Labour demand inquiry as Halfon aide quits over secret recording scandal

Politics / Mon 9th Jan 2017 at 08:56am

AN AIDE to Harlow MP Robert Halfon has resigned after she was secretly recorded talking with an Israeli embassy worker who asked her to “take down” a minister.

Maria Strizzolo, an aide to education minister Robert Halfon quit just hours after the scandal broke, the Sun reported.

The senior political officer at the embassy, Shai Masot, had told her that Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan was creating “a lot of problems” prompting an apology from Israeli ambassador Mark Regev.

The conversation was part of an undercover investigatoin by Al Jazeera in October last year, with the footage obtained by the Mail on Sunday.

In the film Mr Masot asks Ms Strizzolo: “Can I give you some names of MPs that I would suggest you take down?”, to which she responded that all MPs have something “they are trying to hide”.

He added: “She knows which MPs I want to take down”, before specifying “the deputy foreign minister” Sir Alan, who has been critical of Israel.

Mr Masot said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was “basically good” but that Sir Alan was seen as more of a problem, according to a transcript of the conversation.

He said of Mr Johnson: “He just doesn’t care. He is an idiot but has become minister of foreign affairs without any responsibilities.

“If something real happened it won’t be his fault… it will be Alan Duncan.”

Ms Strizzolo can also be heard on the recording suggesting: “A little scandal maybe?”

The Sun on Sunday later reported that Ms Strizzolo had quit as an aide to Mr Halfon.

The Foreign Office has accepted the apology from the Israeli ambassador and said ministers “consider the matter closed”.

But Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said the Government’s response to the “extremely disturbing” incident was “not good enough” since it was a national security issue.

“Improper interference in our democratic politics by other states is unacceptable whichever country is involved,” she said today.

“The embassy official involved should be withdrawn, and the Government should launch an immediate inquiry into the extent of this improper interference and demand from the Israeli government that it be brought to an end.”

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