Guido readers may remember the underwhelmingly-sized Trump baby blimp which
soared floated a few metres above Parliament Square during Trump’s visit in July. Despite his long-running feud with Trump, Sadiq Khan was insistent at the time that the decision was solely that of the Greater London Authority (GLA) as a “corporate body” and that he had not personally approved the blimp. In fact, emails obtained by Guido reveal that the GLA initially rejected the proposal outright, only reversing their decision after a concerted campaign from Sadiq’s closest advisers including his Director of Communications Patrick Hennessey.
Here is the timeline of events:
- 27 April: GLA Facilities Mangement emails the organisers of the protest to tell them that “we cannot consider the inflatable request below and the decision is final”:
- 15 June: Following the publication of an article in the Guardian by the organiser imploring Sadiq to “Let Trump baby fly”, several of Sadiq Khan’s top team including senior advisers Leah Kreitzman, Nick Bowes and Patrick Hennessey exchange a number of emails where they prepare lines on how to reopen the decision process around approving the blimp.
- 27 June: Leah Kreitzman sends an email stating “I think we might need to lean into it a bit more now. Can you please draft something along the lines of us looking at how we can make it happen.” Sadiq’s team agree a line to send over to the Evening Standard.
- 28 June: The City Operations Lead in Sadiq’s office sends an email stating that they are now “minded to grant permission”.
- 4 July: An authorisation notice is sent to the blimp organiser informing him that permission has now been granted.
- 6 July: Sadiq’s team prepare an extended Q&A and lines for him to take, including the lines “I was not involved in the decision at all. It was made by the city operations team at the GLA.” and “I did not have a role in this decision. It was a decision for the city operations team at the GLA.”
- 10 July: Sadiq appears on Good Morning Britain and gives the line that he was not involved and it was a GLA decision.
The numerous emails between Sadiq’s top team show that this was not a simple bureaucratic decision by the GLA but in fact a last-minute reversal of the original decision following a concerted campaign to change it. It is implausible that senior members of his team including his Director of Communications did not discuss this with the Mayor at any point during the process. Either way, Sadiq’s portrayal of the decision as a purely procedural rather than political was unquestionably misleading the public…