'Stop Ignoring The Question': Nick Robinson Monsters Tory MP Over Sue Gray Partygate Row

The BBC presenter ended up cutting short his interview with Alex Stafford.
Nick Robinson became exasperated with Ales Stafford's failure to answer.
Nick Robinson became exasperated with Ales Stafford's failure to answer.

Nick Robinson was forced to cut short an interview with a Tory MP after he repeatedly refused to answer questions about Boris Johnson and partygate.

Alex Stafford, a former parliamentary aide to the ex-PM, was on Radio 4′s Today programme to criticise Keir Starmer’s decision to appoint top civil servant Sue Gray as his new chief of staff.

Gray was the author of a damning report which blamed “senior leadership” at the top of government for the partygate scandal.

Johnson supporters have claimed her new job proves that the former PM was the victim of a political stitch-up.

Stafford, the MP for Rother Valley, suggested this morning that her appointment even cast doubt on the allegations of lockdown-busting parties in Number 10, which saw Johnson fined by police.

Nick Robinson said: “Correct me if I’m wrong. Sue Gray didn’t unlock the bottles of wine, she didn’t deliver the suitcases of alcohol, she didn’t deliver a fridge to Downing Street. In what way does it discredit the allegations in partygate?”

The MP replied: “Because we need to work out who was [Sue Gray] actually working for? Was she working for the British public or was she working for a job interview for Sir Keir’s office?”

Robinson hit back: “I just asked you who held the parties. Was it Sue Gray?”

Ignoring the question, Stafford said: “We need to see what was her motive.”

The increasingly-frustrated presenter responded: “No, I’m not asking you a question about Sue Gray, Mr Stafford. I’m asking you about the parties. Did Sue Gray have anything to do with having parties in Number 10?”

Dodging the question again, Stafford said: “Did Sue Gray have any information that she passed on to Keir or try to look at information in a particular light ...”

Trying a different tack, Robinson then asked the MP whether he believed the entire partygate investigation should now be re-run.

Stafford said: “What we clearly need to do is have an inquiry into how she was appointed, why she was appointed, when she started the application process for Sir Keir.”

Robinson replied: “Mr Stafford, you’re not a regular on the Today programme, but we have a habit here which is I ask a question and you at least make some appearance of trying to answer the question rather than simply ignoring it. So I’ll ask it again: do you want a fresh inquiry into the partygate allegations?”

Stafford responded: “I want a fresh inquiry into every aspect of it, including when she spoke to Sir Keir.”

Robinson then cut in: “Well let’s leave the interview there, Mr Stafford. If you’re going to simply ignore the questions, I think we’ll end the interview there.”

Gray’s appointment with Labour will be probed by the advisory committee on business appointments (ACOBA), which has the power to delay her taking up her new role by up to two years.

Senior Tories are furious at her move, which comes after a long and distinguished civil service career.

But former Conservative health secretary Stephen Dorrell told Sky News: “If Keir Starmer is appointing Sue Gray as his chief of staff, I take that as a very strong signal that Keir Starmer is committed to proper process in government in a way that Boris Johnson never was.”


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