News International CEO Rebekah Brooks (née Wade) is currently in the news due to serious allegations concerning the Milly Dowler murder case. Ms Brooks has previously admitted to breaking the law by paying the police for information but has somehow managed to keep her job, a situation which may be entirely related to her friendship with David Cameron.
What of Cameron’s fellow Old Etonian-and-Bullingdon-mucker, Boris Johnson? Johnson is no stranger to controversy and being economical with the truth, having twice been sacked for lying. Both Cameron and Johnson have now made statements concerning the Brooks/News Of The Word allegations; Johnson said:
Obviously, all these allegations have to be investigated, but I say that the sooner we have a general Truth and Reconciliation Commission of some kind, which all the editors and all the proprietors, who know fine well that their reporters were engaged in this kind of thing, come before the public and confess everything, the better. That is what we want to see.
Is it? Rather than confessing their immoral and illegal practices, I suspect the public would prefer newspaper proprietors not to sanction them in the first place. This is the same Boris Johnson who previously dismissed News Of The World phone-hacking allegations as codswallop and a Labour Witch Hunt.
Meanwhile, Johnson has been perfectly happy to accept hospitality from the proprietors of New International and Ms Brooks/Wade herself:
23-NOV-09 Lunch Rebekah Wade, News International
12-MAR-09 Dinner for 2 at Cecconis Rebekah Wade, The Sun
30-JAN-09 Dinner to discuss Global Climate Policy, Hotel Belvedere, Davos James Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive News Corporation, Europe and Asia
30-NOV-10 Lunch James Murdoch, News International
16-DEC-09 Dinner Rupert Murdoch
UPDATE: The transcript of Boris Johnson’s reply to a question during Mayor’s Question Time in September 2010 about News International phone-tapping allegations:
2674/2010 – Phone Tapping
Are you completely satisfied with the way the Met have handled allegations of phone tapping by News International?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The answer is, yes. I am completely satisfied. This has been looked at extensively by the Crown Prosecution Service by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Joanne McCartney (AM): When the Guardian published allegations that the phone hacking went beyond a couple of journalists and a couple of victims and identified that there were 91 pin numbers and that it could be a wider pool of people affected, you were Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) at the time. John Yates [Assistant Commissioner and Head, Specialist Operations, Metropolitan Police Service] did a review in 24 hours. What conversations did you have at the time with the Metropolitan Police Service about these allegations and what assurances did you seek from the Metropolitan Police Service at that stage?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): To the best of my memory I was satisfied with the police’s position which was that no new information had been substantively revealed and, therefore, nothing more was going to be done. I do not think I actually had any conversation.
What I will say about my feelings about the matter is that it strikes me that various members of the former Labour Government have had five years to discover their principles about all this and to get outraged about what may or may not have happened. They are now deciding to do it after they have left office it seems to me, simply in order to score party political points against the Prime Minister’s press spokesman. I think it is patently politically motivated and, unless there are significant new facts brought into the public domain that make necessary a fresh look at it, then I do not propose to change my views.
Joanne McCartney (AM): Can I say that I raised this issue earlier this year after the House of Commons Committee reported on this? I am still not sure whether you actually had any briefing as Chair of the MPA at the time. Did you seek reassurances from the Metropolitan Police Service at the time?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think I have answered that. I certainly do not recollect any specific briefing on this. I certainly do not think I had any conversations with members from the Metropolitan Police Service about it.
My position, basically, is with the police. If there is new and important facts that are brought into the public domain that substantively affect this, then, I imagine that they will want to reconsider their decision about investigations. Given that there do not seem to be, I think it looks like a politically motivated put up job.
Joanne McCartney (AM): I am asking about potential victims. I understand that you were a victim, or a potential victim, of this phone hacking. Is that correct?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not going to go into the details of what seems, to me, to be a case that has been very substantially investigated by all sorts of bodies. I do not think the question of whether or not I am, or was, a victim is in any way new. This has been around for a long time. It does not seem, to me, to add to the weight of evidence.
Joanne McCartney (AM): I am seeking to ask what information, if any, you were given by the police that alerted you to the fact that you may have been a victim?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think it is a matter of public record that I was alerted, along with various other people, some time in 2006 from my memory.
Joanne McCartney (AM): Were you alerted as to what information the police had found about yourself? Was it your phone number? Was it a pin number? Were you not given that level of detail?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I would have to look back at my notes, Joanne, of the conversation. The gist of it has been substantially reported anyway.
