Mayor Boris Johnson and his unusual history with the Metropolitan Police

Mayor Boris Johnson and his unusual history with the Metropolitan Police

Met police commissioner Cressida Dick has told LBC that the neighbours of Boris Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds were right to report the now infamous row between the pair to her officers and has remarked that recordings of incidents brought to police attention can be helpful if an investigation ensues. No such course of action has followed the “lovers’ tiff”. The episode has, though, triggered memories of Johnson’s sometimes unusual relationship with the Met when he was London Mayor.

One of the bigger surprises of his chaotic first months at City Hall following his election in May 2008 was to effectively sack the then Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair. Blair resigned after Johnson and his deputy mayor for policing Kim Malthouse – now an MP and creator of the so-called “Malthouse compromise” – informed him that they had lost confidence in him. Malthouse, who had been critical of Blair before Johnson became Mayor, is credited with being the true hatchet man, though Johnson probably benefited from the sudden public perception of him as a ruthless operator rather than a complete shambles.

Then, in November 2008, came the Damian Green affair. Green was the Conservatives’ immigration spokesman in the House of Commons (Labour were in power nationally back then) and suspected of being involved in leaks to the press from the Home Office. The unusual decision was taken by the Met, by then under the acting command of Blair’s eventual successor Sir Paul Stephenson, to raid the MP’s office at the House of Commons.

Green was arrested, but never charged with an offence. Johnson, who chaired the now defunct Metropolitan Police Authority, was suspected by some to have tried to tip Green off about the raid – claims he has denied. He has, however, acknowledged speaking to Green by phone two days after the arrest – an action later condemned by a Standards Board inquiry as “extraordinary and unwise”.

Johnson later gave evidence to the Commons home affairs select committee about the episode, infuriating its then chair, the Labour MP Keith Vaz, with incomplete and inconsistent accounts of what he’d told the leader of the opposition David Cameron on the actual day of Green’s arrest. Vaz sought clarification, resulting in a highly publicised F-word outburst by Johnson when speaking to Vaz on the phone. Cross Boris had not made such a public appearance before.

In 2010, Johnson stepped down as MPA chair and gave the job to Malthouse. His departure overlapped with the phone-hacking row of the period, in which Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World was accused of illegally accessing the private messages of celebrities – including Johnson himself – and the Met were accused of doing nothing about it. The Tory Mayor declined to criticise either the newspaper (since closed) or accept that the Met should be looking into allegations that he dismissed at a Mayor’s Question Time as a “politically motived put-up job by the Labour Party”.

Two years later, the BBC obtained details of phone conversations Johnson had later had with senior executives of Murdoch’s company. Johnson’s office denied that phone hacking was discussed. Shortly before this disclosure, Murdoch had been Johnson’s guest at the London Olympics.

All old news, of course, but perhaps worthy of fresh interest as “Boris” battles with Jeremy Hunt to take the keys to Number 10.

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Categories: Analysis

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