Labour calls for probe into Boris Johnson’s political attack on Sadiq Khan at Covid press conference

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner says PM made ‘false statements’

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 07 April 2021 15:42 BST
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PM said mayor was ‘blowing’ TfL budget
PM said mayor was ‘blowing’ TfL budget (PA)

Labour has accused Boris Johnson of breaching the ministerial code over a political attack he made on London mayor Sadiq Khan at a Covid-19 press conference on Monday.

The party's deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to the Cabinet Office secretary Simon Case demanding an investigation into the incident after the PM claimed Mr Khan was "blowing" Transport for London's (TfL) finances through an "irresponsible" fares policy - allegations that the mayor rejects.

His comments came during the purdah period for the London mayoral election on 6 May. Purdah places limits on government activity around at elections.

Labour claims Mr Johnson's "unprompted" remarks are a breach of the ministerial code, which sets out that "official facilities and resources may not be used for the dissemination of party political material".

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In her letter to Mr Case, who is head of the civil service, Ms Rayner accused the prime minister of making "false statements".

The MP for Ashton-under-Lyne said it was extremely concerning that public resources are being "deliberately used during a pre-election period to influence the outcome of an election."

The prime minister's comments were made from Downing Street's new £2.6m media briefing room and aired on the UK's public service broadcaster, the BBC, which is bound by strict impartiality rules during purdah.

Ms Rayner added: "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."

She is calling for the prime minister to apologise for the remarks and demanding that Mr Case fully investigates the incident.

Asked at the 5 April press conference about government support for London's pandemic recovery, the prime minister said: "As for the finances of TfL, I must respectfully remind you that I left them in robust good order and it is not through any fault of my own that the current Labour mayor decided to blow them on an irresponsible fares policy.

"We're doing our best to help them out and will continue to do so. But I'm afraid you've got to look at some of the decisions that were taken by the current Labour mayor as well."

Mr Khan said on Tuesday: "If he's (Boris Johnson) going to use a government platform to talk politick, he should at least tell the truth.

"It is a fact that when I became mayor the TfL's deficit was more than £1.5 bn. I reduced it by more than 71 per cent before the pandemic. But also he increased TfL's debt by more than £7 bn.”

He added: "I think it is inappropriate for all of us to follow the rules and abide by the rules, and Boris Johnson to yet again break the rules in the way he's done.

"Firstly, during the purdah period using a government platform to attack a Labour candidate. But secondly, to tell lies."

The Independent has contacted Downing Street and the Cabinet Office for comment.

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