Boris admits “cock up” over City Hall memo demanding staff’s silence for EU support

Mayor accused of hypocrisy after failed attempt to gag staff

Boris Johnson admitted a “cock up” this morning over an internal memo sent to deputy mayors and senior aides saying they should support the mayor’s position on the EU, or “not openly contradict it”.

Boris Johnson says he supports Britain exiting the EU.

The mayor’s office has been criticised for the failed attempt to gag staff, particularly following Boris’s comments about John Longworth, who was forced to resign his position as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce after he said he supported leaving the EU during a speech in which he was speaking in a personal capacity.

Boris had described Longworth as “a Brexit martyr”.

Since Longworth’s departure it has emerged that Number 10 may have leant on the BCC to give Longworth “a dressing down” for supporting a Brexit, the Mail reports.

Boris described Longworth’s forced resignation as “a disgrace”.

But it seems there was some serious miscommunication among senior staff at City Hall as Boris’s chief of staff Edward Lister sent the following email to staff: “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 GLA officers in relation to that policy position.

“The advice also makes clear that GLA 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 contradict it.”

Boris disowned the memo this morning. He announced the U-turn saying: “Nobody has been gagged. I’m afraid 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.

“It obviously hasn’t been operative because you’ve got members of my advisory teams taking a very different view from me. So they can, so they shall, with complete impunity too, by the way. So there you go.”

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