One of Theresa May’s closest Political Advisors is today reportedly fighting to retain his job after publicly outing a whistleblower as gay in a row over alleged cheating during the Brexit referendum.
After hearing that fellow Vote Leave campaigner Shahmir Sanni was preparing to make a number of explosive claims alleging illegal campaigning methods had been used by Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum, Theresa May’s Political Secretary, Stephen Parkinson – who was the former ground campaign manager for Vote Leave – issued a statement declaring that he and Mr Sanni had been in an intimate relationship during the period in question.
After being outed by Mr Parkinson’s statement, Mr Sanni’s lawyers responded by saying he had been forced “to come out to his mother and family tonight” and that “members of his family in Pakistan are being forced to take urgent protective measures to ensure their safety“.
Mr Sanni also indicated that the former Vote Leave strategist Parkinson had intentionally disclosed his sexuality in order to intimidate him so that he did not follow through and blow the whistle on Vote Leave, stating:
“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 No 10, would choose to tell the world I am gay, in a last desperate attempt to scare me.”
It had been reported that Mr Sanni was preparing to accuse pro-Brexit campaign group Vote Leave of illegally co-ordinating with BeLeave – another Brexit campaign group – in an attempt to dodge legal spending limits.
According to The Times “BeLeave spent £625,000 on a Canadian social media company using a donation he received from Vote Leave. Electoral law prohibited BeLeave from co-operating with Vote Leave over how the money was spent.”
Vote Leave strongly deny all claims of impropriety.
Former Vote Leave strategist Mr Parkinson – who has since worked alongside Prime Minister Theresa May since she entered Number 10 – had initially published a statement (which now appears to have been removed, but some now-deleted text still remains beneath the article preview on Google) on Vote Leave Chief Dominic Cummings’ personal website apparently pre-empting Mr Sanni’s allegations, which stated that:
“Shahmir became an occasional volunteer for Vote Leave and other leave campaigns, and we began a personal relationship.
We subsequently dated for 18 months, splitting up – I thought amicably – in September 2017.
That is the capacity in which I gave Shahmir advice and encouragement, and I can understand if the lines became blurred for him, but I am clear that I did not direct the activities of any separate campaign groups.
I had no responsibility for digital campaigning or donations during the referendum, and am confident that Vote Leave acted entirely within the law and strict spending rules at all times.”
However, in a statement slamming the Prime Minister’s Political Secretary’s actions, Sanni responded saying:
“This [being gay] is something I’ve never told most of my friends or family, here or in Pakistan, some of whom are having to take measures to ensure their safety.
He [Parkinson] knew the danger it would cause, and that’s why he did it.
My coming out should have happened at a moment of my choosing – not his or the Government’s.
Some things are more important than politics and I hope that one day he agrees.”
The full statement released through Mr Sanni’s lawyers read:
“I represent Shahmir Sanni, who has provided information to the media as a whistleblower about matters relating to the conduct of the Vote Leave campaign during the EU Referendum.
10 Downing Street tonight confirmed an official statement to the media on behalf of Stephen Parkinson, Political Secretary to the Prime Minister, disclosing my client’s sexuality publicly.
We believe this is the first time a Downing Street official statement has been used to out someone. My client is now having to come out to his mother and family tonight, and members of his family in Pakistan are being forced to take urgent protective measures to ensure their safety.”
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