Monday, 30 June 2008

Team Boris take the Rise Festival for another spin

Two weeks after it was revealed that the anti-racist message would be removed from the Rise Festival and that Boris Johnson did not even know about it, City Hall now insist that the event 'is still an anti-racist event' after all.

There will be no anti-racist message in the promotional material of course and most people attending the event will be completely unaware of the change. But as far as Boris and his team are concerned, they will now be 'doing anti-racism for real.'

In a written statement Boris is quoted as saying:

'Rise is still an anti-racist event. But I see Rise as a celebration of what unites the diverse communities of London, not a negative event highlighting differences and focusing on grievances.'

Yes, there will be no highlighting of grievances this year. If you're a racist or a xenophobe then you can attend Rise without fear. Because this year, everyone is welcome. This year, the theme is 'bringing people together.' 

The fact that all unions have pulled their sponsorship from the event, and that anti-fascist groups have condemned the move, is neither here nor there. Because as long as you're not a left-wing campaigner or a union activist, then this year's Rise is the place for you.

The BNP's Richard Barnbrook for one, has said he will be attending, and Boris Johnson will presumably turn up when he's told to. And with Munira Mirza on hand to calculate the percentage of white people, it should all be a rather jolly event...

Join Boris and Munira in celebrating their diversity, without highlighting their differences, at the freshly re-spun Rise festival on 13 July. Go along. Come together. Be diverse.

Boris Johnson prepares his outfit for Pride 2008

Images by Beau Bo D'or

Boris Johnson's deputy slammed for £7000 junket

The man charged with extracting 'maximum value' from City Hall's relationship with local boroughs was slammed this week after charging taxpayers £7000 to pay for his leadership course in America.

Boris Johnson's Deputy Mayor Government Relations Ian Clement was allowed to attend the course free of charge, but decided to put all the costs of his flights and hotel expenses onto the public purse.

Clement recently stood down as the head of Bexley Council in order to work for the Mayor. Labour candidate Ursula Ayliffe, who is standing in Clement's now vacant ward told the Bexley Times:

"Ian Clement argued that his cuts to Meals on Wheels, community safety budgets and the enormous increases in car parking charges were made to deliver value for money to residents. However at the same time, he spent thousands of pounds on trips to America.

"Now as a result of his decision to leave Bexley to take a post with Boris Johnson at £124,000 per annum, Bexley residents will also have to pay for the cost of this by-election."

Ian Clement's reputation at Bexley was largely built on his ability to prevent big council tax rises.

However, in order to achieve this, fees and charges were raised across the board and some of the most vulnerable people in the borough had their services severely cut.

So while for Clement's employment prospects, the £7000 junket to America may have proved good value, for the people of Bexley this will have been one added expense they could have easily have done without.

Thanks to Mr S.B and Doug for the extra research.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Boris Johnson's Axing of Half-Price Fares Mapped

Boris Johnson's advisor exempted from ethics code

Boris Johnson's senior planning advisor, is not obliged to declare any gifts, or private interests that conflict with his role, it was revealed today.

In response to a written question from Darren Johnson, Boris admitted that the head of the Local Government Association and former head of Westminster Council, Sir Simon Milton will not be bound by the code of ethics that apply to all other City Hall staff.

London Assembly and Green Party Member Darren Johnson said:
"It is without precedence for anyone working for the Mayor, especially in such a senior position, to be beyond all rules governing how they go about their work. 
"To follow Sir Simon Milton's advice on some of the most valuable real estate in the world, without any formal checks on what may have influenced his view, shows a worrying disregard for the principles of good governance by London's Mayor."

Sir Simon was initially intended to be a 'Director' of planning at City Hall, but after it was revealed that his roles at the LGA and Westminster legally precluded him from the job, his title was changed to 'Advisor' and he lost any salary that he had expected to receive.

However, despite this maneuvering, Milton is still thought to retain an identical role, but without having to follow the code of ethics established to prevent corruption.

Pillow Talk

In a sign of the problems he may face, Milton hit controversy last month when his partner, the head of planning at Westminster Council, joked about having 'pillow talk' and a 'word in the ear' with Milton on planning issues in the borough. 

