Page last updated at 07:52 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 08:52 UK

Uncertain future for Ray Lewis

By Jonathan Josephs
BBC London News

Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis is a controversial figure and formerly worked as priest

Ray Lewis cut a lonely figure as he stepped up to the pulpit at London's City Hall.

Standing all alone the former priest very publicly offered his resignation from his position as deputy mayor for young people.

Thursday's allegations about his previous personal conduct had been deemed too damaging for Mr Lewis to continue in his job.

It was notable that Mayor Boris Johnson was not by his side, not standing by the first man he appointed on taking charge of the capital.

During his campaign for the mayoralty Mr Johnson had spoken loudly and clearly of the very high importance he gave to tackling London's plague of knife and gun crime.

Mr Lewis was deemed to be the man to help save the city's youngsters, but there was nothing the mayor could do to save his deputy.

It was on Thursday that BBC London revealed that three complaints of financial irregularities had been made against Ray Lewis.

More details have now emerged over how Mr Lewis, during his time as a vicar in East London in the 1990s, was alleged to have taken control of money belonging to a parishioner with learning difficulties.

I cannot allow the things going on around me to obscure the important business of this very important mayoralty, and for that reason I must step down with immediate affect
Ray Lewis

The man's social worker was concerned enough to write to the vicar's superior, the Bishop of Barking, over what he thought was happening.

City Hall dismissed these particular claims as having been made by an unreliable witness.

Ray Lewis has again flatly denied this allegation along with the other two he is facing. He said they were "unfounded and untrue".

The second complaint related to a debt owed to a fellow priest, and the third concerned a sum in excess of 25,000 that belonged to a female parishioner.

Religious ban

One thing that is certain is that the complaints led the Archbishop of Canterbury to add the name Ray Lewis to the Lambeth and Bishopthorpe register, effectively barring him from public ministry and taking any post in the Church of England.

Ray Lewis said on Thursday that he was not aware that he had been placed on the list, and had not applied for a post in the Church of England since the late 1990s.

He also denied that he was "the person painted by these allegations", adding "I have never harassed anyone. I have never defrauded anyone".

Boris Johnson and Ray Lewis
Boris Johnson hired Mr Lewis to help tackle youth issues

Boris Johnson considered these denials and the launching of an inquiry into the allegations enough to allow Mr Lewis to stay in his job.

That has now changed. One reason why is the revelation that Ray Lewis is not, and never has been, a magistrate. On Thursday both he and the mayor said he was.

The reality was made clear in a statement to BBC London from the Ministry of Justice.

Mr Lewis says that it only matters to members of the "hair-splitters convention" whether he had been appointed or "recommended for appointment" as a Justice of the Peace.

He's pledged to make documents available to back up these words. But that hardly seems to matter now.

The former Deputy Mayor of London said: "I cannot allow the things going on around me to obscure the important business of this very important mayoralty, and for that reason I must step down with immediate affect."

Mayor Boris Johnson has said: "I cannot deny, however, that my confidence in Ray was shaken by the discovery that he is not a fully fledged Justice of the Peace."

No wrong-doing has been proven but the political pressure of the allegations against Ray Lewis has evidently been deemed too great for him to stay in post.

[Ray Lewis] has always been, and remains, an inspiring figure to me

Boris Johnson

To have lost a man so important to his vision for London after just two months will be a huge blow to Mr Johnson.

When you add to the equation the capital the new mayor made out of allegations against Ken Livingstone's adviser Lee Jasper during this year's election campaign, there is a certain irony in what has happened.

Awkward questions

Mr Johnson will surely be accused of dragging his feet in accepting the resignation.

He said: "It is with extreme reluctance and sadness that I have accepted the resignation of Ray Lewis. He has always been, and remains, an inspiring figure to me."

Political opponents are bound to question whether Boris Johnson was sufficiently prepared to run the capital.

Did the Conservative Party as a whole give him sufficient guidance? His leadership style is one of delegation, whether this style is to continue in the same light is something the mayor will surely have to consider.

It is one of his hand-picked delegates that has caused him considerable embarrassment.

That embarrassment will spread further - the Conservative Party as a whole had embraced Ray Lewis, championing him as a solution to the problems of Britain's young people.

The party leader David Cameron is amongst the senior Tory politicians to have endorsed the Eastside Young Leaders Academy.

The East London institution that Ray Lewis founded has been widely praised for its work in helping wayward black youngsters come good.

But it's clearly Boris Johnson's City Hall dream that has been dealt the biggest blow.

Just nine weeks in and already two important aides, including director of political strategy James McGrath, have been forced to quit.

In the words of that now famous political song, surely "things can only get better".


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