises an issue like this with 48 hours before they know it could potentially damage you”.

The update from Jeremy Quin later today will form the basis of a submission the government will make to the second jobs watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba).

The body, which is chaired by former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Pickles, will propose how long Ms Gray should be made to wait before taking up the job with Labour.

Ms Gray’s report into “partygate” gatherings held in 10 Downing Street while Boris Johnson was prime minister, delivered in May last year, was damning of the culture within No 10 and ultimately played a significant role in Mr Johnson’s downfall.

The Telegraph has reported that the update will suggest Ms Gray held talks with Sir Keir while she was advising the cross-party of MPs on the privileges committee about their own inquiry into whether Mr Johnson misled the House of Commons on partygate.

A Whitehall source told the Telegraph of Ms Gray: “She had a role influencing and guiding very sensitive government decisions. No one knew about it and there were serious concerns given the kind of work she’d been doing”.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly said this morning that Sir Keir will have “serious questions to answer” if talks with Ms Gray began while she was advising MPs investigating whether Boris Johnson misled parliament.

Asked about the reports, he told Sky News: “If that is what the report says, I do think Keir Starmer has got some serious questions to answer”.

Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, this morning said he does not think Sir Keir will have any questions to answer over the appointment of Ms Gray.

He said: “The simple truth is there’s a process here, it will all be in the public domain eventually. Any interest there is in this because of the shocking Downing Street parties that led to the downfall of Boris Johnson – all of that will be in the public domain.

He added: “There is a process, this committee looks at this, it comes up with a recommendation. I see no reason to interrupt that process or to comment on it”.