It was pointed out that this was far from funny considering that most major development plans arise in the Westminster borough. 

There have also been concerns raised over the serious conflicts of interest with Milton's role as the head of the Local Government Association. 

The LGA is the chief lobbying group of local authorities in the country. As part of this role, Milton will have hundreds of interactions and relations with politicians and business people. But because of the maneuvering by Boris and his team, Milton will not have to declare any of these before giving the Mayor advice.

Bedding Down

When Boris came to power he did so with the promise of 'cleaning up cronyism' and rooting out 'corruption' at City Hall. 

But as the weeks go by it is becoming increasingly clear that many of the procedures and rules established precisely to prevent that type of corruption, have been sneaked around and eluded by Boris and his team.

In his latest rant, Andrew Gilligan warns the capital about the dark 'anti-Boris forces' following his pal's every move. 

But unlike Gilligan, the journalists and bloggers following Boris now, are doing to this administration what Gilligan and his pals failed to do to the last administration, until it was too late.

Because it is precisely at this point when Boris and is new administration is bedding itself down, that we should all be watching closest who they are climbing into bed with. 

Friday, 27 June 2008

Boris Johnson's advisor says privatise our schools

Boris Johnson's senior planning advisor and head of the Local Government Association has called for the full-scale privatisation of Britain's schools.

The former cohort of Shirley Porter, now hugely influential Tory, said that state schools should be sold to private companies, who would then run them for profit. Speaking to the Times he said that:

“I have no difficulty with that idea. My view, and the LGA’s view, is that councils are not meant to run schools any more.”

Of course private and voluntary organisations already run state schools under the academies programme. But while currently all income from hiring out their services goes back into the schools, under Milton's plans companies would cream off all profits into their coffers.
Teacher's trade union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said yesterday:

"Sir Simon’s comments suggested that the sector would face massive upheaval under a Tory government. State education is about social justice and protecting the weak, vulnerable and disadvantaged. If you make all that subject to profits, you will be throwing the public service ethos out of the window."

There is concern that schools would lose all of the 'added value' that the public sector currently offers. As public servants, teachers work very long hours and at weekends for no extra pay. If those same schools were run for profit, then there would be no motivation to work beyond their pay. 

In fact, use of all school facilities outside of school hours would be rigorously judged on a for profit basis, meaning the needs of the children would inevitably lose out to the needs of the shareholders. 

Of course, we do not yet know exactly what a Tory government would do and Shadow education spokesman Michael Gove has so far denied having plans to run schools for profit. 

But if these astonishing comments from the Tories most senior spokesman for local authorities, manage to slip out without a protest, then surely a resurgent Tory party will believe that anything is possible.

-UPDATE- Surprise, surprise readers. The goons over at ConHome just LOVE the idea. Sell them, sell them!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

What kind of value will Boris and the Tories give?

"I deprecate the idea," Boris Johnson told journalists at this month's press conference, of "London being some kind of test bed, laboratory, petri dish for Conservatism." 

But with all eyes on London in the run up to the general election, the result of this particular experiment will inevitably be held up for examination. 

And with no real direction being given to his mish-mash of cuts, bans and shuffling of titles, I'm beginning to doubt whether there is any real ideological drive behind the new Conservatism at all.

There have been signs of course. The removal of the anti-racist message from the Rise festival spoke clearly of the Nu-Con politics of Policy Exchange, and the scrapping of half-price fares for people on income support, spoke clearly of a return to the days of Thatcher. 

But simply reversing the decisions of others is not in itself a positive direction, just as poring over the days of the last Mayor does not tell us much about the days of the new one. 

The value of words

Of course with such little palpable delivery so far, we can only examine the words. And for Boris the most buzzing of all buzzwords is 'value'. Hardly a single phrase drops from his lips without a reference to 'tax-payer value', 'value for money' or 'bang for your buck.'

But as with the value for money sausages you pick up from your local supermarket it is always advisable to read the small print on the back of the packet. And before you start counting how many extra bangers you are getting for your buck, it is wise to consider how much is pork and how much is simply porkies.

