I feel a bit guilty, being responsible for the series of events that led to Polly Toynbee being able to type this:
... how has [Boris Johnson] survived the Darius Guppy scandal when he was recorded agreeing to find a journalist's contact details so old Etonian friend Guppy could have the man beaten up? How badly? Guppy suggested just a few cracked ribs. Later when Guppy was jailed for a £1.8m insurance fraud, Boris explained his role with: "Oh poor old Darry was in a bit of a hole. He was being hounded."As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I suspected Guppy might have framed me for a robbery in New York, I tapped his telephone - or more accurately, caused it to be tapped - and I released one of the tapes to the press. I know something of the background to this plot. I did at the time. I knew the heavies Guppy had commissioned to carry out the beating. They had a simple plan: take a 50% payment up front, then never do anything further. This is obvious when you listen to the tape, in fact. "The other chap's a bit impatient," explains the contact. "A bit of cash would calm him down". It's quite funny.
Less funny is the possibility that this episode could unjustly affect Johnson's candidacy for Mayor of London. I don't especially support Johnson, though I loathe Livingstone, but I'd like to see a fair contest. So let me just explain Johnson's role, as far as I can make it out from the tapes I made at the time.
He didn't know the heavies were planning to rip Guppy off. It must have seemed a serious plot. Guppy made it clear that he could try other means of finding the journalist's address. Johnson assured him he didn't have to - and did absolutely nothing at all to find it himself. I actually had that confirmed by Clive Goodman, the now disgraced formed News of the World royal correspondent who listened to the tape. Johnson said he would approach a specific third party. He specifically didn't. The only conclusion I can draw is that he was trying to make sure Guppy didn't manage to have the man attacked. Rather, he was stalling, waiting for Guppy's attention span to expire - a safe bet for those who knew him well.
I have to admit, grudgingly, that it is to Johnson's credit that he stood by his friend during his subsequent trial and conviction. I'd have prefered it otherwise, for personal reasons, but Johnson didn't abandon his childhood friend when it would have been convenient. I'm not aware he subsequently had much to do with him, but he wouldn't join in the pecking party.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say Johnson took the approach "never explain, never apologise". The full quote is: "Boldness has genius, power and magic in it... Never contradict. Never explain. Never apologise".
I hope he can live up to the provenance of that saying.
UPDATE: The quote itself is sourced here