Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Boris Johnson pressured to quit MPA over Green

Boris Johnson today defended his intervention in the case of his conservative colleague and friend Damian Green, and claimed that his 'hunch' about the case had been 'totally vindicated.'

Speaking at a fraught meeting of the London Assembly, Boris said that Green's arrest had caused a 'fantastic political commotion' and that if he had not spoken out he would have "fallen down in my duty as chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority."

However, Boris also said that the investigation could be "construed as disproportionate" and said that the case had little chance of resulting in a prosecution.

These comments, alongside his admission that he has spoken to Damian Green since his arrest, have led to calls for him to immediately stand down as the Chair of the MPA.


Boris's defence came after a series of questions about the wisdom of his actions over the past week.

Sitting beside the acting Met Commissioner, the usually easy-going Mayor became visibly irritated when assembly members questioned him about the case.

Former chair of the MPA and current Labour leader Len Duvall attacked Boris's decision to make his discussions with Stephenson public. He said that the fact he had discussed the ongoing case with Green was 'bizarre':

"Why would you seek information from a potential suspect in an ongoing police investigation in your role as Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority and even as the Mayor of London. I find that bizarre."

After a series of repeated criticisms along these lines Boris eventually snapped back: 

"Maybe I should be arrested for leaking the contents of my own conversation!"

The comment, which ordinarily would be taken as a fairly typical Boris retort, seemed wildly at odds with his earlier reconciliatory tone.

At the beginning of the meeting, Sir Paul Stephenson issued a statement insisting that there had been no ministerial interference on the case.

He also cleared up a number of misconceptions including the much-reported claim that anti-terrorism powers had been used to detain Green. 

His statement ended with an attempt to close down recent speculation about the case:

"At issue in this investigation and indeed in the work of the service as a whole is our ability to maintain operational independence. The police must be able to act without fear or favour whichever investigation whomsoever is involved, when there is reasonable grounds to suspect that they may have committed criminal offences.

"And let me deal finally with the suggestion of any political or ministerial influence on this or any other police operation under my command. I would strongly refute that I or any senior officer under my command  has or would allow any improper influence on our operational judgement and actions for political purposes. That is not what we do."

However, after Boris's comments this morning, Sir Paul Stephenson told reporters that he believed it was "entirely inappropriate" for anyone to pre-judge an ongoing investigation.

In an extraordinary statement issued this afternoon Len Duvall said:

"Boris Johnson should consider his position as chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority after the Mayor's admission that he and his political office have been in contact with arrested MP Damien Green. 

"It is astonishing that the Mayor, following a briefing from senior police officers, has been speaking to a suspect under police investigation. He received information as chair of the MPA, then went to his political ally and old friend, who is now under criminal investigation. This is not appropriate behaviour for a chair of the police authority.

"Whether he likes it or not, the public perception will be that he his too involved in this investigation and is looking after his mates. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, should the chair of the police authority be speaking to a suspect in a criminal investigation? Should he then pre-judge the outcome of that investigation? The answer to both those questions is 'no'.

"Boris should reflect on how he and his officials have behaved from the start of this affair and re-consider whether, if he is going to use sensitive information for political capital, he is an appropriate person to chair the authority.

"The appropriate time to raise issues around police action is once an investigation, and in this case the review announced today, is completed."

Out of his depth

This morning's proceedings follow the recent row over the ousting of Sir Ian Blair.

Whatever, the rights and wrongs of that departure, it has since emerged that Boris neither sought legal advice nor consulted with the MPA before making his decision.

With these calls today for him to stand down as chair of the MPA and with the extraordinary row growing this afternoon, it is becoming increasingly clear that Boris has got himself well out of his depth.

-Update 16:00- Added statement from Len Duvall
-Update 18:00- Dee Doocey: an 'astonishing' statement.


Anonymous said...

This is a very tricky case for Boris Johnson and should rightly be so.
Everyone who has paid close attention to Mr. Johnson's actions since he became the Mayor of London, can gradually paint a picture of a character that is far from rosy.
As an anonymous commenter and someone who has had the amusement but mainly the dread of watching this clown in charge of one of the greatest city in the world, I can't say enough what a relief it is to say exactly what I think about him, and I agree with you Torytroll, in this case, which looks increasingly troubled by the day, Boris shows to be out of his depth.
I cannot see how his charming Latin phrases will clear him out of this mess this time around.
I really cannot see how he will be able to restore confidence as chair of the MPA after this misconduct and abuse of power.
Here is what I think, Boris is a little bit too eager to want to please his Tory fellows and that he is using his position as the most powerful Tory in the country to challenge Mr. Cameron for the job he wants more than working for London.
But he shows himself a little bit too eager to please, because it shows too much and he makes just a little bit too many powerful enemies on his way.

