London’s Mayor Boris Johnson will be investigated over whether he banned a Christian charity’s gay bus ad for political gain.
The Court of Appeal ruling follows new evidence detailing emailing exchanges that suggest Johnson may have acted for an “improper purpose”.
The Christian Legal Centre which supported the charity say its bus advertisement campaign came amidst a time when “the Conservative Party was courting the LGBT vote”.
Level playing field
Core Issues Trust ran its campaign in response to an advertisement by homosexual lobby group Stonewall that stated: “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!”
The charity’s legal team said that Transport for London (TfL) must have a “level playing field, take down Stonewall posters and be content neutral”.
Last March, the High Court maintained that the TfL ban on the Christian charity’s advertisement was lawful and that the decision was “solely” Vernon Everitt’s, TfL’s managing director of marketing and communication.
Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said however, that fresh email evidence “unequivocally states that the mayor ‘instructed’ TfL to pull the advertisement” ahead of the 2012 mayoral elections.
Last year the High Court saw a string of emails, including one from the Mayor’s office asking Everitt if the advertisement was “happening”.
This was in response to a story that the Guardian published earlier that day, which stated: “Christian group books anti-gay ads to appear on buses”.
Everitt, who maintains that the decision to pull the ads was his own then asked the Mayor’s office: “I don’t like it. Shall I get it pulled?” He claims the question was a “matter of routine”.
Another email however, not brought before the Courts last year, shows Johnson’s media chief, saying: “Boris has just instructed TfL to pull the adverts and I’ve briefed The Guardian. Who will break that news in next half hour”.
Lord Dyson said: “The difficulty is that there is now in evidence an email which unequivocally states that the Mayor instructed TfL to pull the advertisement.
“On the face of it, this is inconsistent with Mr Everitt’s insistence that the decision was his and his alone”, he added
Speaking of Johnson’s intention to attend a husting – organised by Stonewall – the day after the Core Issues Trust’s advertisement was pulled, Lord Dyson said the Mayor’s office contacted the Guardian to make “political capital out of the story”.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which supported the Trust, told The Telegraph: “In a mature democracy both sides of a debate should be heard.
“But it seems that Boris Johnson, Transport for London and Stonewall are intent to shut down the Christian side of the debate by fair means or foul”, she added.
The Trust also said: “The Courts have fulfilled an historic duty of holding politicians to account and refusing to tolerate non transparent behaviour”.