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.
I have no axe to grind. Never heard of the woman before, just astounded at what I hope was her stunning naivety. But yes, it WAS widely known and not only by journalists and politicians. Just look around the internet. Start with Jonathan Rees, Daniel Morgan or Steve Whittamore, Alex Marunchak etc.
The trouble is that several papers and organisations are involved and if you see it as grounds to shut one down, then…. the Mail and Mirror are already crapping themselves. This is going to be very big indeed – if the combined forces of the politicians, police and media don’t manage to divert out attention or spin it out for so long we all stop caring.
If I knew this a long time ago indeed, you can bet your life a good deal of those being interviewed on the telly know it and a whole lot more. Maybe people will begin to wonder just how (and more importantly why) this was kept quiet for so long, when so many knew. Like I say, it’s going to be big…
“It was common knowledge at the time that phone-tapping and payments to the met were pretty much a matter of routine and had been for a very long time.”
Really? Do you have any evidence of that – because when you are in a regulatory position you can only go so far in pursuit of rumour and tittle-tattle without hard facts.
I work in the media and those rumours weren’t exactly the talk of the newsroom. In journalism you get pretty used to hearing all sorts of speculation but without something that’ll stand up in court you don’t take it as gospel.
I think we’re in danger of being wise after the event and some people sound like they have an axe to grind here and are determined to grind it whatever.
In the great scheme of things Jenny’s response is not the biggest worry we have. Rather than having an internal wailing and gnashing of teeth surely we’d do better to focus on keeping Murdoch off balance now he’s taken a hit – and hopefully run him out of town. Next it’ll be cleaning up the police and only then frankly will we have the luxury of asking whether some of our own were not rather naive.
It was common knowledge at the time that phone-tapping and payments to the met were pretty much a matter of routine and had been for a very long time. And she didn’t know it too?
If she actually didn’t know (which is inconceivable), that would be even worse. But this is the sort of thing you have to do if you want to be mayor.
It’s odd. I’ve always thought that Jenny came across as quite a vociferous critic of the police, certainly when I’ve heard her on the Today programme or whatever and she’s taken a lot of flak from the right for her willingness to criticise.
I do think her’s was a bad call with regard to Ian Blair, however I know that a lot of progressive people found Blair a Commissioner more in step with their values than were his likely successors.
Lots of politicians end up making bbad decisions when they stick up for people who they like or have a good working relationship with out of a sense of loyalty, and in the case of Blair perhaps that distracted Jenny from the fact that Blair had chosen loyalty to his officers over the demands of justice and transparency. Blair got it wrong. However much a force for making the police better he may have been he screwed up to such an extent that a good friend ought to have told him that honour required him to go.
As for the NOTW hacking comments; sorry timing is everything. A remark made in one context can be read entirely differently in another.
None of us were talking about the hacking scandal in the terms we are now a month ago.
Back then Jenny may have felt that on the evidence available at the time Londoners’ priority was street crime, knife killings and rape rather than settling a score between Murdoch and John Prescott.
We now know more fully the extent of the problem and the depth of the venality within News Corp.
Having said that while I’d very much like to see Jenny remain as an MLA I wonder whether the degree of scrutiny that comes with a Mayoral campaign might not end up causing her problems.
Having followed this story, like most people, for a while, the sentiment of this article was always valid. Forget mouthpiece for the met, she may as well be writing for the Sun…
I’m sorry if you thought that the article was unduly personal. Jenny’s actions around the police have repeatedly and persistently made me extremely angry. Like Adam I’ve had to talk people out of leaving the party because of her comments in the past (around both de Menezes, where she appeared on the 6 O’Clock news to defend Ian Blair and her, frankly ludicrous, comments about the student protests).
As I’ve said above I didn’t realise the article was a month old, and that’s why I’ve removed some of the comments. And I’m sorry that I made that mistake, and the comments that came from making that mistake. The comment about ‘normal people’ refers to NoTW journalists not Jenny.
And the other comments come from a genuinewhat I see Jenny doing most is defending the Met. I think I’m right to be angry about that, and I think I’m entirely right to question whether she’s gone native.
Jenny Jones does seem to make a habit of this sort of thing. I think this article is just about right, albeit with the correction.
Also, Adam Ramsay is right re: the student protests.
I think our political discourse would be much improved if people could discuss mistakes openly without the need for character assassination to beef up their arguments. Were any of these really necessary?
‘For most normal people this activity is repulsive.’
‘knowingly hampered the search for a missing girl isn’t something she thinks is a priority.’
‘Of course, the fact that any of them could be exacerbated by the cynical actions of News International journalists isn’t relevant to her.’
‘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.’
‘She’s on the Metropolitan Police Authority, and she’s gone native.’
‘And who do they call on to do their dirty work? Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones, of course.’
‘It seems odd, then, that someone so out of step with Green values has been chosen as Mayoral candidate’
Apologies for my error. I didn’t notice that the Telegraph article is old. Having had it emailed to me and asked for an explanation, I assumed (entirely wrongly) that it had been written this week. I’ve now updated the article and headline to reflect that.
However, as I’ve added above, the substantive case that ‘phone hacking was always serious enough to deserve considerable resources still stands.
The police investigation kept the issue alive, and may have forced some of the latest revelations into public.