On the Rise festival for instance, little 'value' has been added now that all of the sponsoring unions have pulled out of the event. Nor will much value be added now that the artists have no political motivation to perform at reduced fees. In response to a question by Mike Tuffrey Boris wrote at the weekend:

The expanded production element for Rise, and associated expanded budget, is determined by the sponsorship commitment to the event, and therefore supplementary funding is not required. However, in the eventuality of committed sponsorship not being honoured/received, budgets across the department would need to be reviewed to ensure there were no wider implications to GLA resources. 

But since that was written, several more unions have pulled their sponsorship from the event. So does this mean that budgets elsewhere will now face cuts to make up the difference? Or does the value here come from the extra dash of Policy Exchange now liberally sprinkled on the event?

For Team Boris, there was apparently little value in holding an anti-racist festival. But rather than scrap it and add value there, all political purpose was removed, and London is left with a more expensive and ultimately politically pointless event.

Because ultimately the value of any policy is felt differently for different people. Half-price fares for people on income support were scrapped because they were, we were told, inefficient. 

But for those people struggling to spend twice as much on their journeys, it will not seem like they are getting much value for their money at all.

So if value is really going to be the theme of this Mayoralty and by extension the next Tory government, then they will need to make it clear exactly what their kind of value means. 

And whatever packaging they finally decide to wrap it up in, just be certain that you read the small print before you buy.

Tory Troll at the Liberal Conspiracy/CIF Conference

Blogging will take a little longer today as I'm nursing a monster hangover from last night's Liberal Conspiracy/Comment is Free hosted conference/rantaphon/piss-up.

Notable attendees included Mr Stop Boris and the Boris Watchers, the boys from Scribo Ergo Sum, Sadie Smith, Dave Cole, Alex Hilton, Sunny Hundal and of course your humble narrator.

Much will be written I'm sure, about what the event heralded for the future of the liberal-left and the continuing patriarchal dominance of the blogosphere, but personally I just thought it was a great chance to chat politics with like-minded bloggers.

So a big big thanks should go out to Sunny for running the show, and to Georgina Henry and the Guardian for putting on such a tasty and thirst-quenching spread. 

Much more vital and serious discussion will take place about it all over there I'm sure, but for now the Troll must seek out some non-alcoholic fluids and/or pork-based snacks. Back soon.
Thanks to Sunny for the pictures.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Prince of Darkness opens his heart at City Hall

There were no avenging angels waiting at the doors and no dark clouds gathered ahead, but as the business world's own 'Prince of Darkness' settled into his chair, it was clear that the Gods would not let him pass without a struggle.

"There's a big distance between you and me isn't there?" he said warily eyeing his court. "But maybe we should be keeping a distance I don't know."

The assembly were officially here to confirm ex-private equity chief, union breaker, and notorious asset-stripper Tim Parker into the position of Chairman of Transport for London. But what they had really come for, was to get in close quarters with the man who could soon be sinking his teeth into the desks of City Hall.

"The impression that I get" said Labour Member Len Duvall, as an opening sally, "is that you are probably more New Labour than the last Mayor."

"I'm not sure what being New Labour is" replied the Prince with measurable disdain, before saying:

"The difference between me and people further to the left is that I am interested wholly in delivering for the customers. When the interests of the producers take priority over those of the customers then you get waste and the inability to deliver."

The language of the boardroom hung heavy at the scene of so many political battles. 

"You're answers are a bit technocratic" said Labour Member John Biggs. "What I would like to know is how the Mayor offered you the job. Did he ask you if you wanted to come and play with his train set."

No lightning came down to strike him and no dogs were let loose in the chamber. But in their own way the politicians and the technocrat had begun their battle.

"I wouldn't want you to come to grief of course" said Biggs "as a fellow quasi-Londoner."

From the Labour group's own attack dog, this seemed more of a threat than an insult. 

"I take you at your word," replied the Prince, visibly measuring his foe.

Next up came the 'hundred pound gorilla' question from Valerie Shawcross. How did Parker think he was going to secure a no-strike deal with the very unions that were his greatest foes.

The Prince's reaction was swift. He didn't want to go through the 'litany' of charges against him. He had done only what other businesses had done and he had left the companies more profitable and more efficient than before.

