TeaHe proposes the appointment of Sue Gray to his Chief of Staff by Keir Starmer is a smart move for three reasons. First there is a need to start preparing for a government by Labour. An election may still be more than a year away, but there is a lot of work to be done if the party is to get off the ground. Before the election comes around, Labor needs to have a very clear idea of what it wants to do and how it wants to do it. This is an important appointment that cannot wait. Having someone who actually knows how the government works from the inside would be extremely valuable.
Second, the job of chief of staff requires both great political understanding and strong organizational abilities. Therefore, it is no surprise that the two previous holders of the role – Jonathan Powell for Tony Blair and Ed Llewellyn for David Cameron – were former diplomats in the civil service. If you’re going to have an experienced senior civil servant, it’s hard to think of anyone in a better position than Gray to do so.
Third, but perhaps most important, are the qualities of gray. As someone who has worked closely with him, I can vouch for his tenacity, humanity, commitment and ability to take people with him on difficult issues. These are all essential ingredients for one of the most sought after jobs in government or opposition.
If appointment makes sense, what about justification? Does it undermine the objectivity of the civil service? Well, as with all external appointments to senior civil servants, it will have to go through the usual approval process by the Advisory Committee on Professional Appointments (ACOBA). However, in my view, allegations by some MPs and commentators that his appointment undermines notions of civil service neutrality, or even the legitimacy of the Partygate inquiry he wrote, are too broad.
Gray has been chosen for the skills and insight she brings to helping Labor move forward, not what secrets she knows about current or past governments. In her role as head of ethics and decorum, she acted with the utmost diligence, integrity and professionalism, consistently earning the trust of prime ministers and ministers, even when she was giving them some very difficult messages. It is hard to imagine him departing from those principles now. There are plenty of examples of civil servants who have moved straight into political roles without any suggestion of impropriety.
assumption that gray was part of a “stitch-up” Criticism of Boris Johnson and his government through his role in leading the Partygate inquiry is plainly absurd. Sue had left her ethics role to work in Michael Gove’s department when the investigation began, and took over the lead role only after Cabinet Secretary Simon Case recused himself from the role. At the time, there was no vacancy for the role of Labour’s chief of staff.
Gray’s report was harsh but scrupulously fair, and indeed the Prime Minister argued when it was published that he had been exonerated by it. Conspiracy theorists shouldn’t waste time looking ahead. The prime suspect for the fall of the Johnson government is Boris Johnson.
I sincerely hope that this storm will pass and Akoba and the prime minister will allow the appointment to go through with the usual safeguards of three-month intervals and a two-year ban on lobbying government (a likely unlikely role for this role). , It is in the interest of the country, not just Labour, that the opposition is fully prepared and ready to take over the reins of power next year.