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Labour quizzes Boris Johnson over ‘misfit’ adviser


LONDON — Labour is preparing formal questions in the House of Commons over the U.K. government’s hiring of Andrew Sabisky as an adviser to the prime minister.

Sabisky quit his job Monday following outcry over racist comments he allegedly made online, including statements that black Americans had a lower IQ than white Americans and that compulsory contraception should be in place to prevent a “permanent underclass.” In announcing his decision to step down from his post, Sabisky revealed he had been given a job as a “contractor” to No. 10 Downing Street.

Jon Trickett, Labour shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, told POLITICO he will ask the government to disclose whether Sabisky followed standard recruitment procedures that apply to No. 10 special advisers, including background checks and security vetting. He will also ask how many contractors have been hired by the prime minister’s office since December 12.

“The only conclusion I can come to is that this is very, very fishy,” said Trickett. “Something does not smell right about what’s happened with this guy. He should have been subject to all the normal controls, because the country as a whole would want to know that the people working in No. 10 Downing Street have been properly appointed and have demonstrated proper ethics.”

Trickett’s list of 23 parliamentary questions, which are in the process of being approved and are likely to be published on the parliament website Wednesday, includes whether Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings was involved in Sabisky’s hiring, and whether his recruitment involved communication through a Gmail account mentioned in a job ad posted by Cummings on his blog calling for “weirdos and misfits” to apply to work in No. 10.

“A political adviser is obliged to follow a code of conduct approved by the prime minister” — John Trickett, Labour shadow minister for the Cabinet Office

The Labour MP for West Yorkshire also wants to know whether Sabisky was paid with public money, his daily rate of pay, whether the Cabinet Office approved his hiring and, if confirmed he was a contractor, who his contract manager was.

The government publishes an annual report detailing the number, identities and salaries of political advisers. But the report does not include information on contractors. Trickett said No. 10 could use this way of recruitment “to avoid the normal managerial processes which are in place to protect the public money and also to protect the proper ethical government.”

“A political adviser is obliged to follow a code of conduct approved by the prime minister. It is not clear that a consultant or a contractor is obliged to follow the same code of conduct,” he said.

The House of Commons, which is not sitting this week, will discuss Trickett’s questions on February 27.

Johnson special adviser Dominic Cummings had called for “weirdos and misfits” to apply for No. 10  jobs | Peter Summers/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the Labour Party’s chairman Ian Lavery on Tuesday wrote to Johnson asking him whether he agreed with Sabisky’s previous comments on eugenics and race, and whether he had any involvement in his hiring.

Scottish National Party MP Kirsty Blackman also called on the prime minister to “come clean now.”

“It is beyond shameful that a man with a well-documented history of unapologetically offensive, misogynistic, and racist remarks was considered by No. 10 to be an appropriate hire,” she said. “It’s concerning that Cummings’ call for ‘misfits and weirdos’ was in fact a call for individuals whose abhorrent views should have no place in any government.”

No. 10 declined to comment.



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