Owen Jones blasts Keir Starmer over Sue Gray appointment

Boris Johnson discusses partygate and Brexit three years on

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Owen Jones has hit out at Sir Keir Starmer for appointing partygate investigator Sue Gray as his chief of staff. The move has sparked uproar from Boris Johnson and his allies who insist it raises questions about the Privileges Committee’s inquiry into whether he lied to the House of Commons over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

And it has even attracted criticism from left-wing activist Mr Jones who took to Twitter today to blast Ms Gray’s new Labour role.

He said: “Labour’s appointment of Sue Gray meets the ‘would you think this is bad if the Tories did it’ test, and anyone claiming otherwise isn’t being honest with themselves.”

Mr Jones’ post was retweeted by a number of stunned Tory MPs who said they agreed with him.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke said: “There is a first time for everything. I agree with Owen.

“This is the key point – it’s just a deeply unwise appointment, and damaging to the Civil Service in a way all parties should care about.”

Red Wall Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said: “Not often I agree with Owen Jones, but I agree with him on this.”

Conservative MP Paul Bristow said: “Wow! I agree with Owen Jones.”

Former Tory MEP David Bannerman, who is chairman of the Conservative Democratic Organisation which was launched following the ousting of Mr Johnson, added: “Well said Owen Jones – we agree!”

Mr Johnson today said it is “concerning” that the inquiry into whether he lied to MPs will rely on evidence from Ms Gray as she will be working for Labour.

But the cross-party committee defended its probe, insisting it is “not based on the Sue Gray report”.

The report by Ms Gray, published last May, detailed lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street during Mr Johnson’s leadership which contributed to his downfall.

In a statement earlier, Mr Johnson said: “It is surreal to discover that the committee proposes to rely on evidence culled and orchestrated by Sue Gray, who has just been appointed chief of staff to the leader of the Labour Party.

“This is particularly concerning given that the committee says it is proposing to rely on ‘the findings in the second permanent secretary’s report’ as ‘relevant facts which the committee will take into account’.”

Allies of Mr Johnson have reacted furiously to the move by Ms Gray to Sir Keir’s office.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Sue Gray’s evidence cannot be relied upon in any meaningful way until we know how long Sue Gray has had a personal relationship with Keir Starmer and for how long they have been discussing Sue going to work for him as his most trusted and important adviser.”

Ex-Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg added: “So much for an impartial Civil Service, the Gray report now looks like a left-wing stitch-up against a Tory Prime Minister.”

Labour dismissed claims Ms Gray’s appointment, which was confirmed yesterday, proved a plot to oust the former PM as “ludicrous”.

Ms Gray is expected to await the decision of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) before starting the role.

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