Mayor of London Boris Johnson has made a U-turn after it emerged he had warned officials to toe his line on the EU referendum.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been vocal about "agents of 'project fear'" attempting to silence pro-Brexit voices, and backed down on the warning after being accused of hypocrisy.
An email sent from his chief of staff, Edward Lister, has told deputy mayors and senior advisers to "either advocate the mayor's position or otherwise not openly contradict it".
However, Johnson said as he arrived in Downing Street for the cabinet meeting this morning:
Nobody has been gagged. I’m afraid I was only made aware of this edict very late last night and it ceased to be operative as soon as I was made aware of it.
It obviously hasn’t been operative because you’ve got members of my advisory teams taking a very different view from me. So they can, so they shall, with complete impunity too, by the way. So there you go.
The revelation comes after Johnson launched an attack on "'agents of project fear" after British Chambers of Commerce boss John Longworth was suspended for proclaiming a pro-Brexit stance.
The email to City Hall officials read: "You will note that the advice is explicit in stating that Boris is entitled, as mayor, to adopt a public position on this issue and then, as with all other mayoral policies, to receive support from GLA officers in relation to that policy position."
"The advice also makes clear that GLA officers can, when not at work, express personal opinions (which be contrary to the mayor's views). Whilst this is the formal position for you also, I would expect, given your roles, you either to advocate the mayor's position or otherwise not openly contradict it," the email continued.
The news also comes as a new poll revealed that the Conservatives are now seen as more divided that Labour – though many are unclear as to what Labour's position on the EU is.
Some 69 per cent of respondents to the YouGov poll said they perceived the Tories to be divided, up from 45 per cent five years ago.
It had been predicted over the course of the last year that the Conservative party could be undone by divisions surround the EU.