Boris Johnson turned down an invitation to be interviewed yesterday by the London section of the BBC’s flagship Sunday Politics show, despite his only serious rival for the mayoralty Ken Livingstone appearing last week and Brian Paddick and Jenny Jones previously. Why? According to Kit Malthouse, Boris’s deputy for policing, who substituted for the mayor, Boris couldn’t make it because of a “long-standing engagement that he had to do this morning.” Malthouse claimed that BBC London had been told this in March.
Malthouse also described it as, “a private engagement this morning,” but didn’t say what time in the morning. However, Twitter has enabled us to learn what Boris was doing during the period when the Sunday Politics show was broadcast.
Boriswatch has pulled together links from a series of tweets posted by people relaying sightings of Boris on the streets of south west London campaigning. The first of these tweets was launched at 11:42 a.m. and the last at 1:27 p.m. The Sunday Politics began at noon and the London section containing the live interview with Malthouse at 12:30 pm – slap bang in the middle of the time range in which the tweets occurred.
Here are the tweets in chronological order of posting, complete with links.
11:42 a.m.: “Boris Johnson campaigning outside Wimbledon station with his entourage,” wrote @paulwildthing.
11:50 a.m.: “Boris Johnson is in wimbledon having Maccy D’s. Classy guy,” wrote @hairymonkeyboy.
11:52 a.m.: “Boris Johnson just shook my hand whilst I was eating chicken curry in Wimbledon,” wrote @Awkward_Ostrich. This tweet his a photo of Boris too.
11:52 a.m.: “Boris fucking Johnson is following me around Wimbledon,” reported @angrypickin.
12:06 p.m.: @DarkBeige posts a photo of Boris with the message: “Boris Johnson, Wimbledon shopping centre.”
So that’s five sightings in Wimbledon. By the time the last of these was posted, The Sunday Politics national show had begun. What did Boris do next? Well, just as his deputy Malthouse was getting settled in the studio to take questions from BBC London’s political editor Tim Donovan on his boss’s behalf from 12.30, Boris appears to have been making his way from Wimbledon to the Bentall shopping centre in nearby Kingston.
1.16 p.m.: “Boris stops traffic in Kingston’s Bentalls Centre!,” cried @CharlotteV, with photograph to prove it.
1:21 p.m.: “Just spotted Boris Johnson while shopping (obviously!) in Kingston,” reported @DebbieDresses
1.25 p.m.: Another photograph of Boris is accompanied by the words, “Boris Johnson is here in Bentalls Kingston,” from @najeebster
1:27 p.m.: “Just walked past boris Johnson in Kingston,” revealed @Redkez.
1:33 p.m.: “Just bumped into Boris Johnson in Kingston,” tweeted @caroline_evans
Malthouse, remember, spoke of Boris having a “private engagement” during the morning. Boris’s activities in Wimbledon and then Kingston were plainly anything but private. It seems fair to assume, therefore, that said “private engagement” finished early enough for Boris to have been at Wimbledon station at or before the time of his first tweet mentioning him being there, which was made at 11:42.
So what was stopping Boris from being at Millbank, Westminster, where the Sunday Politics interview took place in time for a 12:30 start if he’d really wanted to be? Even if his “private engagement” had been completed as late as, say, 11:30 somewhere very adjacent to Wimbledon station he could probably still have made it. Any earlier or nearer and it would have been easy.
It seems from those tweets that the reported “private engagement” almost certainly did not clash with the Sunday Politics interview slot. If so, what is the real reason Boris did not do it?
I think it perfectly reasonable for prominent politicians to have private engagements and wrong of journalists to believe such politicians should be always at their beck and call. But to decline to accept scrutiny of your record in office by the most authoritative programme on London politics on television four days before seeking re-election when it appears that your schedule could have allowed it, strikes me as deeply unsatisfactory.
Yes, I’m minding my language here.
You can watch Boris’s deputy defending Boris’s record here, from 30 minutes in.