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.