Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Boris Johnson clears himself of GLA conduct breach

Boris Johnson tonight headed-off the results of a GLA Standards investigation into his conduct, by releasing a summary of a report prepared for its consideration.

The statement released by the Mayor's office gives the impression (as seen here, here and here) that Boris has been cleared of all breaches of the GLA code.

It also bemoans the £11,000 spent by the authority on investigating the case.

However, the relevant City Hall Standards Committee appointed to decide the case, is not even due to decide the case until next week.

And when the Committee does meet, they may decide to refer Boris to an official hearing, whereupon he may still be found to have broken the code of conduct.

Extraordinary and Unwise

Also, despite claims to the contrary, Jonathan Goolden's report is not yet available on the Mayor's website.

(Update- I now have the report. More later).

However, Len Duvall has now revealed some more of the report's contents. In a statement released within the last hour he said:

"I welcome Mr Goolden's finding that the Mayor's actions were 'extraordinary and unwise' and his implication that this must never happen again. Anyone who reads this report will see that this it is a very serious and unprecedented warning to Mr Johnson. He has had a lucky escape on technicalities and been given the benefit of the doubt this time but in my view his actions were reckless, improper and made for political advantage. They also have clear and serious implications for future police investigations.

"I remain of the view that Mr Johnson tried to help out his friend by ringing him to discuss his case, then saying three times in public that he did not think the police investigation would produce a charge. Unless he is going to contact all criminal suspects, I fail to see how Mr Johnson has not shown favour to his friend, colleague and political ally. There are a number of questions the Mayor still needs to answer about who knew what when, and why he contacted the people he did.

"It is now for the Standards Boards of the GLA and MPA to look carefully at Mr Goolden's report and to agree the proposed new rules governing Mr Johnson's future actions and conduct."

According to Duvall the report found that:

Boris's actions:
  • Were “extraordinary and unwise” (paragraph 8.20) 
  • Might “inhibit full and free discussion” of high profile cases “between the chief officer of police and a police authority chairman” (6.33)
  • “Placed him at risk of being called as a witness by either the CPS or defence in any criminal prosecution of Mr Green, to the potential detriment of his office as Chairman of the MPA” (8.21)
  • Risked being “perceived as furthering private interests” (8.21)

Until we can see the whole thing, it's impossible to judge exactly how critical or otherwise it is. Also, some of it's findings are still being contested by members of the committee.

With this in mind you may have expected the Mayor to hold off this press release until the Committee meets next week.

But then why would we expect the small matters of due process and accountability to get in the way of another piece of Mayoral spin?

 Iain Dale and Con Home have fallen into line.


Will said...

Do what you like, declare yourself innocent and then move on. Ring any bells?

AdamB said...

I don't know, does it?

Jenny Jones (statement from Dave Hill's blog) said...

"The London Mayor has received what amounts to a first written warning from the Standards Board. He did things which the Standards Board are advising him not to do again. The Mayor needs to be clear in the future, that he is acting on behalf of Londoners and not the Conservative Party."

"There's also the fact that the London Mayor did not follow the right process and consult the Police Authority before putting pressure on Ian Blair to resign. The police have to be democratically accountable, but that works best when we have a cross party, consensual style of politics.

"Boris has come very close to operating in a partisan, party political way. We need processes which can protect the integrity and independence of our police and stop them being subject to partisan politicians."

AdamB said...

I'm heaading out, but here's the key section of the report for now: Goolden found that:

(c) Mr. Johnson has not failed to comply with the codes of conduct
of the GLA or MPA;

(d) whilst Mr. Johnson did not fail to comply with the codes of
conduct of the authorities, in my view:-

(i) he should have sought advice from MPA officers before
issuing a press statement relating to an ongoing police

(ii) his actions in speaking to a person arrested in a criminal
investigation were extraordinary and unwise; and

(ii) there is a risk that frank and full discussion of operational
matters between senior MPS officers and the MPA
Chairman could be inhibited in future if Mr. Johnson were
to make public his reaction to operational briefings on
critical incidents as a matter of course.

(e) I recommend that the MPA, MPS and Mayor’s Office jointly
consider the adoption of a protocol to cover the management of
information by senior police officers, senior members and
officers of the MPA and the Mayor in relation to critical incidents.

More later on.

Anonymous said...

It rings a lot of bells because a lot of politicians act this way. Very often they get away with it because what matters is the headlines in the press and mosy journalists don't have time to read the actual report of this kind of investigation.

The event that comes to my mind first is Tony Blair's claim that the Butler Report cleared him.


Anonymous said...

I do hope that other Members of the GLA with outstanding cases for hearing by the Standards Board do not jump the gun and act in the same manner, because one could then fairly argue what point the Standards Board.


barry rochford said...

I don't think that this is just about how Boris aacted, but why he acted. Remember that for all his faults, Ian Blair pursued a progressive agenda and was trying to change the Met.
The campaign against him started in the right wing media as part of a backwoods campaign against clearing out the racists from the Met. Blair's successor, Stephenson has had to as much as admit to it with the headline yesterday, ironically from the Evening Standard referring to apartheid in police stations.
The Standard, Conservative Party and the old guard had a clear agenda which Boris's election was part of.
Boris is a liberal compared to those backing him

AdamB said...

Guano - Boris is quite the Blairite in more ways than one. I've been meaning to write about that for a while.

Lib Dem (press release) said...

Dee Doocey, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Policing Spokesperson and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, commenting on the report into Boris Johnson’s actions in contacting Conservative MP Damian Green while he was the subject of a police investigation said:

“The Mayor’s spinning over this issue should not cover up the seriousness of this issue.

“The report concludes that his comments have been ‘extraordinary and unwise’ – this is behaviour unfit for the Mayor of London.

“Boris Johnson must now give an absolute guarantee that he will never again comment on any ongoing police inquiry, irrespective of whether he knows the person or not.”

“If the Mayor cannot provide this guarantee he must now stand down from chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority.”


Tom said...

"The event that comes to my mind first is Tony Blair's claim that the Butler Report cleared him. "

Absolutely - when you actually looked at it it was clearly a slap down to the entire style of Blair's government. I was still listening to radio news at that stage though, and it was obvious that the spinners had got their story out first.

Boris can try that, of course, but the ground isn't as fertile now.

Anonymous said...

"The ground isn't as fertile now"

True, but the press like a simple story (even if their readers can handle complexity and nuance). The people involved in this kind of thing are powerful people, so they get to see the reports about their misdeeds beforehand. This gives them the opportunity to look for a bit that appears to clear them and get their spin-doctors to push out that line the minute the report is released.