Christians launch new attack on Boris Johnson in gay poster dispute

It has submitted a request for all the paperwork under the Freedom of Information Act.

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Boris is increasingly under pressure for his actions and integrity. This is another example of where he has been expedient as opposed to doing truth and justice.”

Core Issues Trust, the Christian group which was behind the advert intended to run on 24 buses last year, has been granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

The Christian group argued that stifling debate by banning their advert amounted to discrimination.

They pointed in particular to one poster which some Christians found offensive. Funded by Richard Dawkins, the academic, and the British Humanist Association in 2009, it said: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying. And enjoy your life.”

A TfL spokeswoman said: “The advertisement clearly breached our advertising policy as it contained a controversial message and was likely to cause widespread offence to the public.

“We are taking steps to address the judge’s comments regarding our internal processes.”

Timing is everything, Boris Johnson, as David Miliband will testify

According to the great Shakespearean critic, A C Bradley, Hamlet’s “tragic flaw” is a melancholy that prevents him from taking action. Miliband’s flaw also involved procrastination, but it reflected fastidious caution rather than melancholy. He refused to strike unless the circumstances were perfect and the risk minimal. But such a context almost never prevails in politics. His moment of opportunity was bracketed by Tony Blair’s departure in 2007 and early 2010 when a change of leader ceased to be a practical option.

Once Gordon Brown had departed, his moment had passed; the spot was no longer sweet, the window no longer wide open. Although Ed Miliband now vehemently denies doing so, David still maintains that his younger brother told him not to challenge Brown in 2009 because his “time would come”.

As it turned out, Ed was really plotting the advent of his own “time” and fought a brilliantly effective leadership campaign in 2010, aimed squarely at his brother’s perceived weaknesses – his technocratic manner (“Ed speaks human”) and his association with Blair. The younger brother’s cunning plan was to keep David out of the ring until the rules of the game had changed (to Ed’s benefit).

Does Miliband Snr’s departure matter? Yes, to the extent that he was one of the dwindling number of Labour politicians who understand that the centre ground – or common ground, if you prefer – does not shift as dramatically as politicians like to imagine. He was never an identikit Blairite, but he shared Blair’s belief that the public’s desire for economic competence, social decency, law and order and an aspirational culture is fairly constant and rarely submits to ideological lurches. Ed’s great error is to imagine that the centre ground has shifted Leftwards.

As David Miliband’s moment passes, Boris’s begins. The Mayor’s bruising interview with Eddie Mair was like watching a friendly English sheepdog rush up for a pat only for it to be smacked squarely across the chops. None of the charges was new. The interview will not have scratched Boris’s popularity, let alone dented it. But Mair’s summary condemnation – “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?” – was like a whisper of words from the future, filtered back into the studio through some wormhole in space-time. For if Boris does become Tory leader or prime minister, he will look back upon the Mair mauling as a mild warm-up, a light round of sparring before the Main Event.

In this sense, the interview was simply a punctuation mark in the Boris saga. If he is to achieve his ambition, he must be seen by his own party to be able to handle such hostile cross-examination (which he is, when prepared). He must also be seen to be in the game.

I am not one of those who thinks that David Cameron remotely deserves to be replaced before the election, or that his premiership has been an unmitigated disaster. However, there are some who cling to this extreme position and believe that a snap change of Tory leadership could save the party from defeat in 2015. Their opinions will have been hardened by last week’s YouGov poll suggesting that, with Boris at the helm, the Tories might win 40-50 seats more than under the current management.

It is less than a year since the Mayor was re-elected. For him to seek a Commons seat in the next winnable by-election would be ill-received by Londoners, and hard to explain except as a preparation for treachery. But to put himself forward for a seat in the 2015 general election would be a different matter entirely. Boris could argue quite reasonably that he hoped to assist his party on the national stage when his second term expires in 2016. Yes, he would be performing two roles – Mayor and constituency MP – for a year. But there is recent precedent in Ken Livingstone, who served as Mayor and as MP for Brent East for just over a year before the 2001 general election.

