Starmer: ‘Nonsense’ to question Sue Gray’s independence during partygate probe

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Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “nonsense” to question Sue Gray’s independence during the partygate investigation amid plans for the former senior civil servant to become Labour’s chief of staff.

The Opposition leader also hit out at reports suggesting Boris Johnson had referred to the ex-mandarin as a “psycho,” saying that “increasingly hysterical” comments will be made ahead of general election next year.

It comes after Ms Gray was tasked with producing an independent report into lockdown-busting parties within Downing Street during Mr Johnson’s premiership.

Referring to suggestions by Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, Guto Harri, that the ex-prime minister had called her a “psycho”, the Labour leader said: “I’ll tell you one thing, I won’t be making any decision about Sue Gray, future Labour government, or any policy based on what Boris Johnson thinks.”

He added: “We know there’ll be an election next year, so increasingly hysterical things will be said and done and we need to just see them for what they are.”

It comes after Sky News reported that Ms Gray was in direct contact with the MP leading the parliamentary investigation into Mr Johnson which followed her own report.

The ex-mandarin reportedly spoke with Harriet Harman while the Labour MP was chairing the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether the former prime minister misled Parliament.

In the early stages of the investigation, Ms Harman privately said of her fact-finding efforts: “I just speak to Sue,” according to Sky.

Ms Gray is awaiting the outcome of an inquiry by Acoba (the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) into how long she should wait before taking up the position with Labour.

A Privileges Committee spokesman said: “It was the duty of the chair to make contact with anyone, including Sue Gray, who might be able to indicate potential witnesses.

“The only evidence the committee will rely on it is that which is separately and independently verified by the relevant witness. The Privileges Committee is not relying on evidence gathered by Sue Gray.

“The chair with the full knowledge of the committee has had regular contact with a number of ministers and officials in the Cabinet Office to discuss matters such as the provision of documents to the committee, the identity of potential witnesses and the welfare of civil servants who may be affected by the inquiry.”

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