Boris Johnson: Labour urges police watchdog to reconsider criminal investigation

US entrepreneur claims former London mayor overruled advice not to promote her business

Adam Forrest
Sunday 14 November 2021 10:00
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<p>Boris Johnson and Jennifer Arcuri</p>

Boris Johnson and Jennifer Arcuri

Labour has urged a police watchdog to “look again” at its decision to rule out a criminal investigation into Boris Johnson following fresh claims by Jennifer Arcuri about their relationship while he was Mayor of London.

The US entrepreneur has alleged that Mr Johnson overruled the advice of his staff in 2013 to attend an event promoting her tech venture Innotech and make her “happy”.

A diary entry from February 2013 claims he told her: “I just want you to know they came to me and I crushed them. They said: ‘You can’t do this Innotech in April.’ I said: ‘Yes, I can, I’ll be there.’”

According to a separate entry, the then-mayor allegedly asked Ms Arcuri: “How can I be the thrust – the throttle – your mere footstep as you make your career? Tell me: how I can help you?”

Ms Arcuri shared new details from her diary which appeared to be written during the alleged 2013 affair with The Observer following the prime minister’s statements last week about how politicians “should be punished” for any breach of misconduct rules.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the diary entries merited “a full investigation” into whether Mr Johnson acted appropriately and the processes which led to around £126,000 of public funding being given to Ms Arcuri’s businesses.

The former model also accompanied Mr Johnson on several trade missions while he was in City Hall.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) last year examined whether Mr Johnson should face a criminal investigation into misconduct, but found no evidence he influenced the payment of thousands of pounds to the US businesswoman’s companies.

A new inquiry by the IOPC would require a referral from Greater London Authority (GLA)’s monitoring officer. Labour has written to the monitoring officer to request that they refer the new evidence to the IOPC urgently.

In her letter, Ms Rayner stated: “I am requesting that you refer this new evidence to the IOPC so they can look again at their decision to rule out a criminal investigation.”

She added: “These new revelations make a full investigation into the processes which led to public funding for Ms Arcuri’s business, and her presence on publicly funded trade visits, more important than ever.”

The chair of the GLA’s oversight committee also said the police watchdog may want to consider whether they need to make fresh inquiries since Ms Arcuri’s diary was not available at the time investigators looked into their relationship.

The Lib Dem committee chair Caroline Pidgeon – speaking in her role as an assembly member – told The Observer: “This new material from Jennifer Arcuri is significant and the IOPC may wish to consider whether they need to reopen their investigation.”

A government spokesperson said: “As mayor, Boris Johnson followed all the legal requirements in the Greater London Assembly’s code of conduct at the time.”

Labour also wants Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg investigated by Commons standards commissioner Kathryn Stone over claims in the Mail On Sunday that he failed to declare director’s loans from his company Saliston Limited between 2018 and 2020.

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said: “This would appear to be yet another egregious breach of the rules. A cabinet minister failing to declare millions of pounds of additional income is unacceptable.”

Ms Arcuri’s claims come as a new opinion poll piled pressure on Mr Johnson, becoming the fourth in less than a week to suggest the Conservatives had lost their lead over Labour due to the impact of sleaze allegations.

Opinium put Labour (37 per cent) one point ahead of the Tories (36 per cent), with Sir Keir Starmer’s party up by one and the governing party down by one after a survey conducted between Wednesday and Friday.

It is the first time an Opinium poll has put Labour in the lead since January, while the prime minister’s approval rating slipped to a new low in one of the company’s polls, with a net rating of -21 per cent.

And as the effect of the Owen Paterson scandal ripples, a Savanta ComRes poll put Labour six points ahead and a YouGov survey finding the rival parties neck-and-neck.

A spokesperson for the GLA told The Independent: “The GLA’s monitoring officer will look at any new significant evidence that is presented in accordance with the GLA’s procedures.”

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