A Tory mayor has said there should be “no compromise” when it comes to standards in public life following accusations the home secretary may have breached the ministerial code over a speeding fine.
Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, said there “have to be standards in public life” as Rishi Sunak comes under pressure to launch an investigation into Suella Braverman’s conduct.
Asked about the story on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Mr Street said he could not provide details of what happened but added: “The point is very simple – there have to be standards in public life.
“I’m not going to sit here and make a comment about the home secretary, I genuinely do not know.
“What I do know is the prime minister has made it absolutely clear that for him standards in public life is an absolutely critical issue. I hope that’s how I conduct myself, I hope that’s how my party conducts itself.
“But there is no compromise over it because the public sniff out when you are not doing that and if we serve the public we have to reflect their best standards.”
The home secretary is battling allegations that she asked civil servants to help her avoid a group speeding awareness course to dodge a fine after she was caught speeding last summer.
The Sunday Times reported that Ms Braverman opted to attend a driving awareness course rather than accept a fine and points on her licence.
A spokesman for the home secretary said she “accepts that she was speeding last summer and regrets doing so”.
“She took the three points and paid the fine last year,” they added.
But the newspaper reported that instead of signing up for an in-person course with other motorists, or completing one online that would show her name and face to other participants, Ms Braverman allegedly asked civil servants to arrange a private one-to-one course.
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When the civil servants refused, she sought help from a political aide, who requested the private course organiser provided a private session, or allowed her to use an alias or turn her camera off.
When the provider refused, Ms Braverman opted to take the three points on her licence, the paper reported.
The paper’s sources close to the home secretary dispute that she breached the ministerial code and say the case was settled by her taking the points.
Mr Street’s comments add to the increasing pressure the prime minister is under to launch an investigation into the allegations against Ms Braverman.
At a press conference of the G7 in Japan, Mr Sunak repeatedly failed to back the home secretary and said he had not spoken to her about the speeding fine, but that he understood that she had “expressed regret” for the offence and accepted the penalty.
Mr Sunak has lost three senior colleagues to conduct scandals.
Sir Gavin Williamson quit his cabinet post last November after he was accused of bullying behaviour.
He was followed by Nadhim Zahawi, who was sacked as Tory party chair in January after an ethics inquiry into the handling of his tax affairs found a “serious breach” of the ministerial code.
And just last month Dominic Raab, a close ally of Mr Sunak, resigned as justice secretary after an independent investigation by a Adam Tolley KC upheld two claims of bullying against him.
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Labour and the Liberal Democrats have demanded that the prime minister take action in wake of the allegations made against his home secretary.
Shadow health minister Liz Kendall told Sophy Ridge Mr Sunak should ask his independent adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, to launch an investigation into whether there had been a breach of the ministerial code.
“I think a lot of people watching this programme will think, you know, why is it always one rule for them and another rule for everybody else?” she said.
Ms Kendall also referred to Ms Braverman’s decision to resign as home secretary under Liz Truss after she was found to have sent confidential documents to a fellow Tory MP.
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Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael also joined calls for an investigation, claiming that Mr Sunak’s refusal to do so far amounted to “stealing page one from the Boris Johnson playbook”
“Time and time again Sunak has put Conservative politicians who think they are above the rules in his cabinet, and every time they have taken the British people for fools,” he said.
“The home secretary must undergo an urgent investigation, every second she doesn’t is another blow to the integrity of this already sleaze-ridden prime minister.”