In 2008, Johnson won the London mayoral election and one of his manifesto promises to chair the Metropolitan Police and hold it to account. No offence would be too small, he said.
Fast forward to September last year and, as new damning revelations emerged about the conduct of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, the Mayor claimed it was, variously, a “song and dance about nothing”, “completely spurious and political” and – in true Boris Johnson style – “a load of codswallop”.
When he was asked by Labour members of the London Assembly what assurances he had sought from Assistant Commander John Yates about the initial inquiry into phone hacking, the Mayor said he had asked for none. He insisted that he was completely satisfied with the police investigation and said he had not spoken to any senior Met officers about the issue.
Knowing what we know now, this is truly astounding. The man elected on a platform of holding the police properly to account asked no questions at all about the biggest scandal to engulf the Met a since Sir William Macpherson’s report into the events surrounding the murder of Stephen Lawrence
So why did this issue not get the attention from the Mayor and his team that it so clearly merited? A look at his diary might provide some answers.
In his three years at City Hall, Boris Johnson has had nine lunches and meetings with senior News International figures – including Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks. He attended a News International board meeting just last month. Meanwhile, he has dismissed concerns about Rupert Murdoch’s influence on British public life as “rants”.
It’s now that the scandal that has engulfed the Murdoch empire and the Met is not going away. David Cameron is on the back foot. As more and more is revealed, the Prime Minister’s decision to bring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson into Downing Street at the heart of government as his director of communications raises serious questions about Cameron’s judgement. We know that Cameron was warned by the editor of The Guardian and others that Coulson was a liability and that there were more damaging revelations to come. Cameron either chose to ignore these warnings or was persuaded not to act on them .
It’s not just Cameron’s judgement under scrutiny. Initially Boris Johnson dismissed The Guardian’s stories about the News of the World’s behaviour as “codswallop”. He decided not to ask any probing questions of the Met despite chairing the body that holds the force to account. He joked in the £250,000-ayear column which he writes for the Daily Telegraph that celebrities who haven’t been bugged would be sacking their agents and tried to deflect attention onto other news organisations.
The extent of Murdoch’s corrupting influence on this country is becoming increasingly clear.
Questions must to be asked about why the London Mayor was so quick to dismiss the allegations against Murdoch. Boris Johnson’s decision may come back to haunt him.