Downing Street faced embarrassment this morning after feeding the Times newspaper a letter signed by FTSE 100 chief executives, trailed as initially having over 100 signatories, but which ended up with just 36.
According to the Telegraph, over 80 “FTSE 100” business leaders were due to sign the letter on Thursday of last week. But the number fell to 50 by Monday, after the Prime Minister’s deal was announced, and after a handful of cabinet ministers and Boris Johnson came out for Brexit.
Today, the letter is published in the Times, revealing that just 36 of the 80 original chief executives have kept their names on the list – adding insult to injury for an already bruised Prime Minister following his “renegotiation” failure and subsequent media hammering this weekend.
The letter, drafted before the Prime Minister’s deal was even concluded, drew attention yesterday as it was revealed that Mr. Cameron intends to continue using tax payer funded civil servants to back his political agenda of keeping Britain in the European Union.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr. Cameron replied to a question by Nadine Dorries MP, who asked: “According to the Guido Fawkes website today there is a letter appearing in tomorrow’s Times [newspaper] written by a ‘Chris Hopkins’ on behalf of organisations across the UK supposedly wishing for us to remain [in the European Union].
“Chris Hopkins is apparently a civil servant,” she said, adding: “Could the Prime Minister tell us: who is Chris Hopkins? Which department does he work for? And what authority does he have as a civil servant to campaign for the remain lobby?”
Mr. Cameron replied tersely: “I can answer very simply. He’s a civil servant, working in Number 10, and his authority comes from me,” before adding: “this is not a free for all. The government has a clear view. The government’s view is that we should remain in a reformed European Union and the civil service is able to support the government in that role.
He concluded: “The government is not holding back and hanging back from this, we have a full throated view that we should put forward in front of the British people so that they can make their choice”.
The final letter in the Times contains over 200 signatories, but just 36 from FTSE 100 companies, a sharp decline in what was originally touted by civil servants.