Labour is calling for an investigation into Boris Johnson’s verbal attack on London mayor Sadiq Khan during a televised government press conference on coronavirus.
The prime minister accused the Labour incumbent of “blowing” Transport for London (TfL) finances through an “irresponsible fares policy”, claims which have been rejected by Khan.
The remarks were made from Downing Street during the pre-election purdah for the London mayoral election on May 6, which places limits on government publicity around the election.
In a letter to cabinet secretary Simon Case, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner accused the Conservative leader of breaching the ministerial code in what she called a “political attack” on the Labour candidate.
She said that the ministerial code “clearly states that official facilities and resources may not be used for the dissemination of party political material”.
Rayner said the comments, made on Monday from Downing Street’s £2.6 million media briefing room, were “unprompted” and “entirely unrelated” to either the press conference or to the question Johnson was asked.
She has called for an investigation into the incident and demanded that Johnson issues a public apology “for misusing public resources for party political gain and misleading the public”.
Khan, who is standing for a second term as mayor of London as the Labour candidate, accused the Conservative leader of using his Government platform to “tell lies”.
Khan told the PA news agency: “It is a fact that when I became mayor the TfL’s deficit was more than £1.5 billion. I reduced it by more than 71% before the pandemic. But also he increased TfL’s debt by more than £7 billion.
“I think it is inappropriate for all of us to follow the rules and abide by the rules, and Boris Johnson to yet again break the rules in the way he’s done.
“Firstly, during the purdah period using a government platform to attack a Labour candidate. But secondly, to tell lies.”
Asked at Monday’s press conference about potential government support for London’s pandemic recovery, the prime minister said: “As for the finances of TfL, I must respectfully remind you that I left them in robust good order.
“And it is not through any fault of my own that the current Labour mayor decided to blow them on an irresponsible fares policy.
“We’re doing our best to help them out and will continue to do so. But I’m afraid you’ve got to look at some of the decisions that were taken by the current Labour mayor as well.”