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Labour Party

Keir Starmer should know better

Sue Gray: a run of “senior and sensitive” policy jobs. Michael Cooper/Getty

If Sue Gray becomes Keir Starmer’s chief of staff, says Vernon Bogdanor in The Daily Telegraph, it would set a “dangerous precedent”. The senior civil servant might be best known for heading the Partygate inquiry, but since 2018 she has held a run of “senior and sensitive” policy jobs, including being responsible for finance in Northern Ireland and more recently working for Michael Gove’s Levelling Up department. She has had day-to-day contact with key government decision-makers and access to information “not publicly available”. If she makes that information available to Starmer, it will give Labour an “improper advantage” in political battles.

Departing mandarins are supposed to ask permission from their head of department before doing anything that might involve them drawing on their experience in an “official capacity”. Were Gray to ask for approval from her boss, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, that would put him in an awkward position – after the next election, he may well work for Starmer too. More importantly, the damage to the civil service could be “severe” if senior officials feel they can quit their posts and jump immediately into a job with a party fighting the government they serve. Ministers would lose confidence in their officials, and the cause of good government would suffer. “So would the country.” Starmer should never have offered her the job, and if she wants to “maintain her reputation for integrity”, Gray should turn it down.