The press attending the Mayor’s press conference today betrayed an astounding ignorance as they questioned the Mayor over his handling of the phone hacking scandal. The explanations involved in reply to the questions he was asked are not simple ones. Instead of listening to the Mayor’s explanations though, the press betrayed appalling dimness about the sequence of events, preferring to hassle the Mayor with sanctimoniously stupid questions. Boris looked absolutely astonished.
It is easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight. At the time that news of the hacking scandal broke, the Mayor was assured by John Yates, a senior police officer whom he trusted that only a few phones of celebrities, including his own, had been hacked. He was assured that there was no point in investigating further.
Not only Boris, but the entire London Assembly (and Ken Livingstone) decided that hacking was not a subject worth pursuing that that time.
I was particularly shocked by the remarks of Jenny Jones of the Green Party today. She said: “I think it’s a real pity Yates did not go before his boss. It just shows who the most honourable person is. Boris has mishandled this from the start and he obviously has lots of questions to answer.”
This is the lady who is on record in the London Assembly minutes as saying: Investigating phone hacking was “not something we should be spending huge amounts of time on, it should be low on our agenda”. Good old Jenny! Two faced to the end!
This view was shared by all the London Assembly Members, including Labour’s Len Duvall. There is no claim by any London Assembly Member that they ever urged the Mayor to investigate phone hacking, because they accepted the view of John Yates, just like he did.
Boris did say at the time that should any more evidence turn up, the decision should be revised.
If you view this decision in the light of events at the time – that Labour had just been humiliatingly dropped by Rupert Murdoch – it is obvious why Boris believed that the few people urging for more investigation, like Tom Watson, were motivated by sour grapes.
The press at the conference were having none of this. They had come armed with a certain interpretation of events, and were determined to force this onto Boris. No wonder that our placid Mayor looked so astonished and nearly lost his famed good temper. If there is any apologising to be done, the press should apologise to the Mayor. A BBC recording of some of the Mayor’s remarks is here.