The Trouble With Boris

10:30 am - March 31st 2009

by Newswire    

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In 1990, Boris Johnson received an infamous phone call from his friend from Eton and Oxford, Darius Guppy. Dispatches has acquired a recording of the conversation, which until now has never been broadcast. It is a recording that suggests Boris was not only willing to break the rules – but even to break the law.

At the time of the phone call, Boris was working for the Daily Telegraph in Brussels – having previously been sacked by the Times for making up quotes.

Guppy, who was later jailed for fraud, was angry at a News Of The World journalist and wanted to have him attacked. Having contacted some heavies, Guppy had asked Boris to use his journalistic contacts to find the reporter.

While Boris appears to do little to deter Guppy during the phone call, he is clearly concerned that the journalist in question will not be too badly beaten up. He also expresses concern about covering his tracks.

When asked to comment on the recording, Boris Johnson’s spokesman told Dispatches: “This was a colourful story from almost two decades ago. It was of little or no consequence back then – and has no relevance whatsoever now.”
(from Channel 4 Dispatches).

Click this link to listen to excerpts from the conversation.

Peter Risdon explains why he gave Channel 4 the tape:

This is where my own feelings entered into my calculations. I’m sick of the political class applying one set of rules to the population of the country and quite another to themselves, their friends and families. Expenses claims and scandals in which Parliamentary allowances were skimmed off in salaries for family members have become so frequent, so commonplace, that we now hardly notice them; dole claimants who behaved in the same way would be fined or imprisoned. Smoking has been banned in pubs but not in the bars of Parliament; their drink remains subsidised by the taxpayers even while they debate raising taxes on alcohol for the rest of us.

And Boris Johnson is a senior politician with some responsibility for policing in London, yet he is a man who has consistently refused to condemn or distance himself from his criminal friend. If the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police had maintained such a connection and it were discovered, he’d have to resign.

Himmelgarten Cafe:

The Mayor of London has opened up a new line of defence for criminals. If the crime was committed a few years back, Boris thinks criminals should be able to plead innocence on the grounds that it’s just a colourful tale from the past.

Will the BoJo defence become more common? Is Boris proposing all criminals be immune from prosecution if they can get away with it for 18 years, or it this new statute of limitations a perk reserved for old-Etonian London mayors. I think we should be told.

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Reader comments

What’s that noise? Is it the sound of a very old barrel being desperately scraped?

Desperate or what. Nobody is interested in indiscretions from 20yrs ago, when you can read about how the Home Secretary claims expenses for her husband’s porn addiction. No wonder the Left hate the Mail.

I thought this was common knowledge?

Regarding comments @1 and 2:

I’m not a Labour supporter. I’m not a party political animal at all, really, though one might call me a Liberal (if you meant by the standards of the late Victorian Liberal party). So perceiving my response to this as party-political will be a mistake, though it’s one I suspect you’ll make.

Also, while declaring interest: I think Boris is a dangerous clown, made all the more dangerous by the fact that people seem to be taking him seriously without expecting him to act serious.

My concern with Boris’ tape is this. Firstly, how could anyone who was known to have actively conspired to subvert the freedom of the press, and explicitly conspired to have a man beaten in the street for accurate reporting provide he didn’t go into intensive care, possibly be taken seriously enough by his own party to be stood for government?

Secondly, how can the city I live in permit a man who is prepared to countenance this kind of personal violence take command of its policing? The Metropolitan Police have a very difficult job to do; they do it, on average, quite well and the street-level coppers I’ve dealt with have tended to be professional. However, since Sir Paul Bloody Condon’s purge of liberally-inclined senior Met officers in the mid-90s, the senior management of the Met are “Up For It”. They’re men who were beat coppers in the 70s and 80s: the people they were beating were lefties, long-haired louts, Brixton blacks and Stonewall. They’re overwhelmingly men and they’re inclined to a view of privileged power and violent state authority which hasn’t been acceptable in Britain in at least 15 years. And Boris is exactly the kind of man who’d let them get away with it, and then help them cover it up.

If the Watergate admissions of Sloan and Gray had been revealed but the actual Oval Office tapes had been delayed for 20 years, people would still have been angry about the extent of Nixon’s betrayals, paranoia and abuse of power. It over-dignifies Boris to compare him even to Nixon, who while a paranoid and a crook was also a talented and visionary man at times. But Boris is currently Mayor of London; and he’s a crook.

Dispatches was rather thin gruel for the Ken fan club.

Though I would struggle to come up with a list of Boris’s ten – or even five – achievements since the election.

To JohnQP:

All very worthy, but isn’t your faux-indignation a little late? About 20 years late?

If you – and others – really cared about this, why the silence for so long?

Did you post anything similarly eloquent anywhere at the time? Or when Boris was elected as an MP? Or when he announced he was running for Mayor? Or just before the voting took place? Or after he was elected as Mayor?