"I am only asking you to comment on what is already in the public arena." replied Shawcross who had already declared that she was a member of one of those unions.
"It seems to me that you are trying to put a certain slant on things" he said before changing tack and adding that "I am generally here because I want to make a difference."

But as he 'opened his coat' and offered his good will to the chamber, a loud caustic buzz rang out from the speakers.

"Is that the lie detector?" joked the Prince.
"I think it might be your conscience" replied attack dog Biggs.

Tim Parker is due to become first Deputy Mayor in July and will take over the chairmanship of Transport for London in September. You can watch this hearing plus the full archive of all City Hall meetings here.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Boris Johnson scraps cheap fares for London's poor

Boris Johnson has decided not to continue funding half-price bus and tram fares for people on income support, it was revealed today.

In response to a written question from Assembly Member Darren Johnson,  Boris wrote that:

'Many Londoners face growing economic difficulties at the moment but I believe this can best be addressed by keeping the overall level of bus fares as low as possible.'

The Mayor argued that the current scheme was inefficient as only 20% of people on income support claim for the discount. 

But rather than attempt to increase the take-up he has instead decided to scrap the scheme altogether. This means by the mayor's own figures, that around 75,000 of the poorest Londoners will now have to pay double for their bus and tram fares.

Last month Boris wrote in response to a question by Dave Hill that officials from Transport for London were considering 'alternative ways of providing this support.' 

However, today he made it clear that there would be no alternative funding for the original scheme. He instead suggested that 'more suitable' forms of concessions may be found by TfL in the future. 

Nevertheless the emphasis on overall fare levels suggests that any future discount, if it comes, will not amount to the half-price fares that are currently available.

So whatever alternative support may or may not be given in the future, it is now clear that the scheme to give half price fares for people on income support will be coming to an end this year. 

Where will Boris Johnson spread London's jam?

Boris Johnson's new chief of the LDA said today that he would try to 'do less and do it better' but would resist 'spreading the jam too thinly.' But as inner London boroughs remain the most deprived, but also the least likely to vote Tory, will more jam now inevitably go to the edge of the doughnut?

Speaking at the first meeting of the new Economic Development committee, Peter Rogers said that they would now shift the focus onto 'outcomes rather than outputs' but admitted that this could lead to less groups being financed by the organisation.

In a clear sign that this would mean less spending, Rogers admitted that funds would now be 'rationed' and said that he wanted to 'get it out of people's minds that we are a giver of grants.' 

He instead insisted that the LDA should now concentrate on being 'an investor of skills' and emphasised that 'an investment requires a return.' 

When it was suggested to him that this would mean that groups with a political and social rather than just economic purpose would miss out, Rogers said only that he would take a 'holistic approach' to spending. He did not make it clear what this meant.

Tory members of the committee also repeatedly tried to get Rogers to condemn how the LDA had been run in the past. However, Rogers resisted obliging them and instead insisted that good work had already been done to improve it's management.

Asked by Tory AM Tony Arbour if he accepted the claims from the Evening Standard that the LDA had become 'a sinking ship' he replied that while he didn't want to comment on the political motivation of these claims, he did not believe them to be an accurate portrayal. 

Speaking to the committee he said that: "The LDA is certainly not a sinking ship, but I would not describe it as a speedboat either."

Which way will the knife go?

So for businesses and groups across the capital waiting to see whether the new mayor will herald a change in their fortunes, Peter Rogers' words will have done little to give either solace or hope. 

However, his stated  desire to move the LDA away from the pages of the scandal sheets to the serious business of redeveloping London was welcome, and his performance certainly gave me confidence in the man charged to do it.

However, with such little clarity from the Mayor's office about where these new spending priorities will be, businesses and groups within the Labour power base will continue to worry about losing more of the much-needed jam. 

But with increasing demands that the outer boroughs should be repaid for their strong support of him, Boris will inevitably need to do something to keep Greater London sweet.
Thanks to Steve Platt for the images

Monday, 23 June 2008

Labour 'tout' Alan Sugar as next Mayoral Candidate

Please, somebody tell me that this is a joke...

Boris Johnson's deputy quits post over racism row

Boris Johnson's Deputy Chief of Staff was forced to resign last night after a recording emerged of him saying that immigrants should return to their homeland if unhappy with the new Mayor.

