London Assembly Labour members have called for an inquiry after it emerged that London mayor Boris Johnson failed to declare a dinner with Rupert Murdoch prior to the Scotland Yard investigation into phone hacking.
Although the mayor’s office has confirmed that the dinner has been listed on the London Assembly website for nearly a year, it wasn’t declared on City Hall’s register of hospitality or in Boris’ reports to the London Assembly; this is what’s getting the opposition riled. Labour group leader Len Duvall said:
“For the mayor to not declare a meeting with Rupert Murdoch at the height of the phone-hacking crisis is truly scandalous. To think he could ‘drop into dinner’ with Rupert Murdoch and not declare it is jaw-droppingly arrogant, especially at the height of the phone-hacking inquiry.”
In fact, he did rather more than simply fail to mention it — on 25 May 2012, Johnson told London Assembly member John Biggs:
“My meetings with News International have already been made public. Under my transparent administration my advisors declarations of interest, hospitality and expenses are public.”
Political Scrapbook, however, says that when BBC London political editor Tim Donovan asked for the meetings, he was told that they were available in the mayor’s diary when they were not. The site also points out that while the dinner was declared on the City Hall website, it was hidden in an obscure section and is not indexed by Google.
Oops. It’s by no means the first clanger the mayor has dropped in relation to the phone hacking scandal; last year he dismissed hacking allegations as ‘codswallop’ before later admitting that he’d ‘misunderstood the severity of the accusations’. This led to some sticky questioning from the London Assembly on exactly how much Johnson knew about about the scandal before making his comments.
He was also forced to defend deputy mayor Kit Malthouse when it was revealed that he had complained that the phone hacking inquiry was taking up too much police time and money (£40m in case you were wondering).
The mayor has yet to make an appearance at the seemingly never-ending Leveson inquiry, despite calls for him to do so. Although given Johnson’s well-documented aversion to being asked awkward questions, we’re not sure how he and Lord Justice Leveson would get along.
Photo by BethPH in the Londonist Flickr pool.