London mayoral comms attacked by Sir Tom Winsor

The Mayor of London’s comms operation is under scrutiny after Sir Tom Winsor, the former Chief Inspector of Constabulary, condemned a media briefing made against him as ‘amateurish, shoddy and childish’.

Sir Tom Winsor, appearing before the London Assembly's police and crime committee last week

Sir Tom Winsor described how he was given a seven-page briefing by a member of the Mayor of London’s comms team, which amounted to a personal attack against him.

Winsor’s comments were made during a meeting of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee last week, where he appeared alongside the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Controversial departure

Winsor was commissioned by the Home Office earlier this year to produce an independent review into the circumstances surrounding the departure of Dame Cressida Dick, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner.

His report, released in September, concluded that she had been intimidated into leaving her job and that Khan had failed to follow due process around her departure.

Personal attack

Winsor said he discovered that the Mayor’s office had been briefing the media against him. “I was really quite startled at how negative the briefing was and also how amateurish, shoddy and childish that it was,” he added.

The briefing included a comment from Khan that: “Londoners will be able to see that this review is clearly biased and ignores the facts.”

It cited a “source close to the Mayor of London” who said: “This is a biased report, commissioned by the Tory government and conducted by a friend of the former Commissioner. It’s an attack on London democracy and a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

The briefing also stated: “Sir Thomas Winsor has a history of delivering for his Conservative political masters.”

Winsor rejected the claims and dismissed the document as “just a really poor piece of work”.

Khan refused to discuss the matter with the committee, repeatedly claiming he had not seen the briefing and was “not aware of the detail”, despite it quoting him directly. He said: “I do give lots of quotes to lots of people,” and pledged to write to the committee about the matter.

Questions over comms

Susan Hall, leader of the Greater London Authority Conservatives, said: “For Sadiq Khan to respond to criticisms of his conduct by hurling baseless accusations of bias at Sir Thomas Winsor and everyone involved in conducting this review proves their point entirely. He should have taken responsibility, reflected on his mistakes, and apologised.”

A source on the Conservative group commented: “The press briefing is riddled with absurd distortions of the facts, which have already been disproven by Sir Thomas Winsor and others.”

They added: “The Mayor's office does not normally issue press briefings like this and many journalists will have been struck by the tone. Their briefings usually try to convey a sense that they are rising above the political fray and are normally much more measured. Not in this case. This sounds like sheer panic."

The Mayor of London’s 15-strong press office has officers grouped in four main areas: transport; economic development, housing, land and environment; culture, education and health; and crime and policing.

In response to Winsor’s criticisms, a spokesperson for Khan said: “The Mayor has been clear that in his view the Winsor inquiry was biased and ignored the facts. Various journalists asked for evidence of this bias and were provided with relevant factual information about Sir Tom Winsor’s previous comments professing strong support for Dame Cressida Dick and her leadership of the Met Police. Sir Tom Winsor has taken issue with this, but information provided was a factual account of his previous statements.”

PRWeek understands that media briefing lines would usually have to be signed off by Sarah Brown, mayoral director for comms, or David Bellamy, the mayor’s chief of staff. The Mayor of London’s press office did not disclose who approved the lines about Winsor that were issued to journalists.


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