Australian immigrant and Lynton Crosby trained strategist James Mcgrath made the comments in an interview last month with campaigner and journalist Marc Wadsworth. 

Asked what he thought of Darcus Howe's view that the Boris's election could trigger a 'mass exodus' of Carribbean immigrants, he replied "well, let them go if they don’t like it here."

The Mayor and his team initially vigorously defended James McGrath and even threatened the Guardian with legal action if they misreported the story. But after Boris and his team 'consulted' with David Cameron, it was decided that the Australian immigrant should be allowed to head home.

In a statement released last night Boris Johnson said that he didn't believe McGrath to be a racist but did believe that 'crystal clarity' was needed on the issue.


The decision to let McGrath go was immediately attacked by top Tory blogger Iain Dale. In a post entitled 'Boris and his Absent Backbone' Dale wrote that:

'I'm told that McGrath honourably fell on his sword. But I am not sure he was given any choice in the matter. All Boris has done is attempt to appease people who are quite frankly not capable of being appeased. What he should have done is stand by the man who has stood by him through thick and thin over the last eight months. Instead, Boris has hung James McGrath out to dry - apparently either with the connivance of or at the behest of the Party leadership - in the most despicable and and cowardly manner possible.'

Dale also wondered 'why we all bothered' to defend Boris for his 'piccaninny' and 'watermelon smile' comments when nowhere near as much understanding had been shown to his deputy. In an uncharacteristically angry attack on the man he championed for Mayor, Dale wrote:

'get a backbone, Boris. During the campaign, in an interview with me you said you "reserve the right to continue to make gaffes". What's good for the goose, is clearly not good enough for the gander, eh?'

Given Boris and his team's reluctance to let McGrath go, and given the similarly quick decision last year to sack Patrick Mercer for race-related comments, the move appears to have been one sanctioned by David Cameron and the Tory head office. 

Happening as it did after the Rise Festival controversy, Cameron will have wanted to appear decisive and to prevent any momentum gaining behind the perception that Boris and his team are racist.

However, if commentators and Tory activists continue to attack Boris and Dave for this moment of 'political correctness' and outright hypocrisy, it may well turn out to have been one strong-arm tactic too far.


Saturday, 21 June 2008

Evening Standard David Gest story was 'a dead dog'

"In articles published every day we gave the impression that the Evening Standard was a quality newspaper which carefully checks its facts and considers its opinions.

This was wrong. We have never been a quality newspaper and do not carefully check our facts.

We apologise to our readers for any embarrassment caused by reading our newspaper."

Have you spotted another Evening Standard Tipp-Ex moment? Have you noticed another prime Evening Standard blooper? Have you been keeping a close eye on the workings of the Associated Mess? If so, then we here at the Tory Troll would really like to hear from you ;)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Unison vote to withdraw funding from Rise Festival

A major trade union today voted to withdraw their funding from this year's Rise festival after the Mayor's team removed the anti-racist theme.

Delegates at the Unison National conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of removing their yearly contribution of £25,000 after being told about the change last week.

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said:

“As long as the anti-racist message is removed from the Rise festival, Unison will have no part in funding it. London is a city of 270 nationalities. It is a city where different cultures should flourish, and racism should have no place. Sadly, on the streets of our capital many people face inequality, abuse and even violence on account of their race. The Rise festival was a chance to bring the community together in the fight against the far right."

Yesterday it emerged that Boris Johnson did not even know that the anti-racist message had been removed until the BBC told him about it on Tuesday. However, while Boris had been kept completely in the dark, unions were informed of the change as early as last week.

Unison claim that they were sent a statement by the mayor's team last week saying that it 'would no longer be appropriate to have overtly political campaigning groups involved' in the festival. 

Who pays and What for?

The news that Unison have decided to withdraw their funding, will cast further doubts over how this festival will be paid for. With no union funding, and with no political motivation for artists to perform for reduced fees, this year's festival will inevitably be much more expensive to put on. 

And with no political funding or purpose, many Londoners will question just why they should be funding this festival at all.

Boris Johnson fails again under BBC questioning

Boris on BBC: "are you sure?" (Inspired by FAIL Blog.)

