On the Vanessa Feltz Radio Show today, Boris discussed the hacking scandal with Vanessa, the repercussions of which have reverberated through politics and journalism this week. The closure of the News of the World has been an shocking outcome that no-one expected.
Vanessa asked Boris about the criticism he has received over his acceptance of the reassurance by the Met. Police last year that the phone hacking was confined to a few celebrity cases, and his refusal to pursue the matter further. Boris reminded Vanessa that he had said at the time that if things changed and new facts came into the public domain, the matter should be taken further, but as things stood then, there was no reason to investigate further. The facts about the Milly Dowler phone hacking, phone hackings of other murder victims, phones of 7/7 murder victims and the families of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, have only very recently come to light.
WHAT ACTION SHOULD NOW BE TAKEN. Boris said that Police Operation Wheating should be brought to a successful conclusion. There should also be a totally independent investigation by the IPCC into the problem of police collusion with the press. If it is proved that police officers have been taking money from the press, that is corruption, said the Mayor, and they should be sacked.
There should also be a judge-led enquiry (like the Hutton enquiry) into the allegations of phone hacking in the press, and clearly it is not just News International who use this practice to get scoops. (David Cameron in a press interview on SKY this morning, has given way to pressure to agree that a judge-led enquiry is the way forward.)
Boris made the point that many police officers are totally honest, as are many journalists, and he is concerned that they will all be tarred with the same brush. This would be grossly unfair, and bad for public confidence.
Vanessa launched into a tirade about the foetid stench of corruption. The phrase “we are all in this together” could have another, more sinister meaning, it could refer to the way the great and good are all in cahoots, said Vanessa, doing deals and slapping backs in a powerful coterie, as they work out fixups that the public never get to know about. Boris said politicians have to work with the media, who are vital in getting political messages and policies across.
CLOSURE OF NEWS OF THE WORLD. Boris said it is tragic that a great London newspaper is closing. He believes that if Rebekah Brooks knew of the phone hacking, she should go. Boris refused to comment on the case of Andy Coulson and if rumours of an imminent arrest are accurate, legally it would have been inappropriate to do so. (Breaking news on SKY has just revealed the arrest of Andy Coulson, related to phone hacking and payments to the Met. police.)
OUTRAGE AND DISGUST RE. THE PHONE HACKING. Boris understands why people feel this, but in fairness, not all journalists would behave in this way, just as not all policemen take payments from the press. Crime is down, he said and the public need to be confident in the process of the law. Boris was glad to share the scoop that the Spectator never indulged in phone hacking. (a humorous moment in a very serious conversation.)
SOCIALISING WITH THE MEDIA. Boris said it is essential that this goes on. Politicians need to get their policies across to the general public and how are they to do that unless they meet with News International, the BBC, etc.? But personal friendships should never cloud your judgement. In his interview on SKY TV., David Cameron seemed to admit friendliness with News. Intl. had gone too far. Christmas dinner with Rebekah Brook, riding together, that might be pushing it, Mr. Cameron.
This was a very serious, important interview between Boris and Vanessa and Boris as ever, did not duck any of the painful issues, nor shirk being honest whether or not that was what the public might want to hear. There are two sides to every issue, and Boris presents both sides because jumping on a bandwagon without presenting the whole truth is not his style. As an experienced journalist, Boris has an excellent understanding of the workings of the media, and he shared that with Vanessa’s listeners today.
The BBC report of the interview is here.