POLITICS

Boris Johnson Brexit Gag Order Was A 'Cock Up'

08/03/2016 10:28 GMT | Updated 08/03/2016 10:59 GMT
Peter Byrne/PA Wire
File photo dated 06/10/15 of Boris Johnson, who has accused the Government of offering "miserly" compensation to people whose homes are affected by major transport projects such as HS2.

Boris Johnson has described an order that his City Hall staff not speak out in favour of EU membership as a "cock up".

On Tuesday it was reported that the London mayor's senior staff had been sent a memo telling them to publicly support his campaign for Brexit.

The revelation is embarrassing for Boris as only earlier this week he had complained that an anti-EU business leader had been gagged by the pro-EU side.

"Nobody has been gagged, I was only made aware of this edict very late last night and it ceased to be operative as soon as I was made aware of it," Boris said this morning following a report by the BBC.

"The only thing I can say is it obviously hasn't been operative because you have members of my, not just my advisory team, taking a very different view from me and so they can and so they shall and with complete impunity too, by the way. So there you go. I had no knowledge of that. Yes it’s a cock up."


The instruction had sent out by Boris' chief of staff Sir Edward Lister.

Boris said his team had "complete freedom to say what they want" and "have been for some days". And quoting former Chinese leader Chairman Mao as he insisted his staff we free to say what they wanted, he added: "Let 100 flowers bloom folks".

The mayor of London recently blamed "the agents of Project Fear" for forcing the resignation of John Longworth as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) after he contradicted the organisation's neutral position by personally backing UK withdrawal from the EU.

Sir Edward's email, obtained by the BBC on Monday, stated that "GLA (Greater London Authority) officers, can, when not at work, express personal opinions (which may be contrary to the Mayor's views)."

But it added: "Whilst this is the formal position for you also, I would expect, given your roles, you either to advocate the Mayor's position or otherwise not openly to contradict it".