Boris Johnson turns the airwaves blue after BBC mentions links to Murdoch
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 30 April 2012
Boris Johnson today launched his second expletive-strewn tirade of the London mayoral election when he swore on camera about the investigative work of a BBC journalist.
With the campaign to run City Hall entering its final 72 hours, Mr Johnson sought to swat aside questions about his dealings with News International by accusing Tim Donovan, the political editor of BBC London, of talking “fucking bollocks” following a report about the London Mayor’s attempts to secure sponsorship from Rupert Murdoch’s empire.
The outburst, which was broadcast by the BBC in a lunchtime news bulletin, followed an earlier incident last month in which the Conservative incumbent called his Labour opponent Ken Livingstone a “fucking liar” in a lift following a dispute over their tax arrangements.
Mr Johnson’s latest brush with controversy followed a report by Mr Donovan which focused on the Tory candidate’s meetings with senior NI figures in 2010 shortly after he had dismissed the News of the World phone hacking scandal in front of the London Assembly as “codswallop”.
Mr Johnson continues to lead Mr Livingstone in the opinion polls. A survey for the London Evening Standard, which today came out in favour of Mr Johnson, gave him a 52 per cent to 48 per cent advantage.
But he faced criticism from opponents after details were revealed of his meetings with James Murdoch, the heir-apparent to the Murdoch throne, and NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks in the wake of an announcement by Scotland Yard that it was reviewing new claims about phone hacking published by the New York Times in September 2010.
The London mayor, who dismissed the allegations which later led to the closure of the NOTW as “politically motivated” and has questioned the level of police resources being devoted to the phone hacking scandal, went on to hold discussions with Mr Murdoch about NI’s proposal to open an academy on land owned by the London Development Agency, a body overseen by Mr Johnson.
On a separate occasion, Mr Johnson had lunch as a guest of Mr Murdoch and Ms Brooks during which NI’s sponsorship was sought for the mayor’s cable car project across the Thames. In each case, no deal was secured.
When asked yesterday about criticism that such meetings were inappropriate given the mayor’s supervision of the police, an irritated Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s right to work with the private sector to get contributions that will be for the benefit of London... I’m very proud that over the last four years that we’ve got more than £100m in sponsorship.
“You’ve got to get this on air. Come on, this is the most important thing. Stuff Donovan and his fucking bollocks.”
BBC London today broadcast the footage, recorded as Mr Johnson made his way to the final hustings of the campaign, in its lunchtime bulletin with the expletive bleeped out.
Mr Livingstone’s campaign called for Mr Johnson to publish all emails and details of other contacts between himself and NI. A spokeswoman said: “There are serious questions for Tory Boris Johnson over his refusal to press the Metropolitan Police over hacking and his dismissive response to those who have raised this issue with him over the last two years. He needs to open the books and publish all the email and other contact between him, News International and the Murdochs.”
Mr Johnson’s campaign did not respond to a request for a comment about his outburst. His deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, told the BBC this weekend that there had been no ongoing police investigation when the meetings with NI were held. Mr Malthouse said: “Boris has behaved with complete throughout this issue. He was a victim of phone hacking himself.”
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