Wednesday 7 April 2021 / 2:59 PM Angela Rayner

Labour calls for investigation into Prime Minister’s conduct after ‘political attack’ on Sadiq Khan during Covid-19 press conference

Labour calls for investigation into Prime Minister’s conduct after ‘political attack’ on Sadiq Khan during Covid-19 press conference

 

  • Angela Rayner MP accuses Prime Minister of making ‘false statements’ during Downing Street press conference in breach of the Ministerial Code
  • Boris Johnson used the new taxpayer funded £2.6m Downing Street press room on Covid-19 to launch a ‘political attack’ on Labour candidate Sadiq Khan
  • Government ministers are banned from using Government resources for party political campaigning during an election period

 

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Party Chair, has today accused the Prime Minister of breaching the Ministerial Code during an unprompted political attack on Labour candidate for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

 

On Monday evening (5 April), at a Downing Street press conference on Covid-19, the Prime Minister accused the incumbent Mayor of creating a ‘black hole’ in Transport for London (TfL) finances, an attack which Rayner called ‘false’.

 

In a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, Rayner called for an investigation into the incident and requested that the Prime Minister issue a public apology for misusing public resources for party political gain and misleading the public.

 

Ministers are bound by the Ministerial Code, arbitrated by the Prime Minister, which prevents ministers from using government resources for party political campaigning. The Code states: ‘official facilities and resources may not be used for the dissemination of party political material’.

 

The Prime Minister used the new taxpayer-funded £2.6m Downing Street press room to attack the Labour candidate on primetime BBC television – an organisation bound by strict impartiality rules.

 

In her letter, Rayner states that in the four years Sadiq Khan was Mayor before Covid hit, he reduced the operating deficit of TfL, left by the previous Mayor, by 71 per cent and increased cash reserves by 13 per cent.

 

While the Prime Minister was Mayor of London in 2015 he gave TfL’s £700m per year direct grant back to the Treasury. This means that London has been the only major city in western Europe that hasn’t received direct Government funding to run day-to-day transport services in the last few years. As a result, it relies very heavily on passenger fares to pay for the services that are run and was hit hard by a 95% fall in passenger numbers during the pandemic.

 

Last month the entire Cabinet was accused of breaching the Ministerial Code for failing to declare financial interests. Labour Party analysis shows that during the coronavirus crisis £1.9bn in Government contracts has been awarded to companies with links to the Conservative Party.

 

Ends

 

Notes to Editors

 

Transcript:

 

Mr Johnson said: “As for the finances of TfL I must respectfully remind you that I left them in robust, good order. It is not through any fault of my own the current Labour mayor decided to blow them all on an irresponsible fares policy.

 

“We are doing our best to help them out and we will continue to do so. But I’m afraid you have to look at some of the decisions that were taken by the current Labour mayor as well.

 

“I hesitate to make a point like that but since you rightly draw attention to the fact I’m a proud former mayor of London I do think we could look at the way TfL is being run.

 

“That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to continue to support – of course we are – but we do need to have some responsibility from the mayor as well.

 

“And I’m afraid there was a black hole in TfL’s finances even before Covid began as I’m sure you and your readers all recollect.

 

“Ok everybody on that slightly London centric note we’re going to end but there you go the roadmap continues to be one we are sticking to like glue.”

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000v9yd/bbc-news-special-coronavirus-update-05042021

 

Ministerial Code:

 

6.1 Ministers are provided with facilities at Government expense to enable them to carry out their official duties. These facilities should not generally be used for Party or constituency activities.

6.2 Government property should not generally be used for constituency work or party political activities. A particular exception is recognised in the case of official residences. Where Ministers host Party or personal events in these residences it should be at their own or Party expense with no cost falling to the public purse. (See also paragraph 7.10).

6.3 Official facilities and resources may not be used for the dissemination of material which is essentially party political. The conventions governing the work of the Government Communication Service are set out in the Government Communication Service’s Propriety Guidance – Guidance on Government Communications. Particular care should be taken

to ensure that official social media accounts are not used for party political or constituency purposes.

