Boris Johnson is under fire for what he knew, and when he knew it, about the phone hacking scandal. Was his 'codswallop' comment an attempt to mislead the public and influence police?
Just when we thought it was safe to start looking at websites of kittens instead of pressing F5 on news sites every two minutes, comes new information about phone hacking. It's emerged that Kit Malthouse, Boris's deputy and chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), has recently remembered being briefed in September 2010 by John Yates that the Met were re-opening the inquiry into phone hacking following revelations in the New York Times.
Malthouse was told about this on 10th September, just five days before the Mayor went on to make his infamous dismissal of phone hacking as “a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party”. In actual fact, Malthouse had been told officers were considering flying off to New York to conduct interviews, which implied it wasn't about to be just another flip through some papers (though that's what it did end up being).
So what? you may be asking. Big shiny deal? Well, yeah... but all the real intrigue in this case hinges on who knew what, when, what influence they had and whether that influence was corrupt. During today's MPA briefing with Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin and Malthouse, Jenny Jones said:
- Does Malthouse see fit to keep Boris Johnson in the dark about all police investigations that are currently doing the rounds of the media, particularly in the days before the Mayor's about to go before the Assembly and likely to face questions? If this is the case, Malthouse should be sacked.
- As the democratically accountable authority for policing in London (Boris's own words, just ten days ago), what else is the Mayor unaware of?
- This feels similar to the furore surrounding David Cameron's advisor Ed Llewellyn choosing not to pass warnings about Andy Coulson to his boss, and asking John Yates not to tell him anything about phone hacking - presumably for fear of being compromised. Were Llewellyn and Malthouse trying to protect their bosses? From what?
Labour and Green MPA members find it "inconceivable" that Malthouse wouldn't have briefed the Mayor and, frankly, so do we. Either way, it's not great - either Johnson is so hands off he's uninformed or he potentially attempted to pre-judge a police investigation.