No Respect For Boris

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 108 months ago
No Respect For Boris

Phone_mouthpiece_11Feb09.jpg
When did Boris call David Cameron? Image courtesy of Leo Reynolds under a Creative Commons licence
Any schoolchild knows you need to revise before an exam, but perhaps they do things differently at Eton? Boris Johnson's appearance before the home affairs select committee into the Damian Green arrest certainly suggests so; the Mayor waffled and changed his story so much that he's been accused of lacking "respect and courtesy".

Let's refresh our memories: shadow immigration secretary Damian Green was arrested in November on suspicion of leaking confidential material from the Home Office. The House was shocked and a Commons select committee started investigating. Boris was called because, since he's the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, he was told about the arrest before it happened. And, in true Boris fashion, apparently realised there was about to be a "hoo-ha or a kerfuffle or a commotion or a controversy".

Stay with me, it gets interesting. No, really. See, what people want to know is whether the Mayor then tipped off the Tories, Johnson and Green both being Balliol men and all that. Could Boris remember? Could he heck as like.

He spoke to David Cameron at 3pm. No, 12pm. No, 2pm. Come on man, don't you have staff to look up these things for you?

The Mayor's bumbling endears him to many, but perhaps this is one of the occasions he should have used his serious head. The London Assembly is already threatening to investigate whether he "potentially corrupted" the police's work, which could end up with him suspended. And now he's been properly rapped on the knuckles for being a knucklehead to a parliamentary committee. (Yes, this is quite serious for Westminster. They do things differently in politics.)

Boris has since clarified his story and assured the committee he hadn't meant to, like, diss them. Maybe this episode will persuade him to restrict his more colourful moments to less solemn situations.

Last Updated 11 February 2009

Dave

Or, alternatively, Keith Vaz (Labour MP who chairs the committee) could have waited for the formal clarification from the mayor's office, as agreed, before blabbing his mouth off to the press.

Then again, as Vaz's own disreputable history (failure to disclose financial interests to parliamentary committees, allegations of corruption, suspension from the House of Commons for providing false information about his financial dealings, conflicts of interest, etc.) is a matter of public record, we should not be surprised that the old habits of spin and smear die hard with him.

RachelH

Keith Vaz is not, as you say, exactly the best person in the world to be throwing about accusations, but Boris really has made a hash of this one. He's admitted to talking to Damian Green while the police were still investigating, saying he didn't think charges would be brought before the police had come to any conclusions, and his evidence to the select committee shows a complete lack of preparedness. (You can read the minutes, if you feel like being reeeeally nerdy.)

The whole Damian Green case is stupid anyway, but it's highlighting a certain disregard for procedure in the Mayor that's kind of necessary in the chair of the bloody Metropolitan Police Authority, and also bringing into question whether he even realises the potential severity of what he's being asked! Did he, or did he not, corrupt a police investigation? Most people would be pretty keen to make sure they had their facts straight at first telling.

Dave

Yeah, fair enough.

The BBC News report does tend to read as if Boris couldn't remember the exact time that he made a phone call on a busy day several months ago, so agreed to get back with formal clarification, but was fed to the media before he could do so.

But you're right, despite Vaz's blatantly transparent attempt to misrepresent Boris to the media, Boris himself should have been properly prepared *before* the meeting.