Will the real Mayor of London please stand up?

The fact that Boris Johnson isn't the real Mayor of London has been clear to me for some time now. A month of Boris watching has made it pretty obvious that whoever is running London, it isn't him. However, I didn't expect to see that fact so painfully demonstrated on the evening news.

Because to call last night's BBC London report a car crash would be to wildly underestimate the extent of damage done to the Mayoral freeway infrastructure. This was a pile-up of almost Hollywood proportions. 

For whatever reason, Boris had decided to park his behind on the middle lane of the M25, and was just waiting for the inevitable destruction. And as painful evasion piled upon catastrophic ignorance I almost began to feel sorry for the man. 

But as it became clear that Boris really has zero clue about what is being done in his and our name, my sympathy turned into anger. 

Because all of this time that we have been talking about 'Boris doing this and Boris doing that' we have been spouting nothing but hot air. 

Because despite what we may have said, Boris is not the evil Svengali directing his right-wing minions or the Manchurian Candidate waiting to be activated by the higher command. He is not even the light-touch delegator that at best his team have tried to portray him. 

He is none of these things, because he is doing none of these things. And not only is he doing none of these things, but he doesn't even know that he is not doing any of these things. So how do we know this?

Well at the weekend we discovered that Boris had 'decided' to scrap Europe's biggest anti-racism festival and replace it with an apolitical event. This was big news and many column inches were used up pondering on what this meant about the direction Boris wanted to take London and what it said about Boris as Mayor.

But what last night's BBC London report showed in painful detail, was that we had been completely wasting our time. Because not only did Boris not decide to scrap the event, but he didn't even know that that was what had been decided, or even appear to know why it would have been. 

So when his cultural advisor Munira Mirza pontificated in the Guardian about why her boss had made this important cultural decision, it was actually the case that not only had he not made that decision, but that he didn't even know that that decision had been made until informed about it by the BBC.

Now when Boris came into power we were all treated to photos of Boris at his desk, Boris on the phone and Boris directing colleagues. At the time these seemed incredibly staged but looking back at them now, they seem almost theatrical in their posing. 

Because like those pictures we have of ourselves as kids when we dress up as doctors or policemen or teachers, these pictures were of Boris playing as London Mayor. And as last night's report showed, he is now seriously in danger of losing the game.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Boris Johnson paddles away from Olympics gaffe

Boris Johnson's spin operation went into overdrive today after he admitted on the Today Programme to having no knowledge of a key agreement limiting London's contribution to the Olympics.

Asked about the Memorandum of Understanding which prevents Londoners from having to pay any more for Olympic overspends, Boris replied that he had not seen the document and then completely denied its existence.

After admitting not to have seen the memorandum he was then asked:
Interviewer: "When you do see this memorandum...are you going to try to see this Memorandum of Understanding? Will you publish it when you see it?"

Boris: "I rather doubt that it exists."

The extraordinary claim that this vital and publicly available document had been invented was then immediately taken apart by the Today Programme's own sports editor, a spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Ken Livingstone who had secured the agreement himself.

That Boris hadn't even bothered to read such an important part of the Olympic deal before appearing on the BBC to talk about it is of course not hugely surprising. That, we keep on being told, is Boris. Isn't he lovable?

Up the Creek

However, what was more surprising was the Olympic spin operation, stroke Soviet style rewriting of history, that immediately went into operation. Almost before a single journalist could turn on his laptop, this statement was being prepared:

Oh so now I undestand. When Boris said that the document didn't exist, what he really meant was that it did exist, it had always existed and that it was central to his plans. Phew. I'm glad that one's cleared up.

The Evening Standard smell Ken blood at City Hall

The Evening Standard yesterday reported that five women had 'lost their jobs' before the decision had even been confirmed at City Hall.

A copy of the article Ken's partner axed as Boris Johnson purges City Hall 'wimmin' was brought into the chamber by a reporter at yesterday's Mayor's Question Time, several hours before the relevant committee was due to discuss the matter.

The Business Management Administration Committee (or Business Management and Appointments Committee as the Standard chose to call it) did in fact confirm the job losses, but spoke of their disappointment that the redundancies had been reported in this way.

