A Vote Leave whistleblower has wept as he described being publicly outed as having had a same sex relationship by a Downing Street official in response to his allegations against the official Brexit campaign.
Shahmir Sanni broke down as he talked about his former boyfriend and colleague Stephen Parkinson, now Theresa May’s political secretary, who on Friday publicly revealed they had been in a relationship in a Downing Street statement.
Lawyers for Sanni said the statement was the “first time a Downing Street official statement has been used to out someone”. The UK’s leading LGBT charity, Stonewall, criticised the statement as “inexcusable”.
Speaking on Monday evening, Sanni said: “It was fucking shit... I came out to my mum the day before yesterday.” Wiping away tears, he added: “He knew. He knew I wasn’t out to mum.”
Sanni was applauded by the audience, before apologising for being “drama queen”.
Since the Parkinson statement, Sanni’s family in Pakistan have had to take “protective measures”, since homosexuality is a crime in the country.
Sanni accused Parkinson, Downing Street and the Brexit campaigner Dominic Cummings - on whose blog Parkinson’s statement first appeared - of revealing his sexuality.
“Number 10, Stephen Parkinson and Dominic Cummings stripped me of the most important conversation I needed to have between me and my mum,” he said.
“This is low they will stoop. It’s not relevant. How is my relationship with Stephen Parkinson relevant?”
He added his mum’s response was: “Shahmir, I love you no matter what. They’re just doing it to shut you up.”
Sanni’s allegations against Vote Leave centre on Parkinson, head of the campaign’s grassroots operation, who he claims helped the group get around strict electoral spending rules by funnelling money 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 also involved in BeLeave – “advice and encouragement” in the capacity of their “personal relationship.”
Stonewall said in a statement that the “severity of this breach of confidence” by Downing Street “cannot be underestimated” .
In response Sanni, issued a statement through lawyers, saying: “It’s sad that Stephen feels he can’t tell the truth about cheating in the Referendum.
“I think he understands why I had to do the right thing and let people know what really happened. But I never imagined that he, with the help of Number 10, would choose to tell the world I am gay, in a last desperate attempt to scare me.
Theresa May was challenged over the fallout on Monday but said she would not sack her political secretary.
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.”