Friday, 23 May 2008

Boris Johnson or Tim Parker: Who runs London?

There was a lot of fuss before the elections about the fact that Boris Johnson wouldn't say who was actually going to be running London if he got in. Well with the appointment of Tim Parker yesterday as Chief Executive of the GLA, head of TFL, First Deputy Mayor and King High Lord of everything, we now finally know.

Multi-millionaire union breaker and asset-stripper Tim Parker has been given the keys to run pretty much everything at City Hall, and unsurprisingly it's causing a bit of a row.

Here's GMB union boss Paul Kenny:
"This is a scary moment for London’s commuters. Tim Parker is one of the multi-millionaire elite private equity buccaneers who asset stripped the AA by cutting jobs and cutting services and raising prices to customers. At AA he targeted and sacked by bullying out of the door the sick and disabled staff. He took £30 million out of AA when he left it last year, having saddled AA/SAGA with £4.8 billions of debt. The good work of the last number of years is under threat."
and Bob Crow:
Tim Parker has a reputation as a private-equity asset-stripper and has been dubbed the Prince of Darkness by unions that have encountered his methods in the past. We are well aware of his track record, and Mr Parker has the opportunity to leave that reputation behind him when he starts work for the Mayor of London. The world’s finest metro system does not need an asset-stripper or a Prince of Darkness, but it does need its modernisation programme put back on track if it is to be ready for the 2012 Olympics.
Believe me when I say that this is just a taster of the shit that is being kicked up over this. Labour Assembly Members are calling it a 'farce' and the Chair of the Assembly is even considering taking legal action. This looks to be building into a monster of a row and here's why:

Boris Johnson was elected on a manifesto of cutting waste. Londoners knew that as they put a tick in his box. However what they didn't know was that this would mean the kind of huge cuts and privatisation programme that Parker is well known for.

What they also didn't know was that London would be run by every Tory millionaire under the sun bar the actual Mayor himself Boris Johnson. And in the few short weeks that he has been in power, Boris has delegated almost every role the Mayor has to a team of unelected officials and consultants. 

Many of these are working for free, supposedly out of the goodness of their hearts and many are retaining other positions which have direct conflicts of interests with their new roles. In this short time, a whole network of power and influence has been built up in London over which the Mayor himself seems to have little control. So to what ends is this.

Of course Team Boris say this is all for the good of Londoners. Boris' new team of mega-rich capitalists have suddenly seen the light and want to spend their twilight years in municipal service of the city that has enriched them. But the simple truth is that we just can't know what their motives are.

Who now runs London?

Because although when you elect a leader, you normally know that many other people will be doing the work, you still believe that the person you elect and their elected deputies will be the people who will be in charge of it all. But after the last few weeks of appointments, it is clear that this is not now the case at City Hall.

Watching Boris fail to answer assembly questions on Wednesday it was clear to me that this man had absolutely no idea what was going on in his own administration. He had some jokes and some prepared responses, but when the meeting went off the script, he just didn't know what to say.

The same thing occurred to me then that has occurred to me almost every time I have seen Boris in action, and that is that Boris is in no way in charge of his own operation. 

So when Londoners elected him it is now clear that they didn't elect a leader but a frontman. However, when they elected him, they didn't know exactly what he would be a frontman for. But with the appointment of Tim Parker as City hall boss, this may finally be becoming clear.


Chris P said...

"Londoners want a Mayor that will bring people together. Not one that will divide them" Keep up like this Boris and you will bring in the summer of discontent.

John B said...

Hmm. In principle, I'm in favour of more or less anything Bob Crow opposes (and at the AA, Tim Parker managed to massively cut costs without damaging customer service - if he could repeat the same trick at TfL that would be excellent).

In practice, I'm concerned that he'll provoke a horrendous round of strikes - and that those will reflect at least as badly on Labour as they do on Johnson and Cameron...

The Tory Troll said...

Bob Crow is no hero of mine, but he represents a lot of people that have a big effect on London. If he can't work with Parker, then there is about zero chance of getting through all the promises Boris has made about no-strike deals and tube improvements etc.

As for the AA, I'm not so sure about the service. Thousands of jobs were cut, and Parker pocketed millions for the privilege. That money comes from what customers like myself pay and doesn't go into the service.

As for the strikes, you're probably right. This isn't going to be good for anyone.

Anonymous said...

No strike-deal?
No deal. Strike!

Back on the buses again.

Neil Harding said...

After 5 attempts to cancel my AA membership I finally succeeded. Luckily my bank refunded me the £90 the AA robbed out of my bank account for breakdown cover ONE YEAR after I had sold my car. When I noticed the charge on my statement, I rang them up (waited the obligatory 25 mins charging me a fortune) to notify them of THEIR error, they informed me that they didn't give refunds for ANY REASON - even though I had a letter confirming my cancellation.

The AA was not like this before this Tory crook took over. If this is the level of service Londoners will face, I feel very sorry for them.

Diablo said...

What's Parker being paid for introducing London to the idea of getting value-for-money for the all the hard-earned money they pay in council and income tax?

Oh, that'll be £1 a year. That'll do nicely!

The Tory Troll said...

I wonder why a millionaire businessman wants to work for £1 a year? Out of the goodness of his heart of course. It couldn't possibly be that he was buying himself a huge amount of power and influence that just might help him and his mates at some point could it?