 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/826920/August-2019-MINISTERIAL-CODE-FINAL-FORMATTED-2.pdf

 

Johnson’s Cabinet was accused of breaching the Ministerial Code last month for failing to disclose Ministers’ interests, which they are bound to do twice per year.

 

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/ministerial-code-ministers-interests-downing-street-refurb/

 

Cronyism accusations:

 

The Labour Party’s analysis of government procurement data during the coronavirus crisis found that more than £1.9bn in government contracts has been directly awarded to companies that have links to the Conservative Party.

 

https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-labour-calls-for-government-to-crack-down-on-the-cronyism-over-2bn-coronavirus-contracts-12212275

 

TfL finances:

 

  • TfL needs emergency funding because fares income dropped by 90 per cent during the first lockdown and is still at just a fraction of what it was pre-pandemic. TfL have done as the Government asked throughout the pandemic and discouraged Londoners from using public transport, all while maintaining a safe service to ensure our city’s essential workers could get to work.
  • Because of the dodgy deal struck between Boris and George Osborne in 2015, removing TfL’s Government grant, London has been the only major city in western Europe that hasn’t received direct Government funding to run day-to-day transport services in the last few years. This means it relies very heavily on passenger fares to pay for the services that are run.
  • In the four years Sadiq was Mayor before Covid hit, he made significant progress in fixing the financial mess he inherited at TfL from the previous Mayor. He reduced the operating deficit of TfL by 71 per cent and increased cash reserves by 13 per cent.

 

Letter in full:

 

To: Simon Case, Cabinet Secretary

Cc: Darren Tierney, Director General, Propriety and Ethics in the Cabinet Office.

 

Dear Mr Case

 

I am writing to express my concern about public resources being deliberately used during a pre-election period to influence the outcome of an election.

 

During the Downing Street press conference on Monday evening (5 April 2021) – which was supposed to be an update on Covid-19 – the Prime Minister chose to launch a political attack on Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and Labour’s candidate in the upcoming London Mayoral election. The attack was political in nature, unprompted, and entirely unrelated to either the topic of the press conference or the question the Prime Minister was asked.

 

The Prime Minister also made false statements regarding Transport for London‘s (TfL) finances in his answer. Sadiq Khan spent the first four years of his mayoralty fixing the mess left by the previous Mayor, Boris Johnson, who bargained away TfL’s £700m per year direct operating grant. As Mayor, Sadiq had successfully reduced TfL’s deficit by £1 billion and increased cash reserves by 13 per cent before the pandemic hit. For the Prime Minister to suggest that TfL’s finances are in trouble for any reason other than a 90 per cent drop in passengers during lockdown due to the pandemic is an insult to Londoners and highly misleading.

 

The Ministerial Code, by which government ministers are bound, clearly states that official facilities and resources may not be used for the dissemination of party political material. This includes the Prime Minister’s new media briefing room, which cost the British taxpayer £2.6 million. The Prime Minister has a lot of experience with the Ministerial Code – his Home Secretary was found to have breached it after bullying staff, prompting his independent advisor on ethics and ministerial standards to resign. The British people would rightly not expect a Prime Minister who has spent so much first-hand experience of dealing with matters relating to the Code to be so blatant in flouting it during a pre-election period.

 

Just last week the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary said that he ‘acts with integrity and honesty and he follows the Nolan principles when conducting himself in public life’, but his actions on Monday evening clearly directly contradict those principles. As I am sure that will agree, accountability to the Code is crucial in maintaining integrity and public trust in public life and our politics. I would urge you to investigate whether the Prime Minister did indeed breach the Ministerial Code and, if so, what steps you will take to censure the Prime Minister and ensure that he does not repeat this behaviour including him issuing a public apology for misusing public resources for party political gain and misleading the public.

I look forward to your early reply setting out how you intend to respond to this incident

 

Angela Rayner