Joanne McCartney (AM): If you have notes of the conversation, if you would agree to give it to me, that would be fantastic.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No. I am not agreeing to give you any such thing. I will look back at my notes and see whether I think there is anything I need to add, but I do not think there is.
Joanne McCartney (AM): At the time it was alleged that there were senior police officers and members of the security forces. As Chair of the MPA did you not feel you should have asked the question that all those people who could have been presented as a security risk were informed?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have to say you Labour Members had a long time, whilst Labour was in power, to take on News International or do whatever you are wanting to do now, such as have a go at Andy Coulson [Prime Minister’s Communications Director], or whatever. This is completely spurious and political. This is arising now purely because the former Editor of the News of the World – who actually resigned as a result of this whole business anyway – now occupies a position in Government. You are trying to make a song and dance about nothing in my view.
Joanne McCartney (AM): I asked serious questions in February of this year and did not get any elucidatory answers.
Since this story has been revived by the New York Times article, have you had any briefings or discussions, perhaps with your Deputy, on this issue and also what the police are doing? Have you or haven’t you?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I read the New York Times article, with great attention. At the end of it I found myself scratching my head and wondering what news there was in it.
Joanne McCartney (AM): That is not answering the question. Have you had discussions with your Deputy Mayor for Policing about this issue?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am almost in continuous conversations with my Deputy Mayor for Policing about this and other matters. It would be fair to say that he and I have discussed this. The conclusion of our conversation would be obvious from what I have said. In other words, this is a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party and that we do not intend to get involved with it.
Joanne McCartney (AM): There is, of course, this week action started at the High Court that involves not just politicians of all different parties but also potential victims across a whole wide spectrum including show business and journalists as well. This goes beyond ones’ party. Are you concerned that people are having to write letters and wait for a very long time for the Metropolitan Police Service to give them some information, and are you concerned that we are going to have judicial review after judicial review which is not good for the reputation of the police?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am absolutely sure that the police are incredibly sensitive. You sit on the MPA, Joanne, so you can make these points on behalf of the MPA. They are incredibly sensitive to this type of concern. I am sure that you will not waste the opportunity at the next MPA to say this directly to the police and I am sure that they are well aware of it.
Joanne McCartney (AM): I have sent them a letter and I am still awaiting a response.
Have you or your Deputy been acting as a conduit between the Police and the Home Office in this matter? Are you aware of that? That is something that has been put to me.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think it highly unlikely that either my Deputy or I is, in any way, are a conduit between the Police and the Home Office about this matter. The police and the Home Office are joined at the hip. They are in continuous conversation about these kinds of matters. I am sure, if there is new evidence that the police feel they need to act upon, or new assurances or new information that they need to give people whose phones may or may not have been hacked, then I am sure that they will.
Really, without wishing to raise the political temperature of all this, this is something you could easily put across in a polite conversation with the MPA.
Joanne McCartney (AM): I have done so already and I have not had a satisfactory answer which is why I am asking you. You have announced that you are going for a second term. If legislation goes through you will be there as the Police Crime Commissioner for London. Do you not think it is your job to actually stand up, particularly on issues that are controversial like this, and make your views known?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have made my views known which are that, as far as I can see, this is something that has been already substantially investigated, where no new and interesting facts have been brought into the public domain and which is being whipped up by the Guardian and the Labour Party with a view to trying to embarrass the Prime Minister’s official spokesman. That seems to be the game plan.
Joanne McCartney (AM): I will leave it there. Of course reporters are now coming forward and are speaking to the police and, I think, have been interviewed. We will see how that goes.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is exactly as it should be. Let us be clear: if there are new salient facts that are brought into the public domain about this, that actually serve to make a difference to the balance of the evidence and convince the police that they really need to take further steps, then I am sure that they are going to. I have every confidence that the police will come to the right conclusion.
Brian Coleman (AM): Mr Mayor, would you think it would have been helpful if the Chairman of the MPA at the time that these incidents allegedly happened, Mr Duvall, was to have had made an intervention and to tell the MPA or, indeed, tell you in a private meeting – what he was briefed at the time that these events happened and what actions he took? Do you not think that would be helpful?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think probably he was too busy, I would guess, devising his plans to cut policing in London by 455 officers! I think he was probably too busy drawing up the plan that he now spends his time denouncing! That was what he was probably doing.
Dave Hill points out that Boris Johnson attended the News International board meeting last month – what possible reason could the Mayor of London have had for being present?
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