London Mayor Boris Johnson swears over 'News International links' story

Boris Johnson swears about BBC London's Tim Donovan

London Mayor Boris Johnson looked at securing commercial deals with News International at the same time the Metropolitan Police was investigating the company over phone hacking, BBC London has learned.

Mr Johnson, Conservative candidate in the mayoral elections, had constitutional responsibility for Scotland Yard - but at the same time he was also looking to the media giant to sponsor the cable car and a new academy in east London.

A spokeswoman for Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone said the revelations raised "serious questions" and Mr Johnson needed "to open the books and publish all the email and other contact between him, News International and the Murdochs".

When questioned about it, Mr Johnson swore about BBC London's political editor Tim Donovan, who broke the story.

"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," he said.

'Stuff Donovan'

"£50m for the bikes, £36m for the cable car - come on you've got to get this on the air. Come on, this is the most important thing."

He then says "stuff Donovan" and goes on to swear.

Phone hacking allegations were given fresh momentum by a New York Times investigation, published in September 2010.

Later that month, while police were looking into the claims, Mr Johnson dismissed them before the London Assembly as politically motivated and "codswallop".

In the following weeks he held discussions with News International about opening an academy in the Royal Victoria docks in east London.

Mr Johnson met James Murdoch, the former chairman and chief executive of News Corp, which oversees News International, on land owned by his London Development Agency which News International was planning to buy or lease.

London Mayor Boris Johnson looked to secure commercial deals with News International while the police were investigating the firm over phone hacking, BBC London learns.

At a lunch - hosted by Mr Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks - at a restaurant near the Olympic site, Mr Johnson also sought News International's sponsorship for the new cable car.

At this time Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Brian Paddick had begun his own legal action against the Met over hacking.

"Very serious criminal allegations were made against News International and at the same time the mayor of London, who is responsible for the police, was negotiating a business deal with them," Mr Paddick said.

"That is entirely inappropriate," he added.

A spokeswoman for Labour candidate for mayor Ken Livingstone said: "Boris Johnson was too cosy with Rupert Murdoch's empire at a time when they were the subject of a police investigation and he used his office to undermine the Met's work, attacking the phone hacking claims as 'codswallop'.

Ongoing investigation

"He needs to open the books and publish all the email and other contact between him, News International and the Murdochs."

On the Sunday Politics London show Mr Johnson's deputy Kit Malthouse denied the mayor's actions were inappropriate or a conflict of interest.

Start Quote

Boris has behaved with complete probity throughout this issue”

End Quote Kit Malthouse Deputy Mayor of London

"On one side he's being told by the third most senior police officers in the land, there's nothing in this, and there is no ongoing investigation," he said.

"On the other side he has this very large employer in London who's willing to put private money into academies or whatever it may be.

"Boris has behaved with complete probity throughout this issue. He was a victim of phone hacking himself."

Earlier in the election campaign, Mr Johnson swore at Mr Livingstone in a lift following a heated radio debate.

The London mayoral and London Assembly elections take place on Thursday.

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