Labour moved to capitalise on a setback for David Cameron's Conservatives yesterday, claiming the party was in disarray after the resignation of the London Mayor Boris Johnson's deputy, Ray Lewis.
The Tories were stunned on Friday by the announcement that Mr Lewis was resigning amid claims of financial irregularities and inappropriate behaviour, allegations he denies.
The Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, said Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson had been left "embroiled in a mess" by the affair, which blew up over allegations relating to Mr Lewis's period as a vicar in east London in the late 1990s.
“People across the country will note that, after just two months, the new Tory administration in London is in complete disarray,” Ms Blears said. “David Cameron has known Ray Lewis since his first day as Tory leader and Boris Johnson appointed him as deputy mayor [for young people] days into the job. People will ask themselves: how have they allowed themselves to be embroiled in a mess like this?”
She added: “It is an equal crisis for David Cameron who, it should be remembered, chose to make his first photo-opportunity as Tory leader with Ray Lewis.”
Mr Cameron had high hopes the new London mayoralty would rebuild confidence in his party's ability to lead. But Mr Lewis, formerly deputy mayor for children, became the second casualty of Mr Johnson's short reign.
The former mayor Ken Livingstone, defeated by Mr Johnson in May, said that this second resignation "showed vividly the incompetence of Boris Johnson and his administration".
Mr Lewis follows the senior political adviser James McGrath, who stepped down after he told an interviewer that African-Caribbean migrants should go home if they did not like the Conservative Mayor. Mr Johnson was quick to accept Mr McGrath’s resignation.