Chris Grayling embarrassed by leaked letter to London mayor
A senior Tory MP said the transport secretary should stand down - and Labour agreed.
Transport secretary Chis Grayling is facing pressure to resign after a leaked letter showed he opposed rail devolution to keep it "out of the clutches" of Labour.
Grayling yesterday rejected London mayor Sadiq Khan’s bid to take over suburban rail services, claiming the plan was “deck-chair shifting” that would not benefit passengers. But the emergence of a leaked 2013 letter had led many observers to conclude that the transport secretary is playing politics with the issue.
The letter from Grayling to then mayor Boris Johnson states: “While I am generally a great supporter of what you are doing in London, I would not be in favour of changing the current arrangements.
“Not because I have any fears over the immediate future, but because I would like to keep suburban rail services out of the clutches of any future Labour mayor”.
Grayling was serving as justice secretary when the letter - which was leaked to the Evening Standard - was sent.
In an unusual move, Conservative MP Bob Neill called for Grayling to stand down. He said the views expressed in the letter meant Grayling was "unfit for office", adding that the transport secretary had "compromised his position and should resign".
Neill is the respected chairman of the justice select committee and his intervention puts Grayling in a deeply awkward position. It also prompted Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson to scent blood.
He said: “This is a disgraceful revelation that shows the Tories put party politics before rail passengers and it will leave commuters worse off. Labour’s Mayor of London put forward a plan which would see commuters enjoy a better service and frozen fares. We now see the Tories have blocked this progress for their own narrow political interest. It’s shameful and demonstrates that for all their bluster about caring about working people they always put themselves first.
“It’s no wonder even Tory MPs are today calling for Chris Grayling to resign: he’s in serious hot water.”
But fellow Tory MP Gavin Barwell did his best to stick up for his colleague. The minister for London said: "This is obviously a letter that was written a long time ago. I think the decision that was taken is about what's best for passengers in London which is to bring responsibility for running the track and the services together."