Now we all know that politics is a dirty old game, and it's often difficult to decipher whether sleaze allegations are genuine, or some carefully constructed plot designed by the opposition to crush their rivals. In the case of Mayor Boris Johnson's recently appointed deputy, Ray Lewis, I sincerely hope it's the latter. News just in informs that Lewis has just resigned from his post, following allegations of financial irregularities and inappropriate behaviour. Now this may sound naive of me, but I have spoken to Ray on a few occasions in relation to a feature I was researching for Pride, and he came across as an honest, straight down the line kind of guy. If the accusations are indeed true, this is worryingly yet another gravely embarrassing episode for black politicians following the exit of ex-Mayor, Ken Livingstone's side-kick, Lee Jasper, who was also forced to resign in the light of the scandal surrounding, yep you guessed it - financial irregularities and inappropriate behaviour. *Sigh*. See below for full article.
The deputy mayor of London, Ray Lewis, today resigned, 24 hours after Boris Johnson launched an independent inquiry into allegations of financial irregularities and inappropriate behaviour against him.
He becomes the second member of the mayor's team to resign since Johnson was elected mayor on May 1.
At a press conference, Lewis said: "I have today submitted my resignation to the mayor who has, with great reluctance, accepted.
At a press conference yesterday, Johnson had backed Lewis saying he had "every confidence" in his "tremendous deputy."
He was responding to a Guardian investigation and a series of questions tabled by the newspaper on Wednesday.
Lewis said today that he "flatly" denied the allegations. But he added: "It's important we get on with the business of the mayoralty without this business hanging over Boris Johnson's head."
The Anglican diocese of Chelmsford, which covers Essex and east London, yesterday confirmed that allegations were first made against Lewis when he worked as a priest in east London in the late 1990s. Johnson's spokesman emphasised yesterday that no criminal action was taken.
In one case, the claim centred on a sum of nearly £30,000 entrusted to Lewis to invest on her behalf by a female parishioner. Yesterday the woman, Mary Massey, said that although there had been problems with the investment during 1997 all the money had been returned to her, with interest, by Lewis by 2004. Massey currently works at Lewis's Eastside Young Leaders' Academy in the east London borough of Newham.
Yesterday the church confirmed Lewis had been placed on a register banning him from working as a priest in England because "things had been alleged against him".
The resignation is a blow to Johnson's fledgling administration. Lewis's appointment was seen as a shrewd response by Johnson to criticism, during the election campaign, of comments he had made in the past about black people. But the circumstances of the Lewis's departure are likely to see the mayor's judgement called into question.
Last week, one of Johnson's senior advisers, James McGrath, quit for telling an interviewer that African-Caribbean migrants should go home if they did not like London.