The London mayor's extraordinary attack on the national broadcaster both feeds his Tory grassroots support and reveals his dislike of proper scrutiny.
It was civil of Mayor Johnson to grant the Evening Standard an interview straight after his re-election, but then he does rather owe the one and only London regional newspaper for its almost entirely uncritical support for his cause ever since a friend of the Johnson family was installed as its editor in March. How terrific it must be having so many chums in positions of media power and influence: if they don't own Boris-supporting organs, they are in charge of them; if they aren't in charge of them, they are writing things helpful to Boris Johnson in them.
Of course, such heresy is to be expected from the Guardian and a few pesky bloggers. How outrageous, though, that an annoying tendency not to constantly stand and applaud the Tory mayor has also been apparent at the BBC. Not the national BBC, of course - its celebrity broadcasters have been as mesmerized as most other Westminster Villagers by the sideshow of Mayor Johnson's rivalry with David Cameron and generally complicit in perpetuating the myth of Mayor Jolly Goodfun rather than examining his rather unimpressive record in office. It's the political coverage of the BBC in London, which actually pays attention to the top tier of the capital's governance, that's shamelessly failed to parrot the Tory mayoralty's line.
This has displeased Mayor Johnson, as his latest Telegraph column makes plain. In the course of a sustained attack on the BBC as a whole - how ungrateful of him - he declares:
I speak as one who has just fought a campaign in which I sometimes felt that my chief opponent was the local BBC news.
Well, spare a thought - it must be so vexing when a cold current of scrutiny intrudes into the warm bath of media adulation Boris Johnson is so accustomed to. People start to get ideas. For instance, look again at the mayor's famous "fucking bollocks" outburst when asked by BBC London to comment on its revealing that he'd been talking to News International (NI) about sponsorship deals during 2010. The mayor's first words are:
I don't know of any discussions going on about that.What precisely was Mayor Johnson referring to? What exactly did he mean?
Did he mean that he didn't know that, according to emails released alongside Rupert Murdoch's testimony to the Leveson inquiry, that he'd had a meeting with Rebekah Brooks, then the NI chief executive, in June 2010 and discussed with her the possibility of NI putting up £2m to become the "lead sponsor" of an academy school in east London?Did he mean that he didn't know that in November 2010 - again according to emails released to Leveson - that he had discussed the academy sponsorship idea over lunch with Brooks, James Murdoch, the editor of the Times and education secretary Michael Gove and also watched with them a presentation by a Transport for London official about his cable car scheme, which at that time he was seeking sponsorship for?
I find myself forced to wonder how many other discussions Mayor Johnson might have had with prominent NI figures during this period that he doesn't know he's had? It's all rather puzzling. And how strange that right in the middle of the discussions mentioned above - in September 2010 - the mayor publicly dismissed the allegations of widespread phone-hacking at the News of the World as "codswallop."
I have absolutely no intention in that direction. I have no idea why people go on about it so much.Yet if there's one way to get the grassroots of the Conservative Party on your side it is to deride the BBC as:
Statist, corporatist, defeatist, anti-business, Europhile and, above all, overwhelmingly biased to the Left.Which is precisely that Mayor Johnson has done in his Telegraph column. It's also not a bad way of pre-emptively rubbishing any further disobliging coverage of your potential embarrasingly relationships with your many media friends. Such coverage could, after all, undermine a fellow's chances of becoming prime minister some day.