How Johnson's Partygate tormentor Sue Gray is now enmeshed in own row
It’s GRAYGATE! How Boris Johnson’s Partygate tormentor Sue Gray is now enmeshed in her own row – as it is revealed she tried to prevent Rishi Sunak from vetoing Nicola Sturgeon’s controversial new trans law
- A leaked email shows that she said in Whitehall hat she found veto plan ‘difficult’
- The Bill made it easier to change gender and was backed by Labour in Scotland
The Partygate investigator who has triggered a political storm by taking a senior job with Sir Keir Starmer tried to prevent Rishi Sunak from vetoing Nicola Sturgeon’s controversial new trans law, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
A leaked email shows that at the time Sue Gray was understood to be negotiating to become Sir Keir’s chief of staff, she argued within Whitehall that she found the plan by the London Government to block Scotland’s new Gender Recognition Bill ‘difficult’.
The Bill made it easier to change gender and was backed by Labour in Scotland.
The move by Ms Gray, who conducted the Partygate investigation into Boris Johnson’s behaviour in Downing Street during the pandemic, has enraged supporters of the former Prime Minister, who say that it proves that the probe was a ‘cynical stitch-up’ by his political opponents.
Within hours of the news about Ms Gray being leaked on Thursday, MPs on Labour’s Harriet Harman’s privileges committee – who are examining whether Mr Johnson misled Parliament over the parties – issued a preliminary report which said breaches would have been ‘obvious’ to Mr Johnson at the time.
A leaked email shows that at the time Sue Gray (pictured) was understood to be negotiating to become Sir Keir’s chief of staff, she argued within Whitehall that she found the plan by the London Government to block Scotland’s new Gender Recognition Bill ‘difficult’
DAN HODGES: This grubby Sue Gray recruitment annihilates all pretence that Sir Keir Starmer is a man of principles
MPs are set to cross-examine Mr Johnson in the week starting March 20. If the committee finds him in contempt of Parliament he could face sanctions including a suspension – which if longer than ten days could force a by-election in his Uxbridge, west London, seat.
Last night, one friend of Mr Johnson said ‘it was clear Sue Gray was a fifth columnist all along’, while another dubbed her ‘Sue Red’.
This newspaper has established that senior figures in Downing Street in Mr Sunak’s administration, in addition to those working for Liz Truss and Mr Johnson, have been privately voicing concerns about Ms Gray for some time – to the extent that in January, one official took a surreptitious picture of Ms Gray with an unidentified man at a breakfast meeting at a hotel close to Trafalgar Square to try to establish whether she was in contact with Labour.
Others have speculated that Ms Gray, who was Second Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office, could be ‘Redthroat’, the senior civil servant in the heart of the Downing Street operation suspected of leaking sensitive information to Labour, which the party then passed to friendly media.
The stories included Mr Johnson’s plans to override the Brexit agreement during negotiations with the EU, which were leaked during a delicate stage in the talks, and revelations over his No 10 flat renovation, lobbying rows and his opposition to Covid lockdowns. A Tory source said: ‘She has also been running the appointments team in the Cabinet Office, which means deciding who gets which important jobs. Candidates often have to declare their political affiliations.’
No 10 was locked in debate in December over how to prevent Ms Sturgeon from introducing a Bill to lower the age, to 16, at which children could apply to change gender.
After it was agreed by Mr Sunak that he could invoke Section 35 of the Scotland Act, which allows a veto over Scottish laws, Ms Gray sent an email to those discussing the legislation, saying: ‘I found reference to S35 difficult, but I found even more difficult the words about stopping the Bill. But as you say, this seems to have been agreed.’
One Minister involved in the discussions says: ‘It was strange. We were trying to stop a piece of legislation that was dangerous for women and children and one of the most senior civil servants in the country was attempting to block us. We couldn’t understand why.’
Ms Gray and Sir Keir have known each other for more than a decade and Ms Gray’s son, Liam Conlon, has posed for pictures with him.
Mr Conlon, Labour Party Irish Society chairman, was snapped with Sir Keir in April, 2020, the year before Ms Gray was appointed to lead the Partygate probe. They were pictured together again on March 14, 2022, two months before her report was published in full.
Mr Conlon also wrote on Twitter in November 2019 that he attended a football match with Ms Harman.
Sir Keir has declined to say when he approached Ms Gray to take over as chief of staff.
MPs are set to cross-examine Boris Johnson in the week starting March 20 over the partygate scandal
Former Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘It is time for an urgent investigation on her relationship with Labour, Keir Starmer and on whether privileged and confidential personal ministerial information has been illegally shared.’
A friend of Mr Johnson’s said: ‘As a former Labour deputy leader, Harriet Harman is an openly biased judge. She is on public record saying that she thinks Mr Johnson “misled” MPs and said he had “lied repeatedly”.
‘This is a political show trial with an outrageous level of bias that would make Stalin blush.’
Another friend said: ‘We thought we were working with Sue Gray but it turns out she’s Sue the Socialist – Sue Red. If Boris had known that she would go on to be Starmer’s chief of staff he never would have appointed her.’
Tory MP Jonathan Gullis said: ‘These further revelations show Sue Gray has appeared to have had a significant connection to Labour for longer than any of us could imagine. It gives a bad impression that some civil servants will be operating as Labour stooges. There must be an urgent investigation.’
Ms Gray declined to comment. But a friend said: ‘Sue worked conscientiously and with great integrity for over 30 years as a civil servant. She gave fearless advice and was respected by colleagues and senior politicians.’
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