Boris Johnson goes off-message

  • @oliver_wright

Downing Street slapped down the London Mayor Boris Johnson after he appeared not fully to back the Prime Minister over the hacking scandal.

Asked at a press conference yesterday afternoon why Sir Paul Stephenson should have to resign because of his links with Neil Wallis, when David Cameron has not over his links to Andy Coulson, the Mayor declined to leap to the Prime Minister's defence. Rather than dismissing the suggestion that the Prime Minister's resignation might be necessary, Mr Johnson replied: "This is a matter you must direct to No 10." He did say that there was no similarity between the two cases.

No 10 at first tried to laugh off Mr Johnson's less than fulsome backing with their familiar "Boris is Boris" defence.

But within an hour pressure was being put on Mr Johnson to come out more vigorously in defence of Mr Cameron. Downing Street officials briefed that Mr Johnson would be putting out a statement clarifying his earlier remarks. However this was not forthcoming.

Mr Johnson's spokesman denied that he had in anyway attempted to distance himself from No 10. "He thinks David is a top guy who has to make some very difficult decisions. It is totally mischievous to suggest that he doesn't fully support him. He does."