Hoey on defensive over Johnson role

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The Labour MP and former sports minister Kate Hoey will work for Boris Johnson if the Tory unseats Ken Livingstone to become London's Mayor in Thursday's election, his campaign officials announced today.

The Conservatives said Ms Hoey, a critic of Mr Livingstone's administration, would be an unpaid non-executive director advising on sport and the 2012 Olympics.

Speculation that Ms Hoey could back the Tory candidate has been rife since she was scheduled to appear alongside him at a campaign event last week but pulled out, blaming ill health.

Sources within the campaign said they did not expect her to quit as a Labour MP and Mr Johnson said he was pleased to be constructing a potential administration from "across politics".

"I am delighted to announce that Kate Hoey will join me in my administration if I win on May 1. She and I agree that there is much more that can be done to promote sport and to develop sporting facilities across London," he said.

"I have already pledged to ring-fence London Development Agency money for sport, and if I am lucky enough to win she will be working on an agenda that includes protecting playing fields, boosting sports clubs and making sure that London's kids all benefit from the Olympics."

In a clear echo of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's bid to recruit a "government of all the talents", including politicians from other parties, Mr Johnson said: "Kate has a huge and well-known commitment to sport and to London, and I am determined to bring talent from across politics and the community to a new administration."

Ms Hoey denied that she would be a member of Mr Johnson's administration, adding that she was not endorsing him for mayor.

"The key part of the Boris Johnson statement - ie that I will be the first member of his administration - is wrong," she said.

"I have simply agreed to act in a similar position, for example to Conservative MPs John Bercow and Patrick Mercer - in that I have said that I will advise on a non-partisan basis in respect of my lifetime commitment to bringing sport to the people of London.

"This is not an endorsement of Boris Johnson for mayor. I will be voting for my party and Labour candidates on Thursday.

"I am a Labour MP and I am standing for Labour at the next election. I support the Labour Government.I have and shall continue actively to campaign for Labour in these elections, not least for Val Shawcross, my local GLA member."

Ms Hoey complained in January about a lack of scrutiny of Mr Livingstone's City Hall advisers and a "cult of silence" which stopped people speaking out about alleged malpractice.

"There has been a cult of silence because... every time anyone raises a criticism you are either branded as being racist or being pro-Boris Johnson," she said.

Mr Livingstone said Ms Hoey had been "a sort of semi-detached member of the Labour Party in recent years".

He said in an interview with London's LBC Radio: "She's got her eccentric views: she was one of the few Labour MPs to vote against banning fox-hunting.

"But I'm surprised he's going to take her advice on sport because I think the reason Tony Blair sacked her at the end of his first term was because she'd been involved in all the fiasco over Wembley.

"But I suppose she knows more about it than Boris does."