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Sue Gray charged with holding talks to join Labor while advising government on Partygate

Sue Gray was advising the government on the Partygate investigation into Boris Johnson while holding secret talks about joining Labour, it was claimed last night.

In an extraordinary development, it emerged that Mrs Gray was approached by Labor in November last year, at least three months before her controversial appointment as Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff was made public.

Whitehall sources told the Daily Mail the timeline means she was still advising the government on the controversial inquiry into Mr Johnson’s conduct while secretly talking about moving to Labor headquarters.

The report by the former Second Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office on possible breaches of the lockdown in Downing Street had been published months earlier.

But the recently discovered contact with Labor will only further muddy the murky waters surrounding an investigation by the Commons’ privileges committee that is being denounced as a “witch hunt”.

Controversial quote: Sue Gray

Legal Dossier: Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Legal Dossier: Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson

A source said: “Obviously Sue’s report had been dealt with in November, but she was still advising the government on the privilege committee investigation, specifically what should be disclosed to them.”

“You don’t have to be the biggest fan of Boris Johnson to think it’s a bit iffy to talk secretly to the opposition leader while being intimately involved in such a sensitive and political issue.”

The claim was disputed by Labour, however Conservative MPs last night called for an inquiry into Ms Gray’s role.

Johnson will give televised evidence on Wednesday to the committee, which has been investigating claims he lied to Parliament about lockdown matches at number 10.

Your legal team will present a file to the committee today. A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “The evidence will show that Boris Johnson did not knowingly mislead Parliament.”

Ms Gray led the original investigation into lockdown parties in Issue 10, which was highly critical of the culture in Whitehall when it was published in May last year.

Committee members have insisted that Ms Gray’s possible move to Labor is not relevant as she had completed her investigation.

Last night, a Labor source insisted that it was “not correct” to say that Ms Gray was still directly advising the Government on Partygate at the time she opened talks with Sir Keir.

The source did not comment on the timing of the talks, but said there was a “separate Cabinet Office process” to decide what information to send to the committee.

Labor leader Keir Starmer delivering his speech at the Welsh Labor Conference

Labor leader Keir Starmer delivering his speech at the Welsh Labor Conference

Former Home Secretary Priti Patel said her role needed to be investigated. She said: ‘It now turns out that Sue Gray may have been in contact with Labor during the privilege committee process.

‘This is an alarming development that the committee must take into account. We will need precise answers as to whether and when Labor had a hand in this, and what was the extent of the contacts.

Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke said the revelations suggested a political “seam”.

He added: ‘This worrying development shows that Sue Gray may have been in contact with Labor while she was in charge of disclosing evidence to the privileges committee. Once or twice it seems like a coincidence, but so many examples of Sue colluding with Labor seem like a plot.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said Conservative MPs would have a free vote on whether any committee sanctions should be applied. Tory peer Lord Greenhalgh called the privileges committee hearing a ‘witch hunt’ and called for it to be scrapped.

The committee’s inquiry was set up a month before Ms Gray’s report was published.

It is examining evidence on at least four occasions that Johnson may have deliberately misled lawmakers with assurances that lockdown rules were followed.

His allies said he would provide a “detailed and compelling” account to the committee before his appearance, showing that he “did not knowingly mislead the House.”

The committee has relied heavily on material released by the government, including hundreds of private messages. It has now been learned that this process was also supervised by Mrs. Gray.

Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly refused to say when talks to tempt her into the Labor Party began.

A Whitehall inquiry is underway into whether Ms Gray breached rules requiring senior officials to declare outside interests and seek permission before speaking to the opposition.

A Whitehall source said this was continuing but added: “It is already clear that Sue did not do everything she should have done.”

Labor did not dispute that Sir Keir approached Gray in November. A source declined to comment on the timeline or on claims that Ms Gray was advising the government on Partygate at the time.

The source said it was “not appropriate” to comment while his appointment as Sir Keir’s chief of staff was still being considered by the Trade Appointments Advisory Committee.

The committee reviews the appointments of ministers and senior officials leaving the government and can recommend new posts be delayed for up to two years in sensitive cases. In extreme cases, he may even recommend against appointments.

Although he has no statutory powers, senior Conservatives believe Sir Keir would have to drop the measure if the committee rules against him.

Senior Labor figures now fear that Ms Gray’s appointment could backfire. A source said: “The only person who still thinks this is a good idea is Keir.”

As the former head of the government’s ethics and decorum team, Ms Gray held one of the most sensitive posts in government, privy to the secrets of ministers’ private lives as well as sensitive government decisions.

Ms Gray’s allies have insisted that she would never reveal confidential information.

They say she was targeted for her experience in government, something Labor lacks after 13 years in opposition.

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