Sir Keir: MP Barry Gardiner doesn't appear to have done anything wrong in spy scandal

17 January 2022, 10:17 | Updated: 17 January 2022, 11:25

Chinese spy scandal: Starmer admits he hasn't spoken to MP

By Asher McShane

Sir Keir Starmer today said MP Barry Gardiner had 'explained his position' and did everything in accordance with the rules after it emerged he had taken money from a suspected Chinese spy.

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On Call Keir this morning on LBC, Nick Ferrari asked Sir Keir about the scandal and was told by the Labour leader: "We've got to continue to be vigilant.

"The security and intelligence services have revealed what they know about her [Christine Lee] and it’s obvious nobody should have anything to do with her.

"She had access to two previous Prime Ministers, Conservative Prime Ministers and she was involved in Barry Gardiner’s office and gave money to him.

Sir Keir Starmer admitted he hadn't spoken to Barry Gardiner but that he had explained his position
Sir Keir Starmer admitted he hadn't spoken to Barry Gardiner but that he had explained his position. Picture: LBC

"I haven’t [spoken to him]. He’s given an account. He’s explained his position and declared that money in accordance with the register.

"There is a broader lesson for all of us here to be vigilant about this, whichever political party we are in."

Last week, former Labour minister Mr Gardiner, who received hundreds of thousands of pounds from the suspected Chinese government spy, said he has not been made a "useful idiot" by China.

Barry Gardiner MP, who served as a shadow minister on former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's opposition front bench, told Iain Dale he felt "abused" by lawyer Christine Lee - who MI5 has uncovered as a suspected Chinese agent.

An email, sent by Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle last week, claimed Lee had been trying to influence MPs in Westminster.

He said she had been "engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party", "engaging with Members here at Parliament" and a now-defunct All-Party Parliamentary Group called "Chinese in Britain".

Lee donated around £500,000 to the office of Mr Gardiner between 2015 and 2020, mostly through funding for his staff. Daniel Wilkes, her son, worked in his office until Thursday morning.

The Labour MP has insisted he won't resign as he has been "transparent throughout the whole process".

Speaking to LBC's Iain Dale, the Labour MP said he feels he has been "abused" by Ms Lee - who he had come to see as a "personal friend".

"I feel very abused by it and very upset," he said.

Iain asked Mr Gardiner if he had been made a "useful idiot" by the Chinese government. "Why did they choose you?" he asked.

Mr Gardiner replied: " I assume they believe that I was somebody that would play a role in the political system in this country and that they might at some stage be able to leverage that. They haven’t been able to.

"I’ve made sure that they’ve not been able to by the precautions that I’ve taken, by speaking to the security services, by being open and transparent in all cases and by making sure that actually at all stages I speak my mind, whether it’s about China or about anything else."

He told Iain he regarded Lee as a "friend", a "legitimate businesswoman" and believed she was a "good community servant".

"When I learned that was not who she was I was deeply upset and very angry. I feel that I have been abused by her," Mr Gardiner said.

He added: "I believed her to be genuine. I am shocked, actually very upset and really very angry, that somebody who I trusted sought to abuse that trust."