Regular Troll readers will have realised that this 'news' was reported on these pages a whole week ago. Information about the possible redundancies were contained within a report to the BMAC committee rifled through by one of my regular readers.

However, although I chose to run with the story, I did not make the mistake of saying that the members of staff had already lost their job, nor did I publish any of the individual names prior to the official confirmation.

But like their infamous 'Suicide Bomb Backers Runs Ken's Campaign' story, published during the campaign, these considerations of mere fact are as nothing, when there is the opportunity of drawing some Livingstone blood.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Boris, Barnbrook and the Prosopography of bananas

Boris Johnson was accused of turning the Mayoralty into an 'empty vessel' today, after delegating most of his powers to unelected advisors and deputies.

At an ill-tempered and repetitive session of Question Time, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green members of the Assembly all questioned an increasingly frustrated Boris as he repeated his time-worn response that Londoners would care more about results than procedures

But as his questioners refused to be fobbed off, he lost all patience and accused them of being 'pompous' and obsessed with the 'prosopography' of his administration. 

And as if that language wasn't 'clear and unambiguous' enough, he went on to deny any comparison between himself and a 'potemkin figure' pitched to conceal the real source of power. No such comparison had been made.

However, with no translator or historian to hand, Assembly members were forced to ask their questions all over again. 

And frustrated as he was with the assembly's apparent ignorance of medieval and Crimean military history and their relevance to London government, Boris switched instead to his ever-trusty stock of Latin proverbs, none of which seemed to do the trick.

Eric Wimp or Bananaman

But as both the assembly and the audience started to drift off, the BNP's Richard Barnbrook pulled out a banana and began to chomp away. But unlike Eric Wimp, this act of defiance did not appear to have any visible transformative effect. 

In fact when a City Hall official politely asked him to put the fruit away, he rose not like Bananaman to battle, but sank Wimp-like into a pliant concession.

But when his turn finally came to ask his questions, London's favourite fascist didn't disappoint. Due to ask a question on 'black cab drivers' (he wants more white ones) Barnbrook instead decided to thank Boris for having 'taken race out of the Rise festival'. 

The Chair Jeanette Arnold, who has become a figure of hatred on far right bulletin boards since Barnbrook's election, ruled the point out of order and the assembly moved on. But when Barnbrook got his second chance to speak, he completely lost his rag.

His question on crime rates and Afro-Caribbeans was initially more third rate than Third Reich as he attempted to frame it as being asked out of concern for his 'black constituents'. 

But when Boris replied that 'Londoners will be thoroughly dismayed by this racist breakdown' Barnbrook suddenly turned red and began to shout and thump the table.

And as he continued to rage and ignore the ruling of the Chair, all pretence of him being a serious politician peeled away. And as the session slipped by, the audience were left with little more than the off-colour sight of the BNP's very own Mr. Bananaman.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Richard Barnbrook claims victory over Rise Festival

The British National Party's representative on the London Assembly, Richard Barnbrook, has claimed a personal victory after Boris Johnson scrapped Europe's largest anti-racism festival.

Writing on his own website, Barnbrook claims that:

"Last week I asked Boris Johnson to confirm how much money from the London Assembly was used to finance last year’s RISE festival. You will remember that last year’s event was nothing more than an orgy of anti-BNP rhetoric heightened by a desperation to prevent me from becoming elected onto the London Assembly."

Barnbrook then claims that Boris replied with the information that the event would cost the GLA £300,000. 'Impressed' that Boris had responded so quickly, Barnbrook then claims to have replied with the following:

"The net cost to the GLA of this event will be £300,000. With this in mind can you confirm if this festival will once again be a political ground with active campaigning against the British National Party as in previous years? Obviously this event is being funded with public money and as it is being arranged by the GLA it would be totally unreasonable to campaign against a member."

Boris's decision to remove the anti-racist message from the Rise Festival will therefore predictably be portrayed by the BNP as their first significant victory on the Assembly. 

And whether Team Boris were actually influenced by Barnbrook's correspondence or not, the decision to remove the anti-racist message will undoubtedly allow Barnbrook and his friends to label Rise 2008 as one big 'slap down' to the anti-fascist cause.

