Tory MP criticises Downing Street’s ‘silence’ over government adviser Andrew Sabisky

PUBLISHED: 08:42 18 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:42 18 February 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson before he participates in a TV interview. Photograph: Neil Hall/PA.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson before he participates in a TV interview. Photograph: Neil Hall/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The government has been criticised by a Tory MP for the ‘silence’ over its appointment of controversial adviser Andrew Sabisky.

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Former immigration minister and Tory MP Caroline Nokes told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she was "relieved" Sabisky had resigned, but said the response from Downing Street had disappointed her.

"I was disappointed that yesterday there was silence from Downing Street regarding his previous comments and it does seem that when the call went out for misfits and weirdos that was exactly what Downing Street got."

She added: "I think he needed to come out earlier and explain himself, he needed to apologise for those comments and unfortunately we had 48 hours of almost complete silence and no comment from Downing Street, who could have distanced themselves from his youthful comments at any point, but they chose not to do so."

She continued: "I think you want to have exciting ideas and energy around policy-making in Downing Street, what you don't want is racism, sexism and the sort of abhorrent ideas that were present in this young man's tweets."

On the handling of the appointment by Number 10, she said: "I was disappointed.

"I was first aware of the comments on Sunday morning and it became apparent that Downing Street wasn't going to make any comment on this and then when the prime minister's spokesman yesterday refused to comment on it again, I just got to the point where I thought, 'well, hang on a moment, I'm about to chair a very important select committee in parliament, the Women and Equalities Committee, somebody has to speak out about this', so I chose to.

"I think it's important that we have the highest standards of integrity in Downing Street, that the bar be set very high, not low, and I'm disappointed that it took this long for either this young man to resign or for Downing Street to take action."

Ed Davey, acting Liberal Democrat leader, also criticised Downing Street and the government.

He said: "The prime minister should never have allowed Dominic Cummings to recruit someone with such extreme and offensive views. Serious questions remain as to why due diligence was not followed in the recruitment of someone clearly so unfit to be in such a position.

"The prime minister must now make crystal clear why he signed off on this appointment, condemn the offensive comments expressed by Mr Sabisky and curb Dominic Cummings' power to appoint and sack at will."

Labour Party chair Ian Lavery said: "It's right that Andrew Sabisky is no longer working in government. He should never have been appointed in the first place.

"After Number 10 publicly stood by him today, Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer about how this appointment was made and whether he agrees with his vile views."

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