Johnson defends request to News International

London mayor sought sponsorship money from company despite ongoing phone-hacking investigation

Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has defended his decision to seek commercial deals with News International while Scotland Yard was investigating the company over phone hacking.

Johnson, who as mayor had responsibility for chairing the now-defunct Metropolitan Police Authority, defended his decision to approach James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks at NI in an attempt to get sponsorship for his cable car idea and a school academy while the Met was investigating the company.

“In the end I’m afraid News International didn’t produce a sausage but it didn’t mean it wasn’t right to try,” he told the radio presenter Nick Ferrari on LBC 97.3.

Johnson outlined the competing priorities he held as mayor which led him to approach Murdoch for cash, insisting he appealed to “all kinds of people” to try to secure investment for London.

“Don’t forget that actually what we were being given as advice by the police … was that there was nothing new in the whole business. The New York Times story [into phone hacking in September 2010] hadn’t taken things any further forward. At the same time in difficult economic circumstances my job is to get investment for London.

“I won’t make any secret of it. I have talked to all kinds of people … to get investment, to get projects moving. Things have been very tough. The days when the state, uncle sugar, could just step forward and write colossal cheques, that’s gone.”

On Monday he accused a BBC journalist asking questions over his approach to NI of talking “fucking bollocks”.

The Conservative mayor, who appears on course to beat his Labour rival Ken Livingstone a second time according to a Populus poll for the Times (paywall), appeared to suggest no apology was necessary for the outburst.

He blamed the BBC for not cutting out what he claimed was a “jocular and regrettable outtake” despite the fact that he made the comment in response to a question from BBC London’s political editor, Tim Donovan.

Far from apologising, Johnson said it allowed him to “get over a point” to viewers about the way he had secured more than £100m of sponsorship for London, which he claimed would not have been broadcast without him taking a swipe at the journalist.

Johnson also came under fire for painting the stereotypical cyclist as a dreadlocked, lycra-clad man who jumps red lights and believes he is “morally superior”. His comments were reported in the Times after Johnson took part in the last hustings of the campaign on Monday in an event jointly organised by the Times and Sustrans, the transport charity, which focused on cycling.

The Conservative mayor, who is himself a cyclist and who was caught jumping six red lights in a 20-minute journey to city hall after being elected as mayor four years ago, said he had been faced with a “truculent and difficult audience” who were “seeking to find fault with almost everything I’d done to improve cycling” as he took questions alongside fellow candidates.

Ferrari told him: “When you’re rattled you either turn on people or swear.”

Johnson insisted: “I was trying to cheer everybody up by saying I didn’t conform to that particular stereotype.”

With less than 48 hours to go until polls open for the mayoral election, Johnson looks set to win a second term at city hall.

In the first round of voting, the Times Populus poll puts Johnson comfortably ahead on 46% of the vote against Livingstone’s 34%.

Jenny Jones, the Green candidate, comes third with 6%, pushing Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat, into joint fourth place with Siobhan Benita, the independent, on 5%.

Johnson maintains the 12-point lead over Livingstone once other candidates are stripped out in the second round of votes (56%-44%). © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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