Tories on back-foot over Ray Lewis appointment

Senior Tories are defending the party’s adoption of Ray Lewis as deputy mayor of London and figurehead of their plans for disadvantaged urban communities.

Mr Lewis resigned from his post on Friday after various allegations concerning his past surfaced over the course of the week.

George Osborn, shadow chancellor, said Boris Johnson’s appointment of Mr Lewis had been a brave move.

“Of course it would be very easy for Boris Johnson to just appoint a load of deputy mayors who are career politicians, and of course the whole of the Westminster world could operate with career politicians who have thought about little else apart from being in politics since the age of 12,” he said.

“But I do not think you would bring some other insights that someone like Ray Lewis, or indeed many other people, can bring on very tough issues like knife crime.”

The resignation has provoked questions about the judgement of Mr Johnson and David Cameron, who made Mr Lewis his first port of call after his selection for the post of party leader.

Mr Johnson, who initially stood by his deputy during a press conference on Thursday, is said to have accepted the resignation once he discovered he was not a justice of the peace.

Accusation and counter accusation flew over the weekend between the church and senior Conservative figures. Several senior aides to Mr Cameron accused the church of sitting on documents containing accusations against Mr Lewis.

But Chris Newland, chaplain to the Bishop of Chelmsford, suggested Tory negligence was to blame.

“Lewis’s ministry was restricted because of very serious allegations,” he said. “If you want to employ someone in a high-profile job, you check with their employers, you take up their references. None of that was done.”

The various claims against Mr Lewis relate to his time as a vicar and founder of an academy for young people designed to instil them with strict military discipline and leadership qualities.