Boris Johnson has said he “countermanded and rescinded” an emailed order from his Chief of Staff gagging London City Hall employees from criticising the Mayor’s pro-Brexit stance as soon as he was aware of it.
Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, Sir Edward Lister, had warned deputy mayors and advisers that they should support the Mayor or remain quiet. The email sent on 4th March stated:
“…[Greater London Authority] officers can, when not at work, express personal opinions (which be contrary to the Mayor’s views). 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.”
Relying on what Sir Edward said was a “fundamental difference” between elections and referendums, allowing the authority to take a public stance ahead of the vote, he added:
“Boris is entitled, as Mayor, to adopt a public position on this issue and then, as with all other mayoral policies, to receive support from [Greater London Authority] officers in relation to that policy position.
“There are no parties and no candidates, and so you are all able to be involved in the campaign as you wish (but without using the Authority’s resources for your personal activities).”
Some attempted to use the email to cause a degree of embarrassment for Mr. Johnson because he criticised the policy of strict neutrality adopted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) which led to the resignation of the group’s actively pro-Brexit director, John Longworth. As Breitbart London previously reported, Mr. Johnson said: “It is absolutely scandalous that John Longworth has been forced to step aside.”
However, in contrast to the BCC Mr. Johnson today said he cancelled the order as soon as he knew of it, explaining:
“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.
“All I can say is it obviously hasn’t been operative because you’ve got members of my advisory team taking a very different view from me. So they can, so they shall, and with complete impunity too.”
Meanwhile YouGov polling conducted just before and after Mr. Johnson declared for Brexit suggests his ratings have soared with party activists after he came out in favour. The polling company writes:
For the first time in history, the next Prime Minister will be chosen directly by the Conservative Party membership. YouGov has created a panel of Tory members and is using the same weighting method we employed for our Labour leadership race last summer, which first identified Corbyn’s ascendancy and then accurately predicted the scale of his win.
YouGov shows that while Johnson’s net rating among Tory members has declined from +77 to +62, he now leads the pack of leadership contenders with 43% saying they will vote for him (up from 38% a few days earlier), while 22% support George Osborne (up from 20%)…
…In a head-to-head contest Johnson currently beats Osborne by 56% to 38%… Support is strongly correlated with opinions about Brexit. Tory members support leaving the EU by 59% to 31%, with the numbers for Johnson supporters at 80% to 14% with Osborne supporters showing the reverse preference with 54% wanting to remain in versus 33% who prefer to leave.