So had Jenny got her way and resources been devoted to other matters there is a likelihood that the current attention paid to ‘phone hacking wouldn’t be possible.
So I’m sorry I didn’t notice the article was a month old, but I’m still convinced that calling for the investigation to be scaled back was totally incorrect whenever it happened.
Sure, this is a fine discussion to have. It just shouldn’t be based on the premise that Jenny has a time machine, as this undermines the other (very valid) points that are made. :p
putting aside the Met phone hacking thing, I think the important point here is that the main power opposition politicians have is the platform they are given. As Matt says, Jenny voted against the motion calling on Blair to resign. She also became one of the few people willing to go on telly to defend the Met and him at the time.
Similarly, there were a million things Jenny could have said about the student demo in November – about fees, cuts, or about policing. What she chose to do was slam young people who are having their futures destroyed. I spent hours after that convincing lots of key young activists not to leave the party in protest. It did serious damage, and lots of prominent activists I know have never forgiven her, and certainly won’t be voting for her in the Assembly or Mayoral elections – these are people who could well have been effective organisers bringing with them whole communities of activists.
Finally, as Ali says, if the party is to become a serious political force, it must come from a broader movement. That means it must be accountable to a broader movement. That means we need to have these discussions in public fora.
That news release isn’t the only thing that Jenny did on Ian Blair – she actively voted against the motion calling on him to resign.
As I said, I think that Jenny has made some very serious errors around the police – but the one highlighted in this article is largely down to hindsight, is the kind of mistake that happens occasionally in politics, and nowhere near as serious as the other things which have occurred previously.
Using a quote from an article published 34 days ago to outline someone’s position on something which has come out in the last couple of days and then bashing them with it is pretty poor.
Also, if the only evidence that Jenny ‘fronted up’ for Ian Blair is that news release then it’s tenuous to say the least.
Yes, she did make a mistake over the students at Millbank. People make mistakes. I think this kind of shrill attack on Jenny’s character is truly unfair to someone who is clearly dedicated to the Green Party.
Why does the fact that she’s dedicated to the Green Party matter? By all means disagree with what Peter has written, but do so on the basis of the arguments not the affiliation of the target. I don’t defend my party no matter what, or it’s other members. If they make a mistake, and particularly if they make many mistakes in similar areas, I think it’s right that that is pointed out and discussed openly. I think our political discourse would be much improved if people were less partisan and more willing to criticise those ostensibly on their side.
I agree witth Matt.
Using the present tense in the headline “Why does Jenny Jones…” for something that is not her current position is quite wrong, particularly when using a Telegraph article from the beginning of June as evidence.
Clearly the situation has changed and we can be self-critical and say with hindsight that this was the wrong thing to do at the time, but personally I think this article is misleading about her.
Good piece. Has anyone spoken to/emailed Jenny about this?
While many will know that I am the first to criticise Jenny when I think she is wrong, it is worth pointing out that this article isn’t very fair – by virtue of the fact that the piece in the Telegraph it is based on was published over a month ago. It’s not fair to treat it as if it is a reaction to the events of the last few days, unless Jenny owns a time machine.
Indeed, at the time, Jenny’s intervention could be seen as a criticism of the police, rather than a defence of them.
While it’s true the Telegraph piece is from a month ago, I don’t think that changes very much. And while it may be a criticism of the police, it’s a criticism of doing too much, which, if it had been heeded generally, might have meant we never found out about all this. And, as Peter points out, this isn’t the first time she’s taken the side the police probably want whilst trying to look like she’s criticising them.
I think it’s worth comparing it with what Boris has said, who has also been criticised today for being critical of the investigation until it became such a big story that was impossible.
What these people say before it’s on the front of every paper is probably more revealing of their position than what they say after that point.
Here’s the press release defending Ian Blair:
London Assembly Green Party Member
Press Office: 0207 983 4424 Jenny: 07795 616 812
For immediate release
1st November 2007
Met guilty of failure to protect Londoners
Responding to the guilty verdict at the De Menezes Police trial, Jenny Jones, Green Party London Assembly Member commented:
“The Met Police has been found guilty of the serious charge of endangering the lives of Londoners and what I find most worrying is that I’m not convinced that changes have been made to improve operational procedures. What’s to stop the same sequence of failures happening again?”
This trial has highlighted the systematic failings of the Metropolitan Police in the lead up to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. Everyone involved was under intense pressure on the day, but the operational proceedures are meant to take such pressures into account. Ian Blair, as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, needs to assure Londoners that he will study the results of this trial and make real changes to the way the Police work. That means publishing Operation Kratos and highlighting the changes made to procedures.”
“I’m sure that there will be further calls for Ian Blair to resign as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He now has to make the necessary post trial changes which will stop a repeat of the events leading up to the shootting of Jean Charles de Menezes. However, if he doesn’t respond positively to the result of this trial and make those changes, then the calls for his resignation will be much harder to resist.”
And Jenny’s statement on students:
“condemning yesterday’s violent protesters for drawing attention away from the aims of the overwhelming majority of peaceful demonstrators…Opposing the use of violence by protesters and police alike…Although I do not like seeing people breaking into buildings, I like seeing the police hitting peaceful protesters even less. From a police perspective, embarrassed is better than shamed”.”