Downing Street accused of outing gay aide’s ex-boyfriend over Brexit whistleblowing
Downing Street has allegedly ‘outed’ a gay aide’s ex-boyfriend who was set to go public on claims that Brexit campaigners broke electoral rules.
Through his solicitors, Shahmir Sanni alleged that a statement by Prime Minister Theresa May’s special adviser Stephen Parkinson had forced him to come out to his parents, and placed his relatives in Pakistan in danger.
Ahead of Sanni disclosing his allegations about pro-Brexit activists, Parkinson revealed that the two had been together.
In a statement sent to Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings’ blog, May’s close aide – who also worked for Vote Leave – said: “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.”
The statement was removed from the blog last night.
Sanni, who worked for two pro-Brexit groups – Vote Leave and the independent BeLeave campaign – responded with an outraged statement through his solicitors, Bindmans.
It said: “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,” it added.
“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.”
Sanni, who now works at The TaxPayers’ Alliance, alleged: “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 Number 10, would choose to tell the world I am gay, in a last desperate attempt to scare me,” Sanni continued.
“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,” he claimed.
“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 Sun’s Harry Cole has reported on Twitter that Sanni has attended the Prime Minister’s LGBT+ reception in the past.
Many straight people, including the Prime Minister, were at the event.
Downing Street was asked to comment, but told MailOnline: “This is a political matter for CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Head Quarters).”
PinkNews has contacted CCHQ and Stephen Parkinson for comment.
Parkinson has responded through his lawyers at Farrer & Co, saying in a statement that “I have seen the statements issued by Shahmir and his lawyers, and am saddened by them.
“They are factually incorrect and misleading,” he alleged.
“My statement to Channel 4 News and The Observer was issued in my personal capacity and was solely a response to the serious and untrue allegations made against me by Shahmir, Chris Wylie, and others.
“It would be surprising if Shahmir, Mr Wylie, or those advising them thought I would be able to defend myself against those allegations without revealing my relationship with Shahmir. Sadly, the allegations they have chosen to make are so serious that I have been compelled to do so.
“I cannot see how our relationship, which was ongoing at the time of the referendum and which is a material fact in the allegations being made, could have remained private once Shahmir decided to publicise his false claims in this way.
“The matters raised in tonight’s Channel 4 News programme are already with the Electoral Commission,” he added.
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“At the relevant time during the referendum period, the Commission advised Vote Leave that it was permissible to make a donation in the way it proposed to do to BeLeave.
“Twice since the referendum the Commission has investigated this matter, and twice it has found no evidence of wrongdoing. A third investigation into the same issue is currently taking place.
“The Electoral Commission has not contacted me in relation to any of these inquiries, but I will of course be happy to assist in them if they wish me to do so.
“I firmly deny the allegations in the programme,” he continued, preemptively.
“I had no responsibility for digital campaigning or donations on the Vote Leave campaign, and am confident that I stayed within the law and strict spending rules at all times.”