Starmer urged to publish Sue Gray messages amid Tory anger over move to Labour

Sir Keir Starmer should publish his messages with civil servant Sue Gray, a Cabinet minister said amid Tory outcry at the partygate investigator’s move to Labour’s staff.

The Labour leader has faced questions after it emerged that Ms Gray, who received national prominence for her role investigating lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, will become his chief of staff.

Ms Gray is expected to submit a formal request on Monday to take on the role when she puts in her application to Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba).

Boris Johnson and allies have leapt on the appointment as part of efforts to discredit the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he lied to the House of Commons over lockdown breaches.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Chris Heaton-Harris urged Sir Keir Starmer to answer questions on Sue Gray’s appointment (Jordan Pettit/PA)

Speaking on Sunday, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris praised the “integrity” of Ms Gray, who he said he has worked with in the past.

But he also sought to put pressure on Sir Keir, telling Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News: “This is where Keir can help out his new chief of staff by just publishing all the messages and things he might have had with her at that point in time.

“I’ve dealt with Sue Gray in the Northern Ireland Office as a civil servant.

“I see her as a woman of integrity as well. So I have no issue with that.

“I think Keir can clear this up in seconds by saying this is what we talked about at that time, there’s nothing to see here.”

Sir Keir has so far dodged questions about when conversations began with Ms Gray, who is expected to await the decision of the Acoba before starting the role.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Jonathan Ashworth said Ms Gray will adhere to the ‘proper procedures’ required with her job change (Jordan Pettit/PA)

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.

Speaking to the same programme, Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said Ms Gray was “always going to be on the list” of people up for consideration as Labour’s new chief of staff.

The shadow work and pensions secretary told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “She is quite rightly going to go through a process. There’s proper procedures in place when a senior civil servant leaves the civil service and I am sure she will set it all out when she has those conversations.”

Pressed again on when the conversations began, Mr Ashworth said he had not been “privy to them”.

On Saturday, Ms Gray received backing from a former Conservative Cabinet Office minister as Francis Maude said he had never the “slightest reason to question either her integrity or her political impartiality”.