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Theresa May defends 'very good' No10 aide at centre of Vote Leave row

3 min read

Theresa May has defended a key aide accused of deliberately outing a former partner as gay amid claims Vote Leave broke spending rules during the referendum.

The Prime Minister said Stephen Parkinson "does a very good job" as her political secretary following calls for him to be sacked.

Mr Parkinson issued a statement on Friday following allegations about his conduct by former Vote Leave campaign volunteer Shahmir Sanni.

He accused Mr Parkinson, who was a senior Vote Leave during the referendum, of using the supposedly-independent BeLeave campaign group to spend more than the £7m maximum amount allowed under electoral laws.

Mr Parkinson - who denies the allegations - said the pair had "dated for 18 months, splitting up – I thought amicably – in September 2017".

He added: "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."

In response, Mr Sanni said: "I never imagined that he, with the help of Number 10, would choose to tell the world I am gay, in a last desperate attempt to scare me. This 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 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."

Pressed on the row in the Commons, Mrs May said: "My political secretary does a very good job as my political secretary. Any statements that were made were personal statements."

On Saturday, a solicitor for Vote Leave told Channel 4: "Vote Leave has twice been cleared on this matter by the Electoral Commission. There are a number of new accusations and allegations being made in what you have sent us.

"While many of them seem irrelevant or trivial, some are serious and potentially damaging to the reputations of those caught up in those allegations. As has been the case throughout, Vote Leave is obligated to review - to the extent it can after this long elapsed period since the referendum - all such allegations, and is doing so.

"We will, as appropriate, share any relevant findings with the Electoral Commission, again as we have always done."

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