Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Evening Standard in Congestion Fudge

The Evening Standard today claimed that the congestion charge has brought in only £14 million despite Transport for London figures saying that it has brought in £382 million. However, on closer reading, it appears that the article is based on the calculations of an anonymous banker and a campaigning Tory councillor. 

The article, published on the eve of the election is entitled 'The real cost of Ken's C-Charge.' However, the source of the extraordinary claims seems to be the undisclosed calculations of an undisclosed banker and the accusations of a campaigning Tory councillor and blogger. 

In fact, the Standard's second source of expertise is none other than the Tory London councillor Phil Taylor. Phil Taylor was recently thoroughly fisked by Blairwatch after he claimed (among other things) that an oyster bus fare is £1.50. The real cost of a single oyster fare is, as any oyster card user will know, 90p. 

With that 70% rate of inaccuracy, you can see why the Evening Standard puts so much faith in him.

-Update- For a good laugh read The Evening Standard's
defence of it's election coverage. For a more worrying read, take a look at this interview with Gilligan.

50 reasons to Stop Boris Johnson

I suppose before I start I should take the time to thank Boris Johnson. If he hadn't been so completely useless and dangerously incompetent, then I would never have started this blog. 

I haven't always felt so strongly about politics. Last year I had already started to resign myself to the inevitability of a Cameron premiership. The powers that be had decided it would be so, and so who was I to argue? I didn't like or trust the man and his policies were as weak as his impression of Blair. But for whatever reason, it had been decided that it would be so, and so I was resigned to await the inevitable.

But when that same man tried to let loose Boris Johnson on my home city, then I decided to make a stand.

In fact looking back since I started this blog in February, I see that 50 of the 85 posts I have written have been on the subject of Boris Johnson. In any other forum that would count as an obsession. If I had been sending them as letters to my local newspaper then I would be regarded as a loon. And if I had sent them to the man himself I would have been visited by the police.

But for whatever reason it seems that it is perfectly acceptable to do these things online. During the course of the campaign I have come across some other bloggers who have taken their obsession even more seriously than me and a few others who have even been paid to take us on.

Of course there are some other people who have had an equivalent obsession with Ken Livingstone. The most famous of these is Andrew Gilligan. Gilligan has seemingly devoted his entire life over the last year to Ken Livingstone's destruction. Whether he has been successful or not we will see tomorrow, but for Gilligan himself the obsession has proved a winner.  Last year it even earned him the title of Journalist of the Year, and a Boris win tomorrow would bring him even further success. 

Because we should make no mistake about it, a victory for Boris would be an even bigger victory for Gilligan and the Standard. As newspaper sales decline, and as almost every pundit predicts their demise, a Boris victory would be a huge demonstration of the continuing power of the Tory press. 

And despite what all of the commentators say, a Boris victory would show that there is very little that a huge monopoly combined with over-hyped stories and false headlines can achieve. Quite simply, a victory against Boris would be an even bigger victory against the Daily Mail group and everything that they stand for.

And if that is not a good enough reason alone for you to turn up to vote tomorrow then I have another 49 you should take a look at.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Boris Johnson's new Routemaster is 'Non-starter' say bus experts

Senior bus builders and executives have called Boris Johnson's plan for new Routemasters 'a promise he could not deliver.' Britain's leading bus and train magazine Transit interviewed a series of experts who labelled the policy at best 'not thought through' and at worst 'a non-starter.'

Designing and certifying the buses would be much more expensive than current designs, and the insurance risks of having an open-decked rear could prevent the project from even getting going at all.

Boris Johnson made the new Routemasters the defining policy of the early part of his campaign but much publicised mistakes over costings has led him to concentrate almost solely on crime. 

He now admits that bendy buses could not be replaced until the end of a Boris Mayoralty. However, the complications highlighted by Transit, could mean that Boris may completely fail to replace bendy buses at all.

So voters now face the prospect of voting for a policy that not only has uncertain costs, but that apparently has an uncertain chance of being carried out at all. All of which makes Boris' pledge to 'get London moving' seem a very doubtful promise indeed.

(Thanks to Peezedtee)

From Podiums to Polling Booths: The Final Debate

You may wonder why the award-winning journalist Andrew Gilligan has directed to this obscure two year old blog post. The following links may give you a clue:

As I stepped into the plush foyer of Cadogan Hall last night, I knew that I was dangerously out of place. My ripped jeans and scuffed trainers clashed with those of the Tory boys and ladies of leisure around me. And on every surface of the Sloane Square theatre, Back Boris and Kick Ken leaflets had been recklessly spread around. I decided to get some air.

Outside and the Sloane Rangers were gathering. As they walked into the foyer Back Boris campaign member Jonathan Hoffman was there again. I first came across Jonathan at the infamous No-show Bojo hustings. Even though Boris had failed to turn up, Jonathan led a group of Back Boris campaigners in a chant comparing Ken Livingstone to murderous dictator Robert Mugabe. Back then Jonathan had been full of beans and followed his slurs with angry and persistent interruptions in the debate.

I don't know what's happened since then but last night he seemed to be going through the motions. Gone was the shouting and the Mugabe comparisons and in their place was a series of well remembered but drearily delivered slogans. Maybe even he has got election fatigue.

After taking a leaflet and oyster card holder from Hoffman, I headed back inside and got a seat on the balcony. Sitting behind me was BBC London political editor Tim Donovan, and creeping up behind him was none other than the holiest of holies himself, the right reverend Andrew Gilligan.

Gilligan didn't find much to talk about with anyone and instead slithered off to join Iain Dale at the back of the room. There the panel of pundits sat with their backs to the candidates and delivered a live in-depth analysis of a debate that hadn't actually started.

As the event actually did get underway it soon became clear that Boris Johnson was on home turf. The crowd dutifully laughed at the same four jokes that Boris has delivered for the last four months and sat in stony silence when Ken delivered his pitch.

All hopes that the debate would cover new ground faded away as we got question after question on cronyism and Ken, and racism and Boris. Candidates were allowed just one response to each question and whenever they looked at risk of getting into a genuine and interesting debate, Adam Boulton stepped in to break up the fun.

The event became even more frustrating when the adverts interrupted the debate just after a set of questions had been taken from the audience.

Adam Boulton told the audience that the debate would continue in the meantime but Boris complained that viewers would miss the answers. We were told that the radio coverage was still continuing, but then all of the speakers in the venue were cut. The candidates continued to answer questions as some of the audience continued to ask them. And as the makeup women fluttered around, a gang of photographers descended on the stage. Quite simply, it was the single most chaotic live event I have ever seen.

The rest of the debate descended into a flattery-fest as both Boris and Ken fought to see who could be nicest to Brian whilst Brian tried to be as nasty as possible in return. But once the cameras turned off, the crowds left and Andrew Gilligan was out of view, Boris and Ken were left on the stage and suddenly they looked and sounded like old friends.

And like Ken's embrace of Boris as the two walked off the Question Time stage last week, I saw a moment of truth behind the stage-managed indignation of recent weeks. Because behind all of the personal attacks that the candidates, journalists and bloggers have made over this campaign, it is easy to forget that this is a contest between two well-meaning and likeable characters. And although Boris' has not quite been able to bring himself to look Ken in the eye when they are standing at the podiums, I suspect that they would quite happily share two stools at a bar.

And while it will come as little surprise to readers that I will be voting for Ken Livingstone on Thursday, it will not be on the basis of any inherent nastiness in Boris Johnson or any inherent wonderfulness in Ken. It will be based simply on the policies they have spelled out and their abilities to carry them out.

As Dave Hill points out today, there are many simple and straightforward reasons to give your vote for Ken and to not give your vote to Boris. And for all the fun of these debates and the nastiness of the character attacks in the papers and the blogs, I hope that it will be these simple points that people will consider when they go and place their vote.

Team Boris Johnson: 24 hour Freedom Pass is 'Mad'

Boris Johnson's campaign team issued a press release yesterday condemning the plan for a 24 hour Freedom Pass as 'crazy,' 'mad,' and 'daft'.

The extraordinary statement was drawn from comments by the Chairman of TravelWatch Brian Cooke. The statement was intended to draw attention to Cooke's endorsement of Boris for Mayor, but it is his criticisms of 24 hour Free travel for pensioners that has turned heads. The relevant section of the press release reads:

'Brian (Cooke) was very critical of Ken Livingstone's plans to extend the freedom pass to be available 24 hours per day. He said "As I will be 60 in about nine months time I can’t wait to get my freedom pass but allowing people to use it before 0900 will only make London's very crowded transport system even worse. Many people over 60 still work why should they be subsidised by all other fare payers and at the same time make transport system even more crowded and more uncomfortable for those that will be paying to subsidise the others. I think that plain daft. If current patronage on Tube, Rail and Tram in particular carries on growing at the current rate the planned expansion won’t cope anyway and to subsidise more people at the most crowded time seems totally crazy. 

This was another of Mr Livingstone's proposals that he says he will introduce but has failed to have any consultation with those that matter the most, or their representatives - those who put money in the fare box! I also do not believe any research has been undertaken to get passengers views on this. Currently the boroughs fund the freedom pass through local rates. Have they been consulted on this mad idea - not one jot! In fact frankly I doubt that Mr Livingstone can actually deliver this as it will require agreement from the privatised train companies which in my view is unlikely to be forthcoming - why would they want their trains to have even more sardines in the can.'

This statement will now place further doubts on Boris Johnson's commitment to the Freedom Pass. Although Boris has consistently said that he would retain the Freedom Pass as it is, on Ken's planned extension of the pass, Boris has only said that he would 'work with the boroughs' to achieve it. With many Tory boroughs deeply hostile to any extension and with the Tory head of London Councils calling it a 'stealth tax', this statement will only further add to voters' doubts.

The statement will also be a major embarrasment to Boris' PR company. Last week it was revealed that Kate Perrior of iNHouse PR is being paid on a strict commision basis, with each Boris gaffe reducing her pay. While Boris has already done his best to eat into her salary, the release of this off-message statement from her own office will take a more unexpected chunk out of her cheque. 

-Update- Team Boris have now removed the press release from their site, but Team Ken have saved a copy.

Boris Johnson in Dog Attack

First there was the snot, then there was the yolk, and now there is the wee, as Boris Johnson becomes the latest Top Tory to fall foul of a liquid assault. 

It's all part of God's punishment I tell you... 

Monday, 28 April 2008

Boris Johnson: Missing Idiot

The Liberal Democrats have come out with this not particularly funny video on Boris Johnson. It is a surprisingly amateurish job, especially when you compare it to many of the unofficial efforts of Boris Stoppers.

However, it does show that British political parties are finally waking up to what many outside of those parties have realised for some time, which is the huge potential of websites like Youtube. Unlike terrestrial television, there are no requirements for impartiality and the videos, if good enough, can reach an unlimited amount of people. 

So if political parties really get to grips with this format, then they could be on to a winner. But in order to do so they will have to take the whole business a lot more seriously than the Lib Dems have with this.

Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and the Tory Troll on the Sky News debate

I've peeled myself off the chalet floor, put on some clean clothes and now I'm off to join the audience of the Sky News debate in London.

This will be the last chance for Londoners to see Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick tearing chunks out of each other and I'm going to be there to mop up the blood.

The three candidates have been slugging it out for weeks now, but none of the candidates have delivered a killer blow. This is their last chance to do so and I'm hoping for something good. 

Recent debates have not been particularly revealing and as last week's Question Time clearly demonstrated, the questions fired at the three candidates have become depressingly repetitive. 

I think that we can all now quite happily get to the end of this race without having to hear yet another question about al-Quardawi or the BNP. And if Boris Johnson murders that joke about the European space agency one more time tonight then there will be one very unhappy troll in the audience.

There have also been lots of areas that we haven't heard much about at these events. Housing in particular has been skimmed over and I'm hoping that there will be much more on that tonight. Boris Johnson has pledged to scrap Ken's affordable affordable housing target and last week hinted that he would sell off even more of London's council housing. These are huge issues in a city as expensive as London and it's about time Boris was put under some pressure on this. 

If you've got Freeview then you can watch it live from 7.30. Sky have assembled a panel of pundits and there will be in depth coverage after the debate until 10. It's good to see that Sky are taking the event so seriously and that they have scheduled it for a prime time slot. If only the BBC had taken their own debate as seriously then we wouldn't have had such a dud of a Question Time as we had last week.

So make sure you tune in tonight and keep your eye out for a tall, handsome and angry blogger in the crowd. I will be back with my report on proceedings tomorrow.

Friday, 25 April 2008

The Tory Troll in 'Rave Armageddon"

The Tory Troll will be unavailable for postings this weekend as he is raving it up at Pontins. Spare a thought for him though, as he follows long nights of 'rave armageddon' with dodgy breakfasts in a drafty chalet.

So if you've come here looking for the latest on the Mayoral race then you should probably head over to the two best sources of information, which are as ever:

The Tory Troll will get back down to business and Boris-bashing on Monday. In the meantime email stories, tipp-offs, enquiries and requests here.

Boris Johnson: Even I'm scared of my minders

There's a fascinating article on Boris Johnson's campaign in The Guardian today. Nicholas Watt and Sam Jones run through Boris' progression from failed clown to heavily minded but potentially successful clown. 

The article neatly summarises much of what we already know but there are also some new and interesting insights. These are that:

Boris Johnson was effectively chosen as the Tory candidate by The Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley.

Boris' minders are being paid on a commission basis. The fewer the gaffes, the higher the pay.

Boris admits that even he is intimidated by his minders.

Lynton Crosby is paying a PR company to 'round on journalists who fail to portray Johnson in a flattering light.' Hmm does that sound familiar to you?

Overall, the impression is of a slightly confused man being forced to say and do things that are completely out of his character. The combined forces of Lynton Crosby's marshalling and David Cameron's political correctness have turned an outspoken, controversial but entertaining and likable man into a shadow of his former self. 

Watching people laugh at, rather than with Boris is a sad sight and watching him completely deny and efface his own views has made many think worse of a man who they once enjoyed to watch and listen to.

But these are side issues. Boris' future is far less important than the future of London. And what London needs is a leader, not a man who is constantly led.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Boris Johnson: Everyone in Islington is burgled

Boris Johnson was slammed by a crime expert today after he told an audience that 'everyone' in Islington has been burgled.

Boris made the extraordinary claim that every Islington residence has been broken into, at the launch of his crime mapping initiative. According to The Telegraph, Boris was angrily corrected by Crime expert and head of the Jill Dando Institute, Professor Gloria Leylock:

"That's not true," the outraged Professor told him. "Not everyone in Islington has been burgled."

Of course if Boris' claims had been true there would have been no need for him to introduce crime mapping at all. Homeowners wouldn't need to bother searching a computer to see if they were likely to be burgled. They could just sit and wait for the inevitable.

In fact Boris Johnson has a record of making these extraordinary claims. At almost every debate and on almost every video that he has made so far, he makes the claim that there are classrooms in London where every child has been mugged. He has never put forward any evidence.

Similarly there is also a Webcameron video that states that Hackney is statistically more dangerous than Soweto. This claim has since been proved to be completely untrue, but the Tories have so far failed to take down the video.

Boris' boss David Cameron has also made questionable claims. After he spent time as a classroom assistant last year, he told a story about a drunk and violent pupil in one of his speeches. However, the facts of the story were later vigorously denied by the school.

So when Boris and the Tories make these claims do they know or care that they are false. Or like their election guru Lynton Crosby, do they have some other thoughts on their mind?

David Cameron: Lord Snotty on this week's HIGNFY

A 'Christian Choice' is your own, Alan Craig.

With all eyes on the three stooges it is easy to ignore some of the more sinister Mayoral candidates on the ballot. One of these shady figures is Alan Craig of The Christian Choice.

Now first of all you're probably thinking: what can he possibly have against Christians? They're all jolly nice neighbour-loving granny-hugging people aren't they? What possible harm could their choice, their Christian choice, do to our city?

To find out I took a look at their party political broadcast. It all starts off very nicely. Christians of different colours throw a bouncy ball around a green and smily London. As we look on Alan Craig says:

"London is a great city, a global city, but it also needs hope. And that is why I am running for Mayor and the Assembly as The Christian Choice. I have a powerful sense of commitment to God through my faith. It's the love of Christ that motivates much of the good going on in this city."

So far, so 'Heaven & Earth' on Sunday mornings. But suddenly the mood changes. Craig starts talking about 'fear' and 'mistrust' in the 'rat-race' of London. You suddenly become aware that the airy guitar soundtrack is stuck in an oppressive loop and that the bouncy ball is now traveling of it's own accord. We're no longer in friendly hopeful London but in the scary village in sixties television thriller 'The Prisoner.' And over our shoulders  Rover is coming down the street.

Craig then tells us that our problems are caused by the "aggressive secularisation" of London, brought about by the shady "secular elite." They are breaking up our families and drugging up our children. What do they know about what is moral and is right? 

It's time to forget those 'me-driven market economics' chaps and come together in a circle to choose the Christian Choice. And if you're still unsure about who the right candidate for London Mayor is, then open up your Holy Book:

"Just look at what the Bible says. Whenever I read it I'm always amazed at how concrete it's advice is. It tells us exactly what we need to know to do the right things in our daily lives."

And this is where my problem with Craig and The Christian Choice is. There is nothing inherently wrong in his agenda. It is a pro-family, anti-abortion Conservative agenda the like of which the Ann Widdecombes of this world would happily sign up to. 

But by labelling themselves 'The Christian Choice' and by using the Bible as an arbiter of political opinion, they are trying to manipulate people's religious and moral consciences for the purpose of political power. On their website they go even further and explicitly tie Craig's candidacy to the will of God. they say that:

"A vote for Alan Craig of The Christian Choice can put the name of Christ officially onto the Greater London Authority."

It is precisely this kind of manipulation that has made religion and politics such a toxic brew in the United States. Power is gained through religious allegiance and politicians then use that allegiance to push through hardline Conservative agendas in the name of the God almighty. 

And in Craig's case, that agenda is the full scale clash of civilisations. Central to Craig's manifesto is the fight against the 'Mega Mosque' in East London. An aim he shares fully with the National Front and the BNP and an aim which is made no more palatable by hearing it from our 'good neighbours' the Christian Choice.

So if you are a practicing Christian going to vote next week, I hope that you make your own choice as to who should be London Mayor. 

Because a Christian's political choice is their own and neither Alan Craig, nor Jesus Christ himself, should tell you how you should make it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The Tory Troll on Liberal Conspiracy

You can now read one of my articles on the race to be Mayor at the excellent Liberal Conspiracy website. Head over there to continue the debate about Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and the Tory press. 

Liberal Conspiracy also has some other excellent articles on the Mayoral race from The Guardian's Dave Hill, Liberal Conspiracy's own Sunny Hundal, regular contributor David T, and Michael Calderbank.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Boris Johnson: "Can I say that on telly?"

Half funny, half terrifying vision of a future under Boris Johnson.

The Sun comes out for Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson brushed clouds of doubt aside today as The Sun newspaper endorsed him for Mayor. In a double page spread, Britains highest-selling paper told their readers to kick out 'Caracas' Ken and vote in 'Mayor Race Favourite' Boris

The London edition of the paper also devoted their entire 'Sun Says' column to the race, urging their readers to pick 'a new and fresh Champion for London.' And just in case their readers still didn't know how to vote the paper included a handy 'how you can vote' section.

Of course The Sun's endorsement of Boris Johnson should come as little surprise. Boris is in many ways the ideal Sun candidate. Here is a public school toff posing as a friend of the working class. A man who speaks almost entirely in mockney puns without actually saying anything even mildly offensive to Murdoch and his chums.

Quite simply he is a win-win candidate for the paper. If he fails as Mayor then he provides acres of stories and if he succeeds as mayor then nothing is lost. Even if he does fail, a Mayor Boris can blame all of his failures on a hostile Labour government. This in turn would be a plus for Murdoch, as he would have yet another stick with which to whip Brown.

In fact there are increasing signs that this will be the Tory tactic if Johnson becomes Mayor. In recent weeks Boris has proposed a range of policies that the Conservatives know he has no chance of getting through. These policies include local control of the smoking ban, building an airport in the Thames Estuary, and a new pledge to retain criminal assets.

When the government says no to these policies, the Tories and their pals in the media will turn, not on Boris for making hollow promises, but on the Labour government for holding Boris back. "Here is an example" they will say, "of why we need to boot Labour out."

So as the Tory press come out for Boris, you have to ask yourself what their real reasons are. Boris' mates in the media, like his mates on the front bench, know full well how unreliable Boris can be. Boris has made great play of having run The Spectator but even Boris' pals know how little he actually did. Because they all know that he is not capable of running the capital, but at the same time they don't really care.

Last summer I was working in a national newspaper office as the Glasgow airport attacks were taking place. There was a rush of excitement as pictures of the burning car were beamed onto their screens. "Has anyone been hurt?" somebody shouted. "Has anyone been killed?" The look of disappointment when he heard that nobody had, has stayed with me ever since

Because what you have to remember with some parts of the the press is that they want the worst to happen. A recent advert for BBC News has Robert Peston gloating about being the first to report the collapse of Northern Rock. "There was no doubt" he says with a smile, "that this was a BBC story."

However, as one person writing in to the channel pointed out, there was also no doubt that this was a story about lots of people losing lots of money. "What is there to boast about," the viewer asked, "in hearing bad news a few hours before everyone else?"

So when the Tory press come out for Boris, are they really just getting the bad news in early? This is the way the country is going they say. You won't be voting Labour in the future so let's get going now. Labour is last years news and we have a 'new and fresh Champion' for you. Of course they know that Boris won't make things better, but at the same time they've got headlines to fill.

So when they tell their readers what's best for them, are they actually thinking about what's best for themselves? And with both main parties so close in policies, is it these other factors that will come to the fore?

Because when the next general election comes around, a change of government will mean a change of news. And when the press consider who to endorse will they be asking "what's best for Britian?" or simply "what's the worst that can happen?"

-UPDATE- This post now also appears as an article on the excellent Liberal Conspiracy website.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Newsnight London Mayor Debate: Rainbow Version

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Evening Standard bosses 'uneasy' about their campaign against Ken Livingstone

Top Executives at Associated Press are worried that the Evening Standard has gone too far in its attempts to oust Ken Livingstone.

The recent front page headline that falsely accused Ken's campaign of being run by suicide bomb backers, was received with a mixture of horror and ridicule by the rest of the media. However, it now seems that top executives at The Mail group feel they have got carried away with their attempts to elect Boris Johnson.

Writing in the Independent, Margareta Pagano reveals that: 

"I hear there is unease in Associated's highest circles about the vehemence of the Ken-baiting (beyond the excellence of Andrew Gilligan's reporting). Perhaps that explains last Monday's front page, which reported that Johnson's poll lead had been halved, and Wednesday's story on the cost of Boris's Routemaster (right) plans."

In fact the day after the Standard put out the libelous front page headline: "Suicide Bomb Backer runs Ken's Campaign," they suddenly ran with three uncharacteristically critical stories on Boris Johnson. Pagano's revelation therefore fits in with the impression that even The Evening Standard themselves realise that they have gone too far.

There have been further signs of unease. Since I posted about their false headline on Wednesday my webstats have shown a surge of interest from the offices of the Daily Mail and Evening Standard group. It was also particularly gratifying to receive a click from the internal email account of Andrew Gilligan himself. 

Coincidentally there has also been a surge in anonymous trolling comments, most of which I have sent to the trash. However, if anyone from the Standard does want to come out of the shadows and justify their campaign, then I will be more than happy to put them on the record.

Official 'Stop Boris' Johnson Campaign Video

There have been a rash of anti- Boris Johnson videos in recent days. Now Stop Boris have got themselves a piece of the action with this brilliant campaign video.

The Tory Troll is very impressed (he didn't know Stop Boris could sing so well ;) and has given it a solid 5 Stars. If you want to Stop Boris then you should head over to Youtube and do the same.

The video can be downloaded and shared here

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Boris Johnson stonewalls audience at gay hustings

The 'Back Boris' brigade were notable by their absence as we approached the doors of the Stonewall hustings. Only Ken and Left List campaigners were handing out leaflets and there was not a single blue ribbon or fuzzy green tree in sight. The thought occurred to me that Boris had conceded the fight.

Of course these gay and lesbian hustings were never going to be easy for Boris Johnson. His much quoted 'three men and a dog' comment was always going to make winning support here a struggle.

But, given that struggle, I had expected Team Boris to come out fighting. I had expected crowds of 'Back Boris' campaigners to be handing out dossiers on al-Qaradawi, and a freshly briefed Boris to be firing out statistics. But as he waded into his speech, it soon became clear that he had very little to offer at all.

Boris' old joke about Ken, routemasters and dehumanised morons was wheeled out for the umpteemph time but this time the delivery was alarmingly quick. The chairman had given him 5 minutes but at this rate I thought he could finish in two. "Does he always talk this fast?" my girlfriend whispered into my ear. To be honest I wasn't sure, but he certainly didn't seem himself.

He started warbling on about bendy buses again, before suddenly becoming aware that he should at least try to mention gay people. Keen to meet the demand he came up with a new gag: "I do not see gay buses or lesbian buses," he said with a smile. Which was certainly the case the last time I checked.

Cheered on by this truism he gave up any further attempts to out-gay the gays and steered himself back to the well worn routes of stealing bus passes and breaking unions.

But when Ken stood up, the mood changed. Members of the crowd booed Boris as Livingstone read excerpts from his columns, and shhhed him as he tried to interrupt Ken's speech. Detatched from his custom adulation, the TV celebrity slumped into his chair and fiddled with his phone.

For the rest of the event, Boris seemed dangerously lost at sea. Questions on gay equality slapped him unexpectedly in the face and there were repeated instances of 'Boris does not compute' as he scrambled for something semi-relevant to say.

Overall though, the event was no great disaster for Boris. A bit of charm and a couple of gags got him through the hour and a half, but what was so surprising was that he was quite so ill prepared.

Of course nobody expects him to be an expert on gay affairs, and many in the crowd were already lost to him as votes. But given the accusations that he doesn't have the breadth of knowledge to be mayor, you would have expected him to be at least superficially briefed.

But like Boris' outer borough strategy, this event showed that when the going gets tough, Boris just can't be bothered to get going at all. And if you're not already aboard Boris' bus, then Boris will just drive by.

And for those of us who share more than the handful of concerns Boris has wheeled out so far, these hustings performances have been very worrying indeed.

Dave Hill has posted video, audio and pictures from the hustings over at Mayor and More.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Boris Johnson - Cracks in his reputation

Video replaced on request...

Andrew Gilligan takes his eye off Boris Johnson's balls-up

There have been so many Boris Johnson Tipp-Ex moments recently that even Andrew Gilligan seems to have lost sight of them. Writing in his daily editorial/hate-mail to Ken Livingstone, Gilligan once again poured scorn on the foreign business embassies that City Hall have set up across the globe.

He wrote: "Among the things Ken takes too seriously (and Mr Miliband should sympathise here) is foreign policy, not really the job of a glorified local council. London does not need overseas embassies in such key world capitals as Havana and Caracas."

Which is all very well, except for the small fact that Gilligan's mate Boris Johnson now supports these embassies.

Of course you can hardly blame Gilligan for not realising. His mate Boris has been ridiculing the embassies for months. At the recent Tory conference he mocked them as 'vainglorious' adventures and pledged to scrap them. 

Quite what his objection to them was he never made clear, but it certainly wasn't based on conversations with the business community. In fact it was finally talking to that community which forced him to realise what a blunder he had made. 

At the recent business hustings, city representatives laid in to Boris for his opposition, informing him that the embassies had in fact brought in millions of pounds worth of investment into the capital. After this bruising encounter Boris' team had to make yet another turnaround. Boris' opposition was dropped and support for the centres was quietly slipped onto page 13 of Boris' business manifesto. 

The covert nature of this maneuver probably explains why investigative journalist of the year Andrew Gilligan failed to notice the turnaround. For a man whose career is based on not taking proper notes and on opening forwarded emails, the complex act of reading a manifesto was probably a bit beyond him.

But then maybe he had some other thoughts on his mind...

Thursday, 17 April 2008

David Cameron 'smeared' by snotty youth

I have been thinking for a while that David Cameron must be feeling a bit left out of late.

Boris and Brown have been blocking up the airwaves and clotting up the daily rags.

Which makes it all the more gratifying that it should be this story that is spreading him across the papers again. 

Whoever said kids don't understand politics?

-UPDATE- Now a kid has
thrown an egg at William Hague. I DO hope this is turning into a trend ;)
Have you been involved in a senior tory/mucus-related incident? If so The Tory Troll wants to hear about it

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Evening Standard Accuse Ken Livingstone of Suicide Pact

The Evening Standard's crusade against Ken Livingstone descended into farce today after it ran a front page claiming that Ken's campaign is run by suicide bombers.

The headline running across the majority of the the front page and on banners across the city, read:

Suicide Bomb Backer Runs Ken's Campaign

Which sounded bloody scary. Unless of course you actually happened to read the article, whereupon you realised the headline should have read:

Suicide Bomb Backer NOT running Ken's Campaign

It's an easy mistake to make of course. My own headline for this post almost ran as 
"Evening Standard Run by Nazi Zombies," until I realised that the Evening Standard ISN'T run by Nazi Zombies. 

You see it's a frustrating game this journalism business. On the one hand your readers expect hard-hitting reports on current events, and on the other hand, it would be quite nice to report that The Evening Standard is run by Nazi Zombies. You see if only I could get past that old bugger: 'The Truth', then this blog could be just as successful as the Evening Standard. 

Until that time though I will just have to settle for the facts. Unfortunately for the blog and for you, that means that I have to report that Ken Livingstone's campaign is NOT being run by suicide bombers and The Evening Standard is NOT being run by Nazis brought back from the grave. 

If only I was better at telling lies...

Boris Johnson can never be accused of leadership

Hopi Sen has posted this pro-Ken, anti-Boris video on his blog. I think that he is right in saying that it would have been rejected by any political campaign. If Ken had come out with this he would have been rightly accused of using personal tragedy as a political tool. 

However, Hopi also says that he would have preferred for it to be chopped in two, but for me, this would have wrecked what is a powerful message. The video may be a bit mawkish for my taste but it tells a story that needs to be told. 

And the story is this. As even Nick Ferrari admitted on the LBC debate, Ken showed great strength of leadership after the London bombings and leadership is definitely: "not something that (Boris) has ever been accused of."

Because sometimes there are things that need to be said. And for whatever reason, there are times when politicians themselves cannot say them. And with only two weeks left before the election, I think that this is definitely one of those times.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Why we only have two days to stop Boris Johnson

Today's Yougov poll shows a halving of Boris Johnson's lead. The dramatic shift in voting intentions comes after a week of poor performances and makes the next few days crucial in holding Boris back.

However, despite this change, a real danger lies in voters not bothering to register at all. With only two days to go, much of the press coverage is encouraging people not to care. The 'they're all as bad as each other' sentiment is spreading dangerously fast. 

Unfortunately for London, this is far more likely to benefit Boris and the BNP. In fact despite all of Boris' statements that voters should register to keep out the far right, his campaign team know full well that a low turnout will work in their favour.

In order to achieve this, they have concentrated on attacking Ken, and on keeping Boris on a tight leash. The hope is that Ken's supporters will be persuaded not to vote, while their own core voters will stick with them by default. As Ealing Conservative councillor Phil Taylor wrote of his campaigning in Northfield:

"We swapped banter with the station staff trying to sort them out. One was for Boris the other wasn't - but then he wasn't for Livingstone either. That's how you win modern elections. You persuade your opponent's voters to stay at home. Too many of Livingstone's will I am sure."

Because if the Conservatives can sufficiently demoralize their opponents voters then Boris will sneak into City Hall. As recent polls show, it may only be by a small margin, but a small margin will be enough. And while the Yougov poll shows that some of Livingstone's supporters are returning to the fold and that some Conservative supporters are losing faith in Boris, it will all be too late if enough do not register to vote.

So if you or your friends and family haven't registered yet, you need to do so now. You cannot register after this Wednesday, so you need to stop putting it off and do so today.

Register to Vote at London Elects

-Registration ends on Wednesday-

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Boris Johnson gives green light to road deaths

He claims to want a greener and safer London, but a Boris Johnson mayoralty would lead to hundreds more pedestrian casualties every year.

Figures from Transport for London show that Ken Livingstone's rephasing of traffic lights has in fact led to a reduction of casualties by almost a third.

Similarly they suggest that extending 20 mph zones would cut deaths and serious accidents by a further 40 per cent

Yet despite these figures, Boris Johnson would make it harder for pedestrians to safely cross the road and will oppose any increase in 20 mph zones. 

Speaking after Boris announced his opposition to reduced speed limits, the Mayor said: 

"By making road safety measures such as more pedestrian crossings and longer green man phases a much higher priority over 500 fewer children are killed or seriously injured on London's roads each year than when I was first elected in 2000. But we have to continue to move forwards to reduce road deaths. The fundamental cause of road deaths is the speed of traffic."

In fact new figures from the United Nations show that road accidents now kill as many people worldwide as Aids. These deaths are indiscriminate, but disproportionately affect the poorest and the youngest members of society. 

Yet despite this rise in road accidents worldwide, Ken Livingstone has presided over a significant reduction in deaths and serious injuries on London streets. A Boris Johnson administration would bring that trend to a dramatic halt.

For his own part Boris Johnson has constantly piped out the statistic that 27 teenagers died as a result of stabbings and shootings last year. And he now poses as the man who would make our children safe. Yet when he was confronted with figures showing he would actually increase the number of child deaths, he brazenly accused the mayor of playing politics with peoples lives. 

But it is now becoming clear that it is Boris' anti-pedestrian, pro-car politics that is the real danger at these elections.

Because despite all of his claims to want a safer London, Boris Johnson's policies would increase the greatest cause of deaths on London's streets. And just as he sees stealing kids bus passes as a bigger priority than setting up youth projects, so too does he prefer to please motorists than to save lives. 

So no matter how well he hides his smirk in this campaign, there will be very little to smile about if he wins in May.