Leveson evidence shows News International's plans for multi-million pound sponsorship of academy and
Boris Johnson: a clean campaign? Photo: Getty Images
The Leveson Inquiry has published fresh evidence revealing plans for a sponsorship deal between News International (NI) and the conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
At the time when News International executives were covering up the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World, the company offered the mayor £2m towards an academy school.
This is an embarrassing development for Johnson, who at the time rejected phone-hacking allegations as "a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party."
News International also offered millions of pounds of sponsorship for Johnson's plans to build a cable car across the Thames, which could carry News International branding. Johnson was looking for up to £36m in commercial sponsorship for the scheme.
According to emails published by Leveson, at the end of 2010, News International executive Will Lewis asked colleagues: "Where are we with the schools project, particularly Boris securing the land and Michael Gove [the education secretary] the capital investment?"
The emails also show that in June 2010, Johnson attended a meeting with then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, where they discussed the prospects of the company becoming the "lead sponsor" of what was to be called the "News Academy" in east London. They went so far as to consult the London Development Agency, which offered them a site in the former Royal Docks.
The emails also reveal the involvement of Education Secretary Michael Gove in the academy sponsorship plans. On 30 November 2010, in east London, Johnson and Gove met James Murdoch, accompanied by Brooks and James Harding, the editor of the Times. After their meeting, during which they inspected a potential academy site alongside the Royal Docks, the party ate at Forman's smoked salmon restaurant at the Olympic Park.
On 11 January 2011, Lewis wrote to News International colleagues saying: "Re: cable cars. . .Transport for London have submitted their original planning application and are awaiting the results next month. Once granted, we can hopefully jump in – if we want to."
Johnson, who will face Labour candidate Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral elections tomorrow, made headlines earlier this week when the BBC questioned him over his links with News International. He dismissed
the allegations as "fucking bollocks."