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The Sketch: How ethical activity and processing propriety can make one forgetful...


There is a Director of Propriety and Ethics for the Government. Is she busy? Are her days full of ethical activity, does she process much propriety?

How did she deal with the “long list” of “odious characters” who had been special advisers (Paul Flynn asked). She wasn't “quite sure who these people are”. 

Was she with her magnificent title the SPADs' “personnel officer”? No. Their “compliance officer” (Bernard Jenkin)? Nope. Did she talk to SPADs? Oh, frequently. What did she say? Um...She has found working with SPADs “a really good thing.” She said that twice. “A really good thing.”

Her job doesn't seem to be very onerous - “It is actually because people want to do the right thing.”

Memories of Alastair Campbell, Charlie Whelan, Damien McBride, Ed Balls, Adam Werrity, Adam Smith flashed across our collective mental screen. How they all wanted to do the right thing. 

“Give us an example of the sort of conversation you have with them.” (Alun Cairns). She said, “It's very hard to give an example of something that I do.”

That was trumped by her revelation: “Normally I can't remember what I do from one week to another.”

It's a finesse on the News International position. You might have thought that was impossible.

She did admit her name was Sue Gray. Full pay, full pension. When she takes to her bed in her 105th year we will have paid several million pounds funding her retirement from public service.  Unless a howling revolution sweeps it all away. Which is unlikely.

Francis Maude put in a progressive modernising performance. He talked about the “fealty” owed by the SPAD to his minister. “If that's not an outdated word.” No, no. Well, not since 1350.

“Who is responsible when things go wrong?” Paul Flynn asked.

“Ummmm...” Ms Gray said, turning to the knightly Mr Maude.