Anonymous said...

If this was the probationary period Boris would already be out of a job.

The Troll said...

More reaction from Dave Hill. The answer to Dave's question is yes it has.

Liberal Democrats (press release) said...

Lib Dem Dee Doocey said:

Commenting after the appearance of the Mayor of London and Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority Boris Johnson and the acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Paul Stephenson before the London Assembly this morning, Dee Doocey Liberal Democrat London Assembly spokesperson on policing and a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority said:

"I find it frankly astonishing that in answer to one of the questions about the on-going inquiries in to the leaks investigation from the Home Office, Boris Johnson told the Assembly that "it is unlikely that any charges or prosecution will be brought."

"It is not the job of the MPA Chair to make public his views on the outcome of an on-going investigation." said Dee Doocey. "Boris Johnson should now reflect if he is the right person to Chair the authority at this time."

Barry Rochford said...

"Maybe I should be arrested for leaking the contents of my own conversation!" (Boris)
His words - no one else!

Angelneptunestar said...

Adam, just think about this carefully. Damian Green was arrested at the crack of dawn, in his home, his papers were rifled through and his Commons office was invaded. WITHOUT A WARRANT. Are you suggesting that nobody should protest about this?

Boris Johnson was not protesting as a Tory politician to Sir Paul Stephenson. This is just my opinion, but I am sure he was protesting as a protector of freedom and democracy. I was appalled what you wrote on Dave Hill's website. Are you seriously saying he should have shut up because he will want things from the Government later on? What if he does? The principles he is standing up for have to be protected and are far too important to be ignored.

Adam in Nazi Germany, should we have stood by and been nice to the Nazis? For what they could do for us, as they were arresting the Jews? I don't know about you, but I WOULD RATHER DIE. And don't tell me this is different because it is not. This is about the erosion of our liberties and freedoms and you have to fight your hardest for those things.


The Troll said...

The Mugabe comparisons were bad enough. Now we're moving onto Nazi Germany.

Could the response to one man getting arrested, questioned and then released get any more shrill?

I initially had some concerns about this case, but the louder the protests get, the more utterly ridiculous this whole thing becomes.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. So much hyperbole makes you wonder whether there isn't more to this case than meets the eye.


Anonymous said...

I find Angela's post quite distasteful. Comparing this bedroom farce to genocide is an insult to those who died and those who died standing up to the nazie. I know its the internet and its all 'good fun' but please think about what you are actually writing before you press 'post comment'.

angelneptunestar said...

Anon. this is of course not anything approaching as bad as was done to those who died. However, it could be the thin end of the wedge, it is encrocaching on people's liberties without cause as far as we know, and attacking the fabric of our democracy.

If I have offended anyone who suffered in Nazi Germany I apologise most sincerely, because never ever would that be my intention. (I just stick up for Jewish people because my ex. was Jewish).

Anonymous said...

Are you Boris Johnson sockpuppeting?

Anonymous said...

The stuff about the Nazis and Stalin and Mugabe aims to create a narrative in which the police have become a political tool of the Labour Party or of Government ministers, and that the police were sent in to intimidate a Minister who was doing too good a job for the Government's liking. There really isn't enough evidence to support this narrative, and I say that as someone who is a trenchasnt critic of the Government and their careless attitude to basic rights. The risk is that all this hyperole obscures some real causes for concern about how the Police operate and their lack of respect for poeple's rights.


Harold said...

Angela - didn't hear you protest when Tony Clark MP suffered similar indignation at the outset of the Iraq War. Of course, we all assumed it was in the national interest.
Also Angela - in Nazi Germany most 'ordinary good people;' did stand by and do nothing while some rather regal people had some very nice dinner parties with Mr Hitler. But we can pretend otherwise, can't we?

organic cheeseboard said...

I just stick up for Jewish people because my ex. was Jewish

that's the exact reason Martin Amis gives for his unquestioning support for Israel...