Rayner will focus on facts not ‘gossip’ in living arrangements row, says Cooper

Rayner will focus on facts not ‘gossip’ in living arrangements row, says Cooper

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner will focus on facts rather than “gossip” in the ongoing row over her living arrangements, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.

It comes after The Sunday Times reported that her former aide said there was “no doubt in my mind that this was Ms Rayner’s family home” when he visited her at what she says was her husband’s address in 2014.

Police are investigating whether Labour’s deputy leader broke electoral law after Tory allegations that she may have given false information about her main residence a decade ago.

Ms Rayner has promised to resign if she is found to have committed a crime over the accusations, but said she “followed the rules at all times”.

Ms Cooper told BBC One’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg that Ms Rayner is “very keen” to set out the facts to police and HMRC.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper appearing on current affairs programme Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

She said: “It allows her to set out all the facts – not the sort of gossip, not the different allegations that we’ve had from Conservative MPs.

“We understand this is the run-up to local elections, we have seen this before as we saw with the Durham case as well.

“This is obviously about her family arrangements, her personal finances, and that’s really how it should be dealt with instead.”

Durham Police cleared Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Ms Rayner over allegations that they broke coronavirus rules by having a takeaway curry with colleagues while campaigning for local elections in 2021.

The force initially investigated and found there was no evidence of rule-breaking, but looked at the case again following the intervention of North West Durham Tory MP Richard Holden.

The current row is over Ms Rayner being registered at an ex-council house she bought in Stockport, but it is understood Conservative Party deputy chairman James Daly has suggested neighbours say she lived with her husband at a separate property.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) initially said they would not be investigating the allegations, but following a complaint from the Bury North MP the force confirmed it had reassessed information and launched a probe.

Former staffer Matt Finnegan gave a statement to GMP to say he visited the property at Lowndes Lane, Stockport, that year, The Sunday Times reported.

Mr Finnegan left Ms Rayner’s employment with a £20,000 payout and non-disclosure agreement after accusing her of disability discrimination and unfair dismissal and has told police he “vividly” remembers her home was elsewhere, the paper said.

He reportedly visited her around the time she became a parliamentary candidate at an address in Lowndes Lane in the summer of 2014.

Earlier on Sunday Ms Cooper told Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips that Ms Rayner has “done the right thing” by taking independent tax and legal advice as she faces a row over her previous living arrangements.

Ms Cooper was asked why Sir Keir had not read Ms Rayner’s legal advice, despite members of his team having seen it.

She responded: “I certainly wouldn’t expect to see the personal advice about personal finances of any of my colleagues, but I think Angela has handled this in the right way and welcomed the opportunity to set out the facts.

“Keir has a very strong team around him, and rightly so – that’s why I think, not only have they looked at this and been clear about it, but also Angela has as well.

“Angela is a brilliant deputy leader of our party and she is going to continue campaigning, working, (and) continue just as all of us are for the local elections, and not be deterred – political questions are always going to be raised.”