Jeremy Corbyn ambushes Theresa May with leaked text messages
The leader of Surrey Council had meant to text Sajid Javid's special adviser.
Jeremy Corbyn had Theresa May on the ropes at Prime Minister’s Questions as he surprised her by citing leaked text messages sent by the Tory leader of Surrey Council.
Corbyn claimed that the exchanges showed that Surrey had been offered a special deal to call off its planned referendum on a 15% increase in council tax.
"I wonder if it’s anything to do with the fact that the chancellor and health secretary represent Surrey constituencies," said Corbyn.
"So how much did the Government offer Surrey to kill this off and is the same sweetheart deal on offer to every council?"
Having already dodged the question once, the floundering prime minister then responded with an answer worthy of Donald Trump.
"Yet again what we get from Labour are alternative facts. What they really need is an alternative leader."
The text messages were sent by Surrey Council leader David Hodge to someone called Nick.
One message states: "Nick, I am advised that DCLG officials and my Director of Finance/CE have been working on a solution and that you would me contacting me to agree an MOU”.
But the most damning of the messages states that "the numbers you indicated are the numbers that I understand are acceptable for me to accept and call off the R…"
It is believed that Hodge - who is also leader of the Tory group at the Local Government Association - was attempting to contact Nick King, special adviser to communities secretary Sajid Javid.
But the texts appear to have been inadvertently sent to another Nick, thought to be Nick Forbes who is leader of Newcastle City Council and leader of the LGA Labour group...
In the killer text, Hodge refers to Sheila Little, director of finance at Surrey Council and Matthew Style, who is director of local government finance at the Department for Local Government and Communities.
But in a statement put out on Wedesday afternoon, Hodge insisted that no deal was done.
"Surrey’s decision not to proceed with a 15% council tax increase was ours alone and there has been no deal between Surrey County Council and the Government. However, I am confident that the Government now understands the real pressures in adult social care and the need for a lasting solution," he said.
Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics show immediately after PMQs, the shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald had a different take.
He said: "I'm gobsmacked... Somebody has got to resign over this. This is an absolutely disgrace. There are people up and and down the country suffering these cuts and if you press the button with your Tory mates you get a good deal. It's an absolute outrage."