London mayor dismisses BBC investigation into his attempts at deal with News International with an outburst of swearing
The London mayor, Boris Johnson, has marked the last week of election campaigning with an expletive-laden tirade, accusing a senior BBC journalist of talking “fucking bollocks” on a lunchtime TV bulletin.
His outburst took place as the latest YouGov poll showed he remains ahead of his Labour rival, Ken Livingstone, by four percentage points, up from a narrow margin of two in a survey published by the same pollster a week ago.
Johnson, who was campaigning on Monday morning ahead of the final husting of the campaign held later in the day, went on the offensive after being questioned over his attempts to secure commercial deals with News International while the Metropolitan police were investigating the company over phone hacking.
The outburst came less than a month after the Conservative candidate came under fire for calling Livingstone a “fucking liar” in a lift after a row over their respective tax arrangements.
Tim Donovan, the BBC London political editor, has been investigating attempts by Johnson – who was chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority when Scotland Yard was looking into News International – to get NI to sponsor the cable car in east London and a school academy. No deal was eventually done.
After being pressed about it on Monday, Johnson told the BBC: “I don’t know of any discussions going on about that but what I can tell you is that 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 we’ve got more than £100m in sponsorship that I’ve raised for this city: £50m for the bikes, £36m for the cable car. You’ve got to get this on the air! Come on, this is the most important thing. Stuff Donovan and his fucking bollocks.”
Johnson’s decision to swear in public seems at odds with his insistence that swearing at a police officer should be a criminal offence. His office did not return calls when asked if he was planning to apologise.
Johnson sent his deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, to take questions from Donovan on the Sunday Politics show. It was claimed that Johnson could not take part because it clashed with a pre-arranged private event. However, the mayor was seen campaigning in Wimbledon and Kingston at the time the TV interview was on air.
The former journalist, who has been criticised for ditching a weekly mayoral press conference begun under Livingstone’s tenure, has said he will instead introduce a monthly “Twitter mayor” question and answer session with Londoners to increase his accountability and to ensure “Londoners can trust their mayor”.
Johnson will unveil the final sections of his manifesto on Tuesday with just two polling days to go. He sent an open letter outlining his plans for the capital to Londoners on Monday evening, the same day he received the endorsement of the London Evening Standard. In a swipe at Livingstone, he wrote: “I want to take London forwards – not back to the 1970s”.
The latest YouGov poll for the London Evening Standard puts Johnson on 44% support, Livingstone on 41% and Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick on 6% on first preference votes in an election conducted under the supplementary vote system. The Conservative candidate’s lead over Livingstone widens slightly (52% – 48%) when other candidates are stripped out in the second round. Johnson is outpolling the Conservative party in London, which in turn is trailing 16 percentage points behind Labour. Livingstone has consistently trailed behind his party over the past few weeks.
The Labour candidate, who has pledged to cut fares by 7% later this year if elected, was campaigning in South London on Monday with party leader, Ed Miliband. It was the second time in three days they had sought to get out the Labour vote in a race they have cast as a choice between “Labour and Tory values”.
Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, said the latest YouGov findings were ideal for both sides so close to polling day.
“For both Ken and for Boris the poll sends a very powerful message to Londoners to come out and vote because for Ken there is still an opportunity to win and for Boris it says it is not in the bag. There is still every reason to fight for the last vote because it may in the end come down to a win by a tiny margin.”
In the final 48 hours of campaigning, Livingstone will demand that Johnson set out how much Londoners will pay in fares if he retains the mayoralty.
While campaigning in north London on Tuesday, he will say: “For months the Conservative candidate has dodged answering questions on the cost of fares under the Tories if he won. Today I’m calling on him to publish his secret fares plan.
“There are just two days before the mayoral election. Londoners have a right to know how much the Tory mayor intends to increase their bus, tube, tram and train fares. We need answers now.”