Conservative MPs have reacted with fury after senior civil servant Sue Gray was appointed as Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.
Allies of former prime minister Boris Johnson claim her move from the civil service to the Labour Party proves she was part of a plot to remove the ex-Tory leader.
On Thursday, it was reported that Gray would be leaving her job as second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office for the top Labour role.
Gray led the investigation into the Downing Street partygate scandal which led to the resignations of several ministers before Johnson himself quit.
Published in May last year, her investigation detailed how officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff.
She criticised “failures of leadership and judgment” in No 10 and said, “the senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility”.
The civil servant is expected to await the decision of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) before starting the new role.
Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog can advise waiting periods before civil servants take on other jobs and the Prime Minister ultimately makes the final decision.
But Downing Street made clear that Rishi Sunak cannot block her from taking a job.
Those close to Johnson have said Gray’s appointment to the Labour Party discredits the partygate report.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the appointment “stinks” and called for an inquiry into her contacts with Labour.
Speaking on GB News, he said: “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.
“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 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”.
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”.
Labour denounced the Tory claims as “ludicrous”.
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell defended the departing senior civil servant as “impartial” and insisted she would not bring privileged official material with her.
Powell told Times Radio “that’s just a ludicrous claim by Boris Johnson”, and said it “stands in stark contrast” to his own defence of Gray’s impartiality during her investigation.
The Labour frontbencher argued the appointment was being used by Johnson in an attempt to “vindicate himself further” after he was ousted over a series of scandals.
Asked about Conservative concerns Gray could bring privileged material from Whitehall to Sir Keir’s office, Powell said: “Absolutely not. And, of course, there’s no suggestion whatsoever that Sue would reveal any of that information.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We are reviewing the circumstances under which she [Gray] resigned.”
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