If Cameron defies the Tory soothsayers and wins in 2015, Boris’s chances of succeeding him will diminish dramatically. As the PM revealed in a Sunday Telegraph interview in January, he would like to go on until at least 2020. Thereafter, the younger generation – especially the 2010 intake – will be staking their claim and seeking to assert their identity as a cohort. By 2020, the London Olympics, the greatest leadership campaign launch in history, will be a cherished but distant memory.

This is why it was so important for Boris to say explicitly what we all know to be true: that he wants the job. You don’t have to support him to see that, somehow or other, he must be a candidate in the next leadership contest. On his side is prodigious talent and popularity. Against him – a sceptical Tory oligarchy, and the intrinsic difficulty of matching ambition and political context. But he has at least declared himself. As the Dane says: the readiness is all.

Boris Johnson: the Irresistible Rise, BBC Two, review

When Twitter started trilling on Sunday with “Boris Johnson in car crash TV interview”, I dropped everything, croissant included, and high-tailed it to YouTube. It was vintage Johnson, Johnson premier cru – on the face of it taking a rinsing from Eddie Mair about past indiscretions, and yet once the harrumphing was done the abiding feeling was, “that was another wonderful piece of telly starring Boris Johnson.”

It was the exact same effect induced by Michael Cockerell’s film Boris Johnson: the Irresistible Rise last night on BBC Two. Regardless of what you think of Johnson’s politics or predilections, the man is TV gold. In the name of journalistic objectivity Cockerell’s film dutifully included musings from Boris’s sister Rachel, his father Stanley, former editors and school chums. Some of it was moderately revealing, but the money shot was the blond bombshell, live and unleashed.

Cockerell is undoubtedly a fine reporter; on this evidence he is also a wily film-maker. His coup was to get Boris sat in a bunker surrounded by three large screens. It was like a prolonged interrogation scene from Zero Dark Thirty, but instead of waterboarding, Cockerell induced mental agony by projecting footage of unpleasant Boris-baiting imagery such as that Bullingdon photo, or Rachel Johnson explaining how everything comes back to the fact that Boris was head boy at Eton and Cameron wasn’t.

Boris’s exasperated responses encapsulated precisely why his rise will indeed most likely prove irresistible. He would do that thing where he shakes his hands in front of him like he’s throttling a cow. The yellow moptop – a piece of branding far stronger than the Conservative green tree – remained exquisitely disarranged. And then the words, oh the words! No one talks like Johnson. Even if you don’t give a fig for the man or his ambition, fair reader, drink in the parlance. When surrounded, literally, by the incriminating Bullingdon photo Boris looked at his shoes and then came out with this: “Ah yes, I congratulate you on defying the censors and bringing this appalling image once again before public view. It is a truly shameful vignette of almost superhuman undergraduate arrogance and toffishness and twittishness. But you know,” – bumble, grovel, scratch, cough – “it was great fun at the time. Or was it? Actually the awful truth about all that business was… The abiding feeling was of deep, deep, deep self loathing.” Then he pointed at Cockerell with both hands, like he was passing him a spittoon.

Time and again you were reminded that his hyperbolic Boggle – from “inverted pyramid of piffle” to “the Geiger counter of olympo-mania is going to go zoink off the scale” –­ is inimitable. At a time when all other politicians are about as lapel-grabbing as the Emmerdale omnibus, he could make a fortune on pay per view. Which is why when he said, “This programme was such a bad idea,” he said it with a smile. Just as there is no such thing as a “car crash interview” when it features Boris, so there is no such thing as a bad programme with him in it.

Boris Johnson defends BBC’s right to ‘bash Tory politicians’

The Mayor of London, widely considered a potential successor to Prime Minister David Cameron, looked distinctly uncomfortable as he was grilled about past misdemeanours on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show by presenter Eddie Mair yesterday.

The interview which dwelled on a range of issues from the Mayor's past including fabricating quotes and agreeing to help a friend with a plot to get someone beaten up, was described as "disgusting" and "low" by his father Stanley on Monday.

However, speaking whilst launching a new policing iniatitive in the capital with Bernard Hogan-Howe, Mr Johnson defended the right of BBC journalists to be "hard" on politicians.

He added: "Fair play to Eddie, he landed a good one.

"If the BBC can't bash Tory politicans, what is the point of the BBC?"

It’s bobbies, not buildings we need in the fight against crime

In London virtually every single crime type is down – everything including violent crime, car crime, vandalism, knife crime, youth violence, burglary, murder and robbery. It came down under my predecessor, and crime has fallen a further 13 per cent since I have been mayor.

The murder rate is the lowest we have had for decades. London has a reputation as one of the safest big cities on earth – and when you consider the huge demographic changes we have seen in the last 20 years, and the gap between rich and poor, you can see the scale of the accomplishment of the Metropolitan Police. They have done it by getting out on the street, by increasing the number of patrols, by giving the public the reassurance they want.

They have not been sitting behind their counters, in the station – like the Bill Bailey character in Hot Fuzz – reading thrillers and waiting for the public to come to them.

So when you have a choice between spending more money on police buildings or putting police men and women out on the street, most sensible people can see what needs to be done. We have 497 buildings in London that are owned by the Metropolitan Police, and of those only 136 of them are remotely accessible to the public – that is, open at any time, however briefly. And those 136 buildings are themselves used less and less frequently by the public.

The proportion of crimes reported at the front desk has fallen by 45 per cent in the past five years. Across the whole city we now have fewer than 50 crimes reported at stations after seven in the evening. People’s habits are changing, and the way they want to interact with the police is changing.

More and more are reporting crime online, and above all the public are making use of the central pledge made by the Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. If you report a crime, large or small, the police will come to you. We will come to your address – or to a place that you nominate. Surveys show that many people vastly prefer this service to what may be an intimidating experience in a police station, where the people who can overhear you may often include offenders reporting for bail. That is why we are today publishing the conclusions of the London Police and Crime Consultation, which has been running for some months. It has been a genuine consultation.

We have made changes to the original plans. We have kept some police stations and some front counters that might have gone – but overall we have been able to reorganise the building stock so as to keep a 24-hour station in every borough, increase the number of contact points, and above all increase the number of police officers by saving £60 million in annual running costs of the buildings.

London is unlike virtually any other part of the country in that we are now actively recruiting 4,500 more police in order to drive crime down further. Given the choice between buildings or bobbies, the public wants bobbies on the beat. They are right, and it is an argument that needs to be made time and time again across the public services.

People said we needed to keep all the ticket offices in Underground stations, because their mere presence was “reassuring”. We were able to argue that staff were more useful when they were out from behind the glass and where they could help the public – and indeed, crime has continued to fall on public transport.

These debates can be highly emotive, and no more so than in the case of fire stations and hospitals, where it is obviously possible to lead very fierce campaigns against closing buildings of any kind. But it is vital that we look at the facts that really matter. Can you keep reducing deaths from fire? Can you improve clinical outcomes? If so, you should be prepared to make better use of bricks and mortar. It takes courage to make these arguments, and they can be readily misrepresented. But the argument is there to be won. The London police are showing that you can cut expense – and cut crime too.

Boris Johnson hails ‘momentous’ West Ham Olympic Stadium deal

The Hammers were named preferred bidders in December but negotiations with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) have been long and tortuous.

However, the LLDC announced this morning that a deal has now been signed off that sees the Premier League club become anchor tenants under a 99-year lease.

Plans for the revamped stadium were unveiled this morning, with the reported £150 million facelift due to be completed in time for the 2016-17 season.

The Olympic Stadium will be transformed into a 54,000-seater venue, with West Ham now set to embark on a detailed, independent supporter consultation process.

Leveson report: Only a gutter press can keep clean the gutters of public life

You cannot hope to win a contract in London by sending some public official a Rolex or a midnight poule de luxe; and that is because that official would be too amazed to accept, too honourable to accept, and above all too terrified to accept. British business, and British politics – and the nexus between business and politics – have been kept cleaner than in virtually all other countries because for centuries we have had a free press.

It was in the late 18th century that the libertine MP and Mayor of London John Wilkes had his epic battles with the governments of George III, and vindicated his right to publish his scabrous views of that government, as well as an idiotic and pornographic poem. It was in the following decades that London grew into the richest and most powerful city on earth – the first since imperial Rome to be home to a million souls.

There can be absolutely no doubt that this rise to commercial greatness was partly made possible by those freedoms won in the 18th century – an independent judiciary; habeas corpus; freedom of assembly; the right of voters to choose their representatives; and above all the freedom of the press to speak truth to power: to ridicule, to satirise – even to vilify – and to expose wrongdoing.

Of course, not every businessperson or investor may personally relish the exuberance and ferocity of the British media. They may not enjoy reading about their salaries, yachts and subterranean swimming pools. But they also know – or should rationally accept – that it is the very boldness of the British press, and its refusal to be bullied or cowed, that makes those deals risk-free and helps them create the wealth they enjoy. Like any strong detergent, the work of the British media may cause a certain smarting of the eyes. But if you want to keep clean the gutters of public life, you need a gutter press.

Since the days of Wilkes, the media have been lifting up the big, flat rocks to let the daylight in on the creepy-crawlies; and in all that time we have never come close to the state licensing of newspapers. Not, that is, until today, when MPs must vote on the potentially calamitous proposals put forward by Labour and the Lib Dems.

Everyone accepts that the papers have behaved with vileness and stupidity towards the McCann family, and the bereaved relatives of Milly Dowler. Everyone wants to protect innocent members of the public from such bullying and abuse, and all would now accept that the old Press Complaints Commission was about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Yes, as some of us have been saying since long before Leveson was even a twinkle in the PM’s eye, it would be a good thing if there was a beefed-up regulatory body that had the power to impose rapid and draconian fines and to demand apologies for the falsehoods and intrusions perpetrated by all contracting papers.

But if Parliament agrees to anything remotely approaching legislation, it will be handing politicians the tools they need to begin the job of cowing and even silencing the press; and what began by seeming in the public interest will end up eroding the freedoms of everyone in this country. It is a completely retrograde step, and will be viewed with bemusement by human rights organisations around the world.

All my life I have thought of Britain as a free country, a place that can look around the world with a certain moral self-confidence. How can we wag our fingers at Putin’s Russia, when we are about to propose exemplary and crippling fines on publications that do not sign up to the regulatory body? How could we have criticised the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez?

I wholly approve of the stance taken by my fellow Daily Telegraph columnist Fraser Nelson in refusing to sign up to any of it, and if I were editing The Spectator today, I hope I would do the same. It is time for Parliament to remember the commercial and political freedoms that made this country great. Think of Wilkes, and Liberty, and vote this nonsense down.

Boris Johnson: Build airports, power plants and railways on the countryside

“And I wished we could imitate the ease and ruthlessness with which the French send high speed trains streaking across the landscape.

“And as the light bulbs of Britain flicker, I am lost in admiration for the historic French decision to build enough nuclear reactors to supply 75 per cent of your power needs, and in the next 30 years we in Britain will now try to catch up while French companies raise the capital for even more ambitious investments.”

Mr Johnson also used his speech to defend the City of London from European Union interference.

He said the whole of Europe would suffer if “ill thought-out” measures such as the bankers’ bonus cap were imposed on the UK.

Britain was earlier this month defeated after being outnumbered 26 to one over the controversial EU proposals to impose caps on bonuses paid to bankers.

Under the new rules annual bonuses will not be allowed to exceed a banker’s salary, starting next year.

Bonuses of twice annual salary will be allowed if shareholders approve them. Experts have warned that the decision will damage the City.

Mr Johnson said the Government should “paralyse” the negotiations and not “give in” to Brussels over the issue.

“If the French government was faced with something like the bonus cap they would not tolerate it,” he said. “They would paralyse negotiations and refuse to have further discussion until they got an agreement. That’s what I think we should do, not give in.”

Mr Johnson added: “I hope you will agree London is an asset for France, and an asset for Europe and that it makes no sense for us to attack the Continent’s number one financial centre with bonus caps or any other ill thought-out measure.