Any of those times would have been far more appropriate than today. Today we can (cynically) say that this is just an attempted distraction from the death throes of a dying and corrupt government.

7. Shatterface

Sousbois, I’m struggling to think of any left-wing blogs that may have covered this matter 20 years ago for the same reason I don’t recall many left-wing blogs being around at that time.

Believe it or not there was a time before the Internet was the main source of communication.


Yes, that’s right, and before the internet, we had absolutely no means of knowing what was going on, and just sat in our mud huts staring at the fire.

Bet the current government wish we were still there. Then they wouldn’t have to work overtime, dredging up ancient slurs to distract us from their absymal performance over the last ten years, which has – unfortunately for them – been all-too obvious in the shiny new interconnected world…

Indeed so new is this, and so unprecedented a scoop, that the transcript was read out, virtually in full, on HIGNFY more than a decade ago. To be fair, it provides a useful service. The moment Guppy is mentioned it is clear that there is nothing new or interesting on Boris.

As a preventative, there ought to be an agreement that no-one can mention Guppy without also mentioning Ken Livingstone punching his pregnant partner or pushing that chap off a wall. Just in the interests of balance…

I agree with those commenters who say the incident 20 years ago is irrelevant.

It isn’t irrelevant, though, that the Mayor of London might have contact with an unrepentant criminal who used his connections for criminal ends in the past. The taped conversation is an example of that – trying to use a man who’d worked for News International to get the address of a News International employee.

It’s much worse if such a man is involved with the Mayor of London.

I think Johnson needs to be put under the utmost pressure to clarify whether he has a relationship with Guppy and if so what it is. That’s a relationship NOW, not anything from the past.

Channel 4 dropped this particular ball, in my opinion.

I supported Johnson for Mayor against Livingstone. Mind you, I’d have supported Harold Shipman against Livingstone. But as a free market classical Liberal I’m closer to the Tories than to other parties. This isn’t a party political issue.

@Peter Risdon,

“This isn’t a party political issue”

I disagree. It *wasn’t* when it originally occurred, but it *is* now, because this story has been resurrected solely to allow one party to attempt to damage another.

It tells us far more about the party who are desperate enough to do this in their final days than it does about the 20-years-younger Boris Johnson .

I disagree. It *wasn’t* when it originally occurred, but it *is* now, because this story has been resurrected solely to allow one party to attempt to damage another.

So presumably you were making the same complaint when the Channel 4 doc came out about Ken just before the elections… or about the stories / vendetta that Andrew Gilligan pursued – you’d dismiss them because they were too close to the election?

Sousbois, I don’t care about the 1990 incident. What about now?


As someone said recently: “broadcasting [the tape] would just be salacious and not justified by any public interest argument”


You’re not addressing the point being put to you, for some reason.

I’m puzzled why you would support Harold Shipman against Livingstone (I’m assuming for the obvious reason that wasn’t a joke).

It was a joke, or at least an exaggeration.

18. Shatterface

Shipman would have solved the pensions crisis.

Big difference. Ken’s cronies were misappropriating GLA funds. He was wasting our money on hare-brained, pc or overtly militant Left schemes. He was arrogant. He showed no interest in the Outer London suburbs. He was hated by a lot of people. His antagonistic style became incompatible with increasingly Conservative run LAs. As a hardcore leftie he believed in dogma that produced segregation rather than integration.

Is not part of the problem is that both Ken and Boris are not fit to be mayor? Local politics fails so often because of the poor calibre of those people involved. Anyon with any relevant experience is holding down a stressful job.

Sousbois @6:

In 1990 I was: at school, on another continent, and worried about much larger and more personally damaging problems than Boris’ crookedness. Problems such as having AK-47s pointed at me by drunk people from time to time.

When he was elected, I had not yet been persuaded that my thoughts merited exposure. I ranted about it quite a lot though. The man’s a clown and a crook. Red Ken was, though a talented administrator, runs on relentlessly ideological rails (in part because of the rudeness of Thatcher’s interruption of his train of thought in the 80s). Neither is my ideal mayor, but Ken’s left-wing views protected the people he governed from a particular kind of privileged thinking by their leaders, a kind likely to lead to blood in the streets: our blood on their streets. I don’t dispute that Ken’s prejudices also lead, ultimately, to a kind of privilege but at least in his world it’s our blood on our streets.

A last note: the logic of saying ‘this ain’t news, it’s in the past’ is founded on a presuppostion; namely, that Boris has, since then, matured and improved: that he is now a safe and sane member of adult society. I’ve seen no evidence of that being true, and no-one has tried to actually present any, so my question is this: has Boris changed, or is he still a violent, privileged, short-termist thug? Because unless there is clear evidence of change in his politics or attitudes, I find it difficult to write off past proof of them as ‘outdated’, merely because he’s been a violent, privileged thug for more than a decade.

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