The most stagerring piece of political hypocrisy for many years is the attempt by Boris Johnson to present himself as a Law and Order candidate when in 1990 he had a telephone conversation with the convicted fraudster Darius Guppy about the latter’s proposal to have the journalist Stuart Collier beaten up. Guppy wanted Johnson to supply Collier’s address. The transcript of this conversation has been published in Private Eye and elsewhere. Johnson did not tell Guppy to go to hell, or threaten to inform the police if anything happened to the journalist but instead discussed how badly Collier was to be beaten up. At the end of the phone conversation, Boris Johnson agreed to help.
Boris Johnson did not subsequently contact the police, although he was aware a serious violent crime was being planned. Yet now he says:
we all know that we are suffering from an epidemic of unreported crime. Bitter experience has taught us that too often the police do not have the time or the resources to deal with our case.
So what can we do?
We could perhaps shrug our shoulders and say that crime, disorder and incivility are just a part of city life. We could turn a blind eye to the robberies and the muggings, and hope that no one we love will be a victim. We could throw up our hands, in the manner of the current Labour Mayor, and say that these problems are beyond our control – caused by television and the glamorising of violence.
We could accept defeat. We could declare that we have run out of ideas. Or we could say that enough is enough. The Mayor of London has a statutory and moral duty to lead the fight-back against crime. I reject the fatalism and defeatism of the Labour Mayor. I reject the assumption that we can do nothing. I believe that by systematically tackling small crimes we can drive out more serious crime.
His real attitude is revealed by the Darius Guppy transcript. The Daily Mail (16 July 1995) carried a comprehensive account of the background to this phone call:
‘The telephone call to the Brussels office of the Daily Telegraph was from a desperate man. Darius Guppy, ex-Eton and Oxford… and soon to become one of Britain’s most notorious fraudsters was becoming agitated.
‘For weeks, Guppy had been trying to track down a man with whom he had become obsessed, News of the World journalist Stuart Collier, who had been inquiring into his background. ‘Guppy wanted him stopped, frightened and physically assaulted – and had lined up a mysterious South London figure to arrange it. However, one crucial part of the plan remained elusive – Collier’s private phone number and address.
‘One man could provide the key: Guppy’s old school and university confidant, Boris Johnson, then the Telegraph’s European correspondent in Brussels.
‘Today, Johnson and his Right-wing clique enjoy the company of ex-Cabinet Ministers… In the pages of the Spectator magazine – the bible of those who believe they have a divine right to tell the rest of us how to behave and to vote – he might like to think he has become a modern day sage…
‘Johnson also believes in friendship. When Darius Guppy telephoned him about his plan for Collier, Johnson led Guppy to believe that he had arranged for a number of “contacts” to try to get Collier’s details. It was taking some time, and Johnson appeared worried that he would be caught out. He knew what Guppy was planning for Collier – but, amazingly, Guppy assured him the “beating up” would not be too severe.
‘The details of Guppy’s extraordinary plan are revealed in a secret tape recording made of Guppy’s home telephone some months before he was charged with a £1.8 million insurance swindle. Guppy was jailed for five years… In the recording, which has been vice analysed by experts, Guppy rehearses with Johnson why he wants to take violent revenge on Collier – and how he desperately needs his friend’s help. Guppy and Johnson had a close relationship, forged amid the privileged surroundings of Eton and then Oxford, where the pair became leading lights in one of the university’s most blue-chip dining societies, the Bullingdon.
‘In the 21 minute conversation, in the summer of 1990, Guppy says he is a potential psychopath, before comparing himself to history’s great generals from Rommel and Patten to Napoleon.
Sometimes shouting, sometimes cajoling, he explains he cannot afford to “look stupid” by delaying the attack on Collier. ‘He says Johnson has his “word of honour” that his (Johnson’s) role in the assault will remain undetected.
‘More than once, Johnson tries to find out how severely Collier is to be injured. Guppy tells him “not badly at all”.
‘Johnson: “I, really, I want to know…”
‘Guppy: “I guarantee you he will not be seriously hurt.”
‘Johnson: “How badly will he be…”
‘Guppy, interrupting: “He will not have a broken limb or broken arm; he will not be put into intensive care or anything like that. He will probably get a couple of black eyes and a… cracked rib or something.”
‘Johnson: “Cracked rib?”
‘Guppy: “Nothing which you didn’t suffer at rugby, OK? But he’ll get scared and that’s what I want… I want him to get scared, I want him to have no idea who’s behind it, OK? And I want him to realise that he’s ****** someone off and that whoever he’s ******* off is not the sort of person he wants to mess around with.”
The conversation ended with Johnson saying ‘OK, Darrie, I said I’ll do it and I’ll do it.’
‘Johnson had evidently spoken of Collier before: the conversation begins with him telling Guppy he has someone “going through the files”, news Guppy describes as “brilliant” and “fantastic”. ‘But there is no doubt Johnson appears to be afraid of detection. “If you **** up, in any way,” he warns Guppy, “if he suspects I’m involved…”
Guppy: “No, no, he won’t, Boris.”
When Johnson says Collier will go “apeshit” if he finds out who is responsible for the attack, Guppy says he “doesn’t give a **** because no one he has ever met is “as psychopathic potentially as me”.
‘Both agree that things are “getting serious”.
‘Johnson: “If it got out…”
‘Guppy interrupts: “That he’d been beaten up.”
‘Johnson: “Beaten up, it would inevitably get back to the contact.’
‘Johnson says he has used four contacts to track down information about Collier, and is worried one of them “might put two and two together, if he heard this guy [Collier] had been beaten up.”
‘Guppy interrupts: “But Boris there’s absolutely no ****** proof: you just deny it. I mean, there’s no proof at all.”
‘Johnson interrupts: “Well, yeah.”
‘Guppy: “I mean, you know, big deal. You’re sitting in Brussels and the day it happens you’re in Brussels, its as simple as that.’
‘He repeatedly appeals to Johnson so have faith in him. At one stage, Johnson replies: “I do have faith in you.”
‘Guppy insists: “As far as I’m concerned, I have never told you what I require this number for. You do not know at all… so you are totally off the hook.” He adds: “You have nothing to fear. I give you my personal guarantee, OK, and my word of honour.”
By the end of the conversation, Johnson is volunteering to do what he can to help.