Boris Johnson team reveal Tim Parker's private info

Boris Johnson's team have published Tim Parker's home address and mobile phone number on the London Assembly website.

The details are included within his curriculum vitae, which has been published in advance of his confirmation hearing for the post of Chairman of Transport for London.

Tim Parker's appointment was a highly controversial one as the ex-private equity chief and notorious asset stripper is still held in great contempt by some of those who have dealt with him. 

His record for slashing hundreds of jobs and pocketing millions for himself in the process, earned him the title of 'the Prince of Darkness' amongst unions, and that cold relationship shows little sign of thawing now. 

The release of his private details on the Mayor's public website is therefore an incredibly stupid thing for the Mayor's team to do. Let's hope for Mr. Parker's sake that they take it down soon.

UPDATE: Tim Parker's private details have now been quietly Tipp-exed from the GLA website. Some helpful soul must have pointed out that Tim might not be too pleased about having his private info broadcast across the globe. I wonder if anyone has told him about it yet. Maybe I should give him a call...

David Davis for Freedom and Victory!

David Davis is not just 'for' freedom, but 'is' freedom and 'of' freedom. When Davis gets out of bed he does so free from the burden of those freedom haters, the free press. 

He is the man who is free, and we are all just resentful for being free from the kind of freedom-loving values that only he (Davis) can set free. Free yourself!

You can sign up to David Davis's Free the Magna Carta Fund here

Has Boris Johnson been 'clear and unambiguous'?

Boris Johnson has promised to increase the number of People's Question Times and to always speak in 'a clear and unambiguous manner'. But as both Mayoral press conferences and the State of London debate are heavily cut, how seriously can we take his promise to make City Hall more accountable?

In his list of Mayoral Priorities, Boris Johnson signs up to the following commitments:

Use Plain English
  • The Mayor was elected on a platform of accountability and transparency, and part of that is communicating in a clear and unambiguous manner.
Listen to the results of consultations
  • The Mayor is committed to listening to consultations to restore trust in City Hall.
Hold more People's Question Times
  • The Mayor believes Londoners should have more opportunities to question their Mayor, and has committed to increasing the number of People's Question Times"

The news that Boris is 'committed to listening to consultations' is certainly encouraging, although I'm not quite clear how we can ensure this, save from clamping him to the seat Clockwork Orange style. 

However, the fact that there will be more People's Question Times where members of the public can quiz the Mayor, is certainly encouraging. As it is, there are only two a year and I am hoping that Boris will at least double that. We will see. 

Lost ground

But however much he improves the situation there, what this document fails to mention is the ways in which accountability has been decreased elsewhere. 

His switch from weekly open-ended press conferences to strictly timed monthly ones will not do anything to make City Hall more open, and the cutting of next week's State of London debate from an all day event covering a wide range of topics to three hours covering just one, is not a good sign.

Also, his commitment to 'speak in a clear and unambiguous manner' and to 'use plain English' has not been evident so far, with repeatedly vague answers being given on the subject of his advisors and with his speech increasingly lapsing into some kind of English-Latin hybrid.

However, with the publication of this document, Londoners now have a set of standards by which they can judge their new Mayor. It is now up to Boris to live up to those promises.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Boris Johnson scraps free anti-racism Festival

Boris Johnson has decided to scrap Europe's biggest anti racism festival and replace it with an entirely non-political event, it was revealed today.

Suspicions that 'Rise: London United Against Racism' would be re-branded as an apolitical festival were raised, when initial publicity material bore no mention to anti-racism.

But a coalition of anti-racist groups has now confirmed that the anti-racist message has been dropped and the festival will be called simply 'Rise' from now on. A spokesperson for the National Assembly Against Racism said today:

"We were contacted by the Greater London Authority last week and told anti-racism will no longer be the central message of the Rise festival. This is confirmed by initial publicity which drops the message "London united against racism" and all reference to opposing racism. Support for the festival from performers and communities has always been based on this anti-racist message so the change is sure to be highly controversial."

However, one person for whom the announcement will not be controversial is BNP assembly member Richard Barnbrook. 

In a written question to the mayor last week, Barnbrook criticised London's support for the 'Love Music, Hate Racism' and asked for assurance that London would not be paying for policