Peter Hoskin

Johnson caught in the crossfire

Johnson caught in the crossfire
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The shrapnel from the phone-hacking scandal is scorching more flesh by the day. This morning, it's not Andy Coulson nor the Metropolitan who are under question – but Alan Johnson and the Home Office. According to a leaked memo obatined by the Guardian, the department considered launching an independent inquiry into the Met's investigation last year, but abandoned the idea after a Home Office official stressed that Scotland Yard would "deeply resent" any such action. The police, continues the official, would have taken it as a sign that "we do not have full confidence" in them. And so it went no further.

Johnson was, of course, in charge at the Home Office at the time. So this memo places some of his comments this week into a fresh context. When he claims, for example, that "there may now be a case for the Home Secretary to ask HM Inspectatate of Constabulary to investigate,” on what grounds did he not think that was necessary last year? Was it really his "reassuring conversations with senior officers in Scotland Yard," or was it only the prospect of their resentment, that prevented him from pushing his concerns about the case any further? In any case, the idea that Johnson abandoned an inquiry into the Met to avoid upsetting them will make it more difficult for him to attack Theresa May on similar grounds.

Of course, these new allegations against Johnson – if you can call them that – are not as serious as those facing the Met or, indeed, Andy Coulson. But they do suggest that no-one will emerge from all this bathed in a rosy light. This is one of those stories that neither side should really gloat about.