Why did Jenny Jones want to stop the Police Investigation into ‘Phone Hacking?
Update: The newspaper article that contains the Jenny Jones quote is not from this week, but rather from over a month ago. I had it emailed to me, and assumed it was a reaction to this week’s events. It isn’t, and so some of the premise of the article has been changed to reflect that. I’ll comment below on Jenny’s decision to call for resources to be reduced a month ago. Peter
Today the Murdoch media came under fire from almost everyone. Even the Murdoch fan boys, Harry Cole and Paul Staines have admitted that it might have been a little wrong to ‘phone hack the mobile ‘phone of Milly Dowler or the families of the 7/7 victims. And that’s understandable. For most normal people this activity is repulsive. Hacking into anyone’s ’phone is pretty distasteful, but hampering a police inquiry by deleting messages from a missing girl’s mobile ‘phone is well beyond distasteful. Literally everyone I’ve spoken to has wanted to talk about this – everyone sees it as an important issue.
Or almost everyone sees it as an important issue, because much to my surprise, Green Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones has decided not to condemn ‘phone hacking. Instead, her contribution is to say that the police are wasting resources on it. They should be investigating something else. The fact that the investigative technique of choice for Britain’s largest media group knowingly hampered the search for a missing girl isn’t something she thinks is a priority. Instead we’re given a list of crimes that she does consider important. Of course, the fact that any of them could be exacerbated by the cynical actions of News International journalists isn’t relevant to her.
But Green member of the London Assembly Jenny Jones called, over a month ago, for this investigation to be scaled down. She thought it was too much of a waste of police resources. While the full extent of the reprehensible ‘phone hacking activities of News International wasn’t known then, it’s likely that the police resources devoted to this have helped to keep the issue live and to force the revelations of the past week into the open.
This is, in itself a contribution that could easily be overlooked. This week is a good one to have your gaffe buried. But this isn’t the first time Jenny Jones has made contentious interventions on behalf of the police. In fact defending the Metropolitan Police’s failings seems to be the main thing that Jenny Jones does with the platform the Green Party gives her.
In 2007 when no-one (not even then Mayor Ken Livingstone) could be found to defend then Chief Constable Ian Blair over the Metropolitan Police’s decision to execute Jean Charles de Menezes, Jenny was there for him. While everyone else called for his resignation, or kept a sensible distance, Jenny fronted up for a police officer who had been roundly condemned in the police trial. (Again this press release is missing from the Green Party website). It’s a bizarre position for a Green to find herself in. But there’s an explanation. She’s on the Metropolitan Police Authority, and she’s gone native. She sees her job as representing the police to the people of London, not the people of London to the Police.
When the media portrayed the first student protest last autumn as violent, Jenny was the first out of the traps to condemn students (this offensive press release has now been removed from the Green Party website). And that condemnation came in the strongest possible terms. Even though only a tiny number of the protestors were involved in the occupation of Millbank that was enough for Jenny to put out an intemperate statement feeding the media narrative about the protests being violent.
The Metropolitan Police are currently under real pressure because there has been a systematic culture of accepting payments from tabloid journalists. I’ve no doubt that they want the ‘phone hacking story and the associated allegations about paying police to go away. And who do they call on to do their dirty work? Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones, of course.
It also seems odd that she chooses to condemn the use of resources in a ‘phone hacking investigation in the same week as the first group of UK Uncut defendants in the Fortnum and Mason case were in court. A clearer case of waste of police and Crown Prosecution Service resources would be harder to find. Yet Jenny has maintained total media silence on this.
And it’s not as if the ‘phone hacking case is of little political significance. The Murdoch empire is close to taking a controlling interest in BSkyB and with it effectively a controlling interest in the whole of the UK media. There are important questions about whether Murdoch is a fit and proper person to hold this position of unequalled power. ‘Phone hacking goes right to the heart of these questions. That’s why democratic reform campaigners are organising a protest outside Parliament and 38 Degrees are using puppets of Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron having their strings pulled by Rupert Murdoch.
It seems odd, then, that someone so out of step with Green values has been chosen as Mayoral candidate, as top of the list to be returned to the London Assembly and as the first nominee to the House of Lords. It’s worth remembering that appointing a Lord is like getting herpes. Both are with you for life and both can cause you a lot of irritation.
Do Greens really believe that their representative should have been the only politician to defend the Metropolitan police’s indefensible execution of Jean Charles de Menezes? Do Greens really think that the police shouldn’t devote serious resources to investigating News International’s ‘phone hacking? Do Greens really believe that students should be condemned for protesting? I really doubt it.
And that’s why we must ask really serious questions about the position Jenny Jones occupies as an Assembly Member, Mayoral Candidate and nominee to the House of Lords. Having a high-profile spokesperson so out of touch with the party will damage our electoral chances, especially if one of these gaffes gets noticed.
It would be damning for Greens if campaigners ended up outside the Lords or the London Assembly with a giant puppet of Jenny Jones having her strings pulled by the Metropolitan Police.