“Those bankers will not vanish to France or to Frankfurt. They will go to Singapore or Hong Kong or New York and we will be senselessly degrading one of the EU’s greatest commercial assets.

“In picking on London I am afraid such measures risk inflaming sentiment in the UK where the arguments for and against membership are more finely balanced…Whatever these measures are meant to achieve they will do nothing to solve the problems of the eurozone.”

Justice is put to the sword by Moscow’s greed and corruption

Back in the 1990s, Moscow was a kind of Wild West. Business deals would be terminated in restaurant massacres. It was a world of eye-popping swindles and bribes, and for a while Browder’s fund prospered. With a team of ace financial investigators, Hermitage Capital would dig up the pilfering and peculation that was rife in Russian capitalism, and expose it to the media. As the firms were cleaned up, the share prices rose, and so did the profits of Browder’s fund.

All went well, as long as this had the tacit support of Putin, who seemed initially content to allow dodgy Russian business practices to be laid bare. The turning point came in October 2003, with the Kremlin’s astonishing decision to arrest Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then the richest man in Russia and the cleverest oligarch of them all. As Browder puts it: “Imagine you are one of the lesser oligarchs, and you are on your yacht at the Cap d’Antibes, and you have just finished making love to your mistress and you turn on the TV and you see the number one oligarch in a cage. What do you do? You go to Putin, and you say, Vladimir Vladimirovich, what can I do to help you? And he says, 50 per cent. Not 50 per cent to the Russian government, but 50 per cent to me, Vladimir Putin.”

From that moment on, it was no longer cool for Browder to lift up the big flat rocks of Russian business. It was no longer safe to tweak the tails of people who had Putin’s protection. In 2005, he was stopped at the airport and deported. Browder liquidated his Russian businesses, paid his taxes — of about $230 million — and quit Moscow, leaving just an office and a secretary. He counted himself lucky to have escaped.

But someone important had been hacked off by Browder and Hermitage, and that someone began a bizarre revenge. First, the police raided his offices and seized all documentation relating to his now dormant companies. Next, they secretly and fraudulently re-registered the companies in the name of a former sawmill worker from Tatarstan — a man who had been convicted of manslaughter and was released two years early from prison in exchange for his help.

Then they hired lawyers — unbeknownst to Browder — to represent these companies, and sent them to court to claim that these companies were in fact massively in debt at the time that Browder had liquidated them and that the companies — now effectively owned by the tax police, the tax officials and their accomplices — should be reimbursed the taxes Browder had paid before he left.

Incredibly, the court agreed — though I suppose they had no one before them to dispute what the lawyers were saying. On Christmas Eve 2007, Browder’s ex-companies received a staggering $230 million tax rebate — thought to be the highest ever. No one would ever have known, had it not been for Sergei Magnitsky, who was hired by Browder to find out why his shell companies seemed to be in court.

Magnitsky went to the authorities — of course he did: the very authorities that were involved in the fraud; and in October 2008, they imprisoned him and threatened him until he eventually died of a “ruptured abdominal membrane” or a “heart attack” or — according to the Moscow Helsinki Group — from being beaten and tortured by several interior ministry officers. No one knows exactly where the stolen millions went — though some tax officials and prosecutors seemed to enjoy vast and unexplained increases in wealth.

No one knows who sanctioned the operation, or how high the conspiracy goes.

I don’t know if Browder is right to say that Russia is now a gangster state and that Putin is effectively the biggest thief in history. What is clear is that Magnitsky was a martyr trampled by a corrupt system. Barack Obama was right to sign the Magnitsky Act, and ban anyone associated with his death from entering the US. This country should follow suit. When I was a student we used to name buildings after those who had suffered in the fight against oppression — Biko, Sakharov, Mandela. Magnitsky deserves the same recognition.

Boris Johnson booed over London hospital cuts

London Mayor Boris Johnson was heckled during the meeting at Catford’s Broadway Theatre last night as campaigners fighting plans to downgrade services at south east London's Lewishsam Hospital vented their anger.

Mr Johnson was audibly booed as he took his place at the People's Question Time event and then faced repeated heckles as he answered questions over the decision to downgrade A&E and maternity services at the hospital.