UNITED STATES: Following Sue Gray’s hiring by Labour, a former Conservative minister defended her “integrity” as the senior civil servant who oversaw the investigation into the Partygate affair.
Conservative MPs have voiced their anger over the proposed hiring of Gray, who gained national attention for her role in looking into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.
It has been used by Boris Johnson and his supporters to discredit the investigation by the privileges committee into whether the former prime minister lied about lockdown violations to the House of Commons.
But on Saturday, Francis Maude, a former minister in the Conservative Cabinet Office, came out in support of Gray and said that he had never had the slightest reason to doubt her honesty or political neutrality.
The Conservative peer claimed in a letter to the Times that Gray, who served as his main private secretary for a while, was not the first civil servant to transition into politics and wouldn’t be the last.
“We should be as relaxed about this as we should be about people who have had previous political involvement coming into the civil service,” he stated
“No matter what their political background is or how they feel about politics, civil servants are required to be fair while they are on the job.”
In a letter to the same publication, Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, claimed that allegations of improper behaviour regarding the planned change were “wide of the mark.”
Gray is expected to wait for the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) to make its judgement before taking the position, but Starmer has so far avoided questions about when discussions with Gray started.
Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog can advise waiting periods before civil servants take on other jobs, and the prime minister ultimately makes the final choice.
Anneliese Dodds, who is in charge of Labour, insisted that all the rules would be followed on Saturday. She denied that the action was a “distraction” from the investigation by the privileges committee.
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