Theresa May will not sack a key advisor who used Downing Street to reveal he had a same-sex relationship with a Vote Leave whistleblower.
The Prime Minister was challenged in the Commons this afternoon to sack her political secretary Stephen Parkinson, after he issued a statement through Downing Street channels revealing the sexuality of Vote Leave whistleblower Shahmir Sanni.
Sanni claimed that Parkinson – head of Vote Leave’s ground campaign – helped the group get around strict spending rules by funneling cash into another Brexit-backing organisation, BeLeave - but still directed how the money was spent.
Parkinson denies the accusation, and in a statement on Friday claimed he only gave Sanni – who was involved in BeLeave – “advice and encouragement” in the capacity of their “personal relationship.”
Sanni claims the revelation of his sexuality has put his family in Pakistan in danger.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, Labour’s Angela Eagle said: “Given that your political secretary Stephen Parkinson was the person responsible for outing the Vote Leave whistleblower using Number 10 paper and documents, what are you, Prime Minister, going to do? You should sack him.”
May responded: “No, I’m sorry that’s not what I should be doing. My political secretary does a very good job.
“As I said, any statements that have been made were personal statements.”
Earlier, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw also challenged May over the episode, saying: “How is it remotely acceptable that when a young whistleblower exposes compelling evidence of law breaking by the Leave campaign, implicating staff at Number 10, that one of those named, instead of addressing the allegations made, issues an officially sanctioned statement outing the whistleblower as gay and thereby putting his family in Pakistan in danger.
“It’s a disgrace, Prime Minister – you need to do something about it.”
May said: “Any statements issued were personal statements that were issued.
“I, of course, recognise the importance of ensuring that we do recognise that for some being outed as gay is difficult because of their family and circumstances and what I want to see is a world where everybody is able to be confident in their sexuality and doesn’t have to worry about such things.”
Bradshaw later took to Twitter to slam May’s “inadequate reply.”
Despite May’s insistence the statement put out by Parkinson on Friday was “personal”, a photo posted on Twitter by Channel 4 News’ Head of Communications shows it was marked “OFFICIAL” and sent from a Downing Street press officer.
[HuffPost UK has redacted the full email address, while the other two redactions were made by Barlow.]
Speaking after May’s comments in the Commons, a Downing Street source said Parkinson drafted the statement, which was then sent to media organisations planning to run the story.
After it appeared on former Vote Leave Campaign Director Dominic Cummings blog, it was “subsequently requested by another reporter and a political member of Number 10 staff sent that on to the reporter saying: ‘This is in the public domain but as you requested it and in case it’s helpful.’ That is the long and the short of it.”
When asked if Downing Street’s Director of Communications Robbie Gibb had seen the statement before it was released, the source said: “I don’t propose to get into that.”
When asked if it had been sent to Gibb for “sign off”, the source said: “No.”