Could ‘Sue Gray-gate’ backfire for the Conservative party?

The cupboard workplace yesterday revealed a written assertion into the resignation of Sue Grey, stating that it has given a “confidential evaluation” to the Advisory Committee on Enterprise Appointments (Acoba) about whether or not she broke civil service guidelines in taking on a job from Keir Starmer whereas nonetheless a senior civil servant.

The assertion, penned by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and deputy PM Oliver Dowden, additionally defined that Grey had refused to take part within the cupboard workplace inquiry, prompting one other spherical of uncomfortable headlines for Labour this morning. 

It’s clear how a lot oxygen the “Grey-gate” story is taking on at Westminster — one thing the Conservative Social gathering clearly needs, based mostly on its media marketing campaign forward of the report’s publication. 

Certainly, on Tuesday morning a torrent of briefings from Conservative social gathering sources to pleasant publications foretold of “damning” particulars of how Grey had breached civil service guidelines by holding talks with Labour in regards to the new position with out informing her bosses upfront.


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Given this, many have been shocked upon studying the report that Dowden had surprisingly little to say. In lieu of any element on Grey’s dealings with the Labour social gathering, Dowden defined that he was “unable at this stage to offer additional info” in regards to the partygate inquisitor’s departure to “preserve confidentiality in direction of a person former worker”.

So why, with Downing Avenue plainly eager to place Starmer in a clumsy place on Grey-gate, was this such a moist squib?

There may be one concept, uncovered by the Guardian, that the cupboard workplace’s determination to not launch the “damning” particulars adopted an about-face from civil service head Simon Case, who out of the blue obtained chilly ft on releasing the report. 

In any case, the hole between the federal government’s briefings to the media and Dowden’s paper-thin replace naturally begs the query of how a lot substance there actually is to Grey-gate.

Taking to the media on Wednesday morning, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves accused the prime minister of “political gimmicks” over the cupboard workplace probe.

Ms Reeves insisted the Labour social gathering and Ms Grey have been cooperating with the “regular course of” for scrutinising new jobs for ex-civil servants run by Acoba. In contrast to the cupboard workplace report, ACOBA is an unbiased physique, exempt from the affect of doubtless poorly-motivated, electioneering ministers. 

The Labour line, due to this fact, is that Sue Grey will cooperate with the usual requirements process — termed the “regular course of” by Reeves — whereas refusing to lend credibility to what they view as a political witch-hunt.

In accordance with Politico, the Acoba report is now anticipated to be revealed “fairly imminently”, probably as early as the top of this month. In its suggestions, Acoba can recommend cooling-off intervals of between three months and two years for senior ex-ministers or civil servants who wish to take up new jobs. Starmer and Labour will naturally be hoping for a brief interval to provide Grey loads of time to hitch Labour ranks earlier than a common election. 

So in the long run, the important thing query of Grey-gate is unlikely to be propriety, however moderately how lengthy the previous partygate inquisitor should wait to take up her new job.

Like “curry-gate” earlier than it — which presupposed to have caught Sir Keir in a beer- and curry-fuelled lockdown-busting gathering — Grey-gate could merely have little to it. And as earlier than, Starmer would possibly use the media furore created in current days to reengage with the Conservative social gathering’s politically tough file on requirements, particularly if no wrongdoing is discovered.

In the meantime, the political vitality the Conservative social gathering has piled into the supposed “scandal” could also be distracting focus from one other, probably extra embarrassing growth for Starmer: his ritual reneging on his Labour management commitments. Sir Keir revealed that he was pulling again on his pledge to abolish tuition charges on the media spherical on Tuesday morning. Given the Conservatives wish to characterise Starmer as shifty and sly, one wonders whether or not their time might need been higher spent concentrating on the Labour chief over his newest coverage rejig.

And as for the cupboard workplace’s explosive Grey report, publication is no longer anticipated till at the least after the federal government’s appointments watchdog decides whether or not to delay Grey’s begin date as Starmer’s chief of workers. And relying on Acoba’s findings, it might not be revealed in any respect.