Shahmir Sanni, who levelled allegations about Vote Leave’s spending during the Brexit campaign, was outed on Friday by one of Theresa May’s closest advisers in an official Downing Street statement.
Stephen Parkinson, May’s political secretary, released a statement saying he had dated Sanni for 18 months during the Brexit campaign, forcing Sanni to come out to his family and potentially endangering his relatives in Pakistan.
“I had to come out to my mum the day before yesterday,” he said at an appearance at London’s Frontline Club.
“You know what, he knew, he knew that I wasn’t out to my mum.”
Sanni conducted an interview in which he alleged that a large donation to Vote Leave was channelled through BeLeave, a group with ties to Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm whose possession of Facebook data has brought the social networking company under investigation.
The whistleblower worked for BeLeave during the campaign.
It was alleged that BeLeave was used to get around UK election spending laws, prompting the statement from Parkinson, as well as Leave campaign head Dominic Cummings.
“Number 10, Dominic Cummings, and Stephen Parkinson have stripped me of the most important conversation for me, to have with my mother and my sisters and my family,” Sanni said.
“I came out to my mum and she said to me, I love you no matter what and they’re doing it to shut you up. I was like thanks momma.”
Downing Street defended Parkinson by saying it was a “personal statement”, despite it bearing the word ‘OFFICIAL’ when it was sent to The New York Times by a Downing Street official.
The statement ‘OFFICIAL’ issued by No 10 and seen by Channel 4 News would suggest otherwise. pic.twitter.com/NVP8nVGqxA
— Hayley Barlow (@Hayley_Barlow) March 26, 2018
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw criticised May in the House of Commons, calling Sanni’s outing “a disgrace”, The Guardian reported.
“How is it remotely acceptable that when a young whistleblower exposes compelling evidence of law-breaking by the leave campaign, implicating staff at No 10, one of those named instead of addressing the allegations issues an officially sanctioned statement outing the whistleblower as gay and thereby putting his family in Pakistan in danger?”
“I of course recognise the importance of ensuring that we do recognise that for some being outed as gay is difficult because of their family circumstances. What I want to see is a world where everybody is able to be confident in their sexuality and doesn’t have to worry about such things,” May responded.
Another Labour MP Angela Eagle lobbied May to sack Parkinson, but May refused, saying she won’t fire him because her “political secretary does a very good job.”