SUE GRAY’S leap from Partygate grand inquisitor to Labour Party chief of staff is a constitutional outrage.
To allies of Boris Johnson it looks like nothing less than a blatant pay-off for the woman who almost single-handedly brought him down as an election-winning Prime Minister.
It casts a huge new shadow over the already shabby reputation of our supposedly impartial civil service — dubbed by its many critics as The Blob.
And pals of BoJo say it begs the question whether Gray was a Labour mole acting as Sir Keir Starmer’s Whitehall stooge from the moment she accepted the job as a senior Cabinet Office official.
Not so much poacher-turned-gamekeeper as a spy at the heart of the government machine.
This allegation from furious Tory MPs may well be impossible to prove.
But few fair-minded voters will believe that her now-declared sympathies for a political party which may form the next government have emerged from a clear blue sky.
Sue Gray’s Partygate probe, which led to Johnson’s humiliating downfall last summer, was seen from the outset as a Labour-fuelled political witch-hunt.
Now, if Labour wins the next election, Gray will be working shoulder to shoulder with a Prime Minister who loathed Boris, saw him as the obstacle to his overwhelming ambition and benefited directly from her fiercely contested verdict.
Whichever way you look at it, this decision stinks to high heaven.
Starmer, who constantly boasts of his role as the incorruptible former Director of Public Prosecutions, now has explosive questions to answer.
Labour MPs played down any suggestion of corrupt practices, citing the appointment of ex-Foreign Office diplomat Jonathan Powell as Tony Blair’s chief of staff in 1997.
But there is no comparison.
For one thing, Powell was not up to his neck in what is widely seen today as a blatant hatchet job to bring down a serving Tory PM.
Conservative MPs were last night predictably furious.
Ex-Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg spoke for many: “So much for an impartial civil service,” he said.
“The Gray report now looks like a left-wing stitch-up against a Tory Prime Minister.”
Tory MP Alexander Stafford stormed: “The civil service is meant to be impartial and above party politics.
“A very dodgy decision by Labour and Keir needs to be rejected to protect the integrity of our civil service.”
Ex-Treasury minister and Tory rising star Simon Clarke said: “This is extraordinary.
“Sue Gray has a long history of public service, but to move into such a significant political post given her pivotal role in events over the last year will raise a whole host of questions.
“Neutrality stood at the core of her credibility.”
And blunt-speaking Tory chairman Lee Anderson barked: “The impartial civil service, eh? Whichever way you look at this it just does not seem right.”
What is beyond doubt is that Sue Gray’s Partygate verdict triggered a summer of near-terminal turbulence and blood-letting within the governing Tory Party.
Wipe the smile off his face
It brought down the most successful election-winning PM in recent Conservative history — the man Starmer feared above all.
It saw the rise and catastrophic fall of BoJo’s successor, Liz Truss, a succession of short-lived Chancellors and the appointment without an election of Rishi Sunak as the fourth PM in six years.
It also saw the inexorable rise of Keir Starmer as PM-in-waiting, with a 20-point lead in the opinion polls.
And there is plenty of meat still on the Partygate bone.
Labour-led MPs are determined to finish Boris’s parliamentary career with a partisan Partygate trial by a parliamentary kangaroo court.
Sue Gray undoubtedly has useful secrets to share with her new boss about the workings of this Tory administration and, for instance, its under-fire Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.
Starmer has much indeed to be grateful for.
Rishi Sunak should wipe the smile off his face.
The PM has shown admirable steel in recent weeks — against the Scottish gender laws which brought down Nicola Sturgeon and in his deal with Brussels over Northern Ireland.
As Prime Minister he has the power to veto Gray’s shabby shift into the political arena.
Her appointment must not stand.