Rayner demands Tories apologise over London mayoral race “fake leaflets”

Elliot Chappell

Angela Rayner has demanded that the Conservative Party apologise after Labour’s lawyers wrote to the director of public prosecutions alleging that Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey used fraud to influence the upcoming election.

The deputy Labour leader has this afternoon described the leaflets distributed by Bailey’s campaign last month, which were headed with imitation City Hall insignia and made no mention of the Conservative Party, as a “work of fiction”.

Rayner argued: “The Tory mayoral candidate has been caught out repeatedly attempting to mislead Londoners. He seems determined to insult voters’ intelligence by bringing discredited Donald Trump style fake news to London.

“He has consistently misled over TfL finances, the congestion charge and council tax, and his latest leaflets are literally a work of fiction. Fake news, fake polls and fake leaflets will not only reflect badly on him and the Conservative Party but erode trust in politics.

“The Conservative Party must immediately apologise for the actions of their London mayoral campaign and demonstrate that they are committed to following the law.”

The complaint submitted by the opposition party to the director of public prosecutions Max Hill described the leaflets as a “fraudulent device” to gain undue influence as defined in the 1983 Representation of the People Act.

Lawyers for the Labour Party, Edwards Duthie Shamash, wrote to the head of the criminal prosecution service on January 21st arguing that the “City Hall” leaflets were “preventing the free exercise of the franchise of electors”.

They added they “attempt to attract the reader’s attention with the pretence that it is issued from the headquarters of the London mayor and the Greater London Authority, such that it is an official communication from a public authority with powers of taxation”.

The leaflets told voters that council tax would increase “if you do not take action” and vote against Sadiq Khan. Under the relevant legislation, director of public prosecutions Hill is responsible for investigating potential offences.

Labour has also complained to the British Polling Council. The party has called on the Tories to show evidence for a claim made in a newsletter that “a majority of voters now believe Shaun Bailey will do a better job as mayor” than Khan.

The Conservatives claimed the figure was the result of “internal polling”, despite most publicly available polling showing the incumbent Labour mayor with a strong lead of 20 or more points in the contest.

Bailey has faced repeated criticism for his tactics in the run-up to the mayoral election set to take place in May this year. The Conservative mayoral candidate was accused of creating a website “full of lies” last November.

The website, titled ‘Transport for London Bailout Facts’, is unbranded with the only reference to its origins at the bottom where it says it was published “on behalf of Shaun Bailey” and lists the London address of the Tory campaign headquarters.

The Conservative candidate also sparked controversy and was branded as “completely out of touch” earlier this month when he suggested that homeless people in the capital could save £5,000 for a deposit to buy a house.

Voters in London are set to head to the polls in May. The election had originally been due to take place last year but was postponed due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

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