Starmer ‘targeting Sue Gray as next chief of staff’

Labour leader wants Cabinet Office second perm sec to head his team, according to reports
Photo: Ian Davidson/Alamy Live News

By Jim Dunton

02 Mar 2023

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer reportedly has his eye on Cabinet Office second permanent secretary Sue Gray as his next chief of staff, following the departure of Sam White.

Gray, who has long been recognised as one of the most influential civil servants in Whitehall, saw her profile rocket last year after she was tasked with compiling the devastating report on the Partygate scandal.

According to reports, Starmer is considering Gray as a replacement for his former chief of staff Sam White, who left the role in October after 12 months in post.

Starmer, who was director of public prosecutions until 2013, is understood to be keen to replace White with a senior civil servant with experience of the highest levels of government as the clock ticks towards the next general election, which must be held in less than two years.

Sky News reported Starmer’s interest in hiring Gray to run his office last night.

A Labour Party spokesperson told the broadcaster: “The process is ongoing. Nobody has been offered the job.”

Sky said Sue Gray had declined to comment when it approached her.

Before her Partygate probe, Gray was most famous for presiding over the investigation that cost Cabinet Office minister Damian Green his job in 2017. At the time, she was head of propriety and ethics at the Cabinet Office.

She subsequently took up a posting as permanent secretary at Northern Ireland’s Department of Finance and was a candidate to become head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 2020. In 2021 she said she had “really wanted” the top job and suspected the reason she did not get it was that she was thought of as “too much of a challenger, or a disrupter”.

Gray returned to Whitehall to become second perm sec at the Cabinet Office in spring 2021.

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