Boris Johnson has promoted his friend Ray Lewis to a role as London’s ‘gangs czar’ – five years after he was forced to resign as deputy mayor in disgrace. Lewis was proven to have lied about being a magistrate and revealed to have been banned from his religious ministry after allegations of financial misconduct.
Such an appointment during the Ken Livingstone mayoralty would certainly have merited an Evening Standard splash about cronyism, but not under editor Sarah Sands — a family friend of Boris and his wife Marina, who used to edit his Daily Telegraph column.
In contrast, Lewis’ new role is greeted with a fawning front page and double-page feature — with one fleeting reference to Lewis’ previous life as a deputy mayor at City Hall.
What does Boris have to fear when he has London’s monopoly newspaper in his pocket?
While the register of hospitality for London City Hall grandees is supposed to be a candid representation of schmoozing for Boris’ team, Scrapbook doesn’t suppose the Evening Standard will thank Kit Malthouse for being quite this candid:
So long, and thanks for all the champagne.
So David Cameron has now been asked (at least 12 times) whether he discussed cigarette packaging legislation with his tobacco lobbyist adviser and has refused to give a straight answer — even attempting to compare Crosby’s activities with Tony Blair’s role as Middle East envoy.
Evasiveness over Lynton Crosby may be a new phenomenon to Westminster village hacks … but will have a familiar ring to seasoned observers of Boris Johnson and London City Hall.
In 2011, Boris Johnson was shocked, shocked to discover that his campaign manager Lynton Crosby had unfettered access to City Hall in breach of strict rules on party-political activity, with a spokesman for the mayor claiming:
“An admin officer mistakenly approved a security pass, which was swiftly withdrawn when senior officials were alerted.”
But it took a freedom of information request by tenacious City Hall journo Adam Bienkov to reveal that the the pass was requested by, errr, Boris himeslf. And despite attempts to blame the help for issuing a pass which was “swiftly withdrawn”, Crosby had clearance for five months after being personally cleared by the mayor’s chief of staff.
While Britain melts in temperatures of 30 Celsius, Tory spinners will be hoping the parliamentary recess takes the heat out of the row with Crosby:
Nature abhors a (news) vacuum, however. This story could turn out to be the only political show in town over the summer.
There have been several stories in recent weeks regarding Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby’s commercial interests. Crosby is already in the firing line over alcohol pricing, plain packs for cigarettes and now the Syrian civil war – all areas in which he has clients and in which government policy has changed.
But there’s another client (or former client) has been so far overlooked. Back in 2008, The Australian ran a report on Crosby’s business interests in the UK, stating that his company has:
“worked on projects for airports giant BAA”
In opposition, the Tories were implacably opposed to a third runway at Heathrow, but they are now considering their options under the auspices of the Davies Review. So has Crosby had any conversations with Cameron about the Davies review?
Additionally, the review will look not only into options for expanding Heathrow, but will also examine the feasibility of “Boris Island”.
Remind us … who was Boris Johnson’s campaign manager again?
Classicist Boris Johnson is surely familiar with the maxim of Greek tragedian Euripides that one can judge a man by the company he keeps. On that basis, permit Scrapbook to judge the London mayor by his Old Etonian and Bullingdon Club comrade (and convicted fraudster) Darius Guppy — described by Boris as “a very great man” and “a great chap”.
Writing in the New Statesman, Guppy boasts of his assault on a journalist who insulted his wife:
“having discovered his address and flown into London from South Africa where I live, I waited for him to emerge from his house, chased him, and then, having knocked him to the ground, emptied over his head a sack of horse manure rendered slurry by the addition of bottled water – a concoction made possible courtesy of Hyde Park Riding School and the springs of Evian.”
It could be worse.
In 1990, a phone tap recorded Boris telling Guppy that he would supply the address of a journalist in order that he would be beaten up.
On LBC radio this morning, Boris Johnson used a particularly weaselly formulation to deny making a childish gay joke during an after dinner speech:
“I did not say those words and I think any tape would readily confirm that.”
What a recording of the speech confirms, however, is that Boris did make a joke whose punchline hinged on a pun about gay men “taking their partners up the Arcelor“.
This isn’t the first time that he’s been caught out on tape …
Underscoring the closeness between the media mogul and the London mayor, Boris Johnson met with Rupert Murdoch for dinner again in March – and this time he bothered to declared it in his gifts and hospitality register.
The disclosure of the meeting on the register lends credence to claims that Johnson’s staff staged a cover-up over secret meetings with Murdoch and News International staff at the height of the phone hacking scandal — and in the run up to the London mayoral election.
Last year saw the mayor of London quizzed by City Hall members and the media after Scrapbook discovered appointments which had not been disclosed on the GLA gifts and hospitality register, Boris’ expenses, or relevant reports to the London Assembly.
But he hasn’t got an election on his hands this time.
The enmity amongst Boris Johnson’s top transport advisers will be palpable on Victoria Embankment this morning, where Boris Johnson is PR-ing his “cycling vision” for London. His media lackey and “cycling commissioner” Andrew Gilligan will be in attendance, alongside Transport for London commissioner Peter Hendy (far left above) — a man apparently described by Gilligan as a:
“long-serving transport beaurocrat who got lucky”
Gilligan has never publicly denied accusations from London hacks Adam Bienkov and Dave Hill that he was behind the online sockpuppet “kennite”, which was used to troll the Ken Livingstone administration and opponents of Boris Johnson:
The bitter resistance to the plum cycling czar appointment by City Hall figures such as Isabel Dedring (above right) has its roots in Gilligan’s characterisation of his current colleagues as the UK’s most grasping fat cats:
“Local government, with Mr Hendy as a prime example, shows how, in the public sector, perhaps even more than in the private, senior rewards seem to have lost all relationship with the service performed and the value obtained.”
Not having beaten the likes of Hendy, however, Gilligan has opted to join them – on a pro-rata salary of £95,000 per year.