Pressure is building for housing minister Robert Jenrick to resign after it was alleged he rush-approved a £1bn planning application to prevent a left-wing council from receiving money.
Documents released amid pressure on the minister show civil servants in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government believed Jenrick wanted to rush the approval so developer Richard Desmond would not have to pay the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to Tower Hamlets Council – thereby saving £45 million.
Text messages between Desmond and Jenrick show the former Express newspaper owner and pornographer pressured the minister to grant planning permission, saying: “We don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe [sic] for nothing!”
Charming. Let’s all remember that, next time the Tories say left-wing policies don’t work – it seems clear the reason for any failures is corruption on the part of greedy capitalists.
Some readers may be further scandalised by the fact that the only profit the Tories accrued from diddling Tower Hamlets out of £45 million appears to be a donation of just £12,000. Perhaps crime really doesn’t pay after all.
After the circumstances of his decision were revealed, Jenrick withdrew his decision to overrule the council and the government’s planning inspectorate and approve the 1,500-apartment, 44-storey development at Westferry Printworks, a former printing plant in east London.
It won’t happen now, after all.
The documents were released on Wednesday after a debate and vote in Parliament, when Jenrick was accused of potentially breaking the ministerial code.
The code says all ministers must “declare and resolve any interests and relationships” and “take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias”.
Readers of Vox Political may consider that he didn’t just break the code – Jenrick shattered it.
After the documents were released, cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill said. “The prime minister considers that the matter is closed.”
This should come as no surprise to those of us who have watched Boris Johnson’s own adventures in corruption. Let’s not forget that we are still waiting for him to publish the report on Russian interference in UK politics, that he stepped in to delay all the way back in October last year – most probably because he thought it would put people off voting for him in December’s general election.
Come to that, what about Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament earlier last year, that illegally stopped all work in the Palace of Westminster for weeks?
Fortunately, the Labour Party is not accepting Johnson’s wibblings as any assurance of fair play – why should anybody do that? – and is demanding an explanation of differences between the account revealed by the newly-released documents and Jenrick’s explanation.
Jenrick himself is now in an untenable position. Nobody will trust any decision he makes in the future – in spite of what Johnson says, and possibly, indeed, because of it.
The Westferry decision clearly was not a mistake – it was a deliberate choice to break planning rules to allow a development, and to break them again to starve a London community of £45 million.
Neither decision is acceptable behaviour for a minister of the Crown.
And what crazy plan will he rubber-stamp next?
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