Friday, July 04, 2008

On Tory sleaze

Like an old and much-loved friend returning after years away, Tory sleaze is with us again. Boris Johnson's deputy Ray Lewis tonight stepped down from the post he has held for only two months.

In a shambling and barely coherent statement Lewis condemned the press for its inability to allow the investigation into allegations against him to run its course. It did not, said Lewis, "accept the principle of delayed gratification". I think we can unpick what he's trying to say but whether he meant it to or not it, what it actually means is that what he'd been up to would eventually be uncovered, just not as soon as the rest of us wanted.

It was revealed last night that around 10 years ago allegations of financial irregularities were made against Lewis during his time as a vicar in east London in the late 1990s. He was later barred from preaching by the Church of England, a sanction he said he had not been aware of until last night. There are also as yet unknown allegations against him of a sexual nature.

Last night Boris Johnson defended his deputy and, launching an investigation into the claims against him, praised Lewis unreservedly. During their press conference both Johnson and Lewis made much of his becoming a justice of the peace as evidence that there could be no stains on his character. Which doubtless appeased some minds until it was revealed today by the Ministry of Justice that Ray Lewis is not, and never has been, a justice for the peace. Ah. Perhaps he 'misspoke'. It's a common ailment this summer.

Whether or not these accusations are eventually substantiated it is a disaster for Johnson early on in his mayoralty. However, in Johnson's defence it's doubtful that much of the blame for the situation he finds himself in can, for once, be attributed to the blonde himself. In March this year David Cameron described Lewis as the most inspirational figure he had met since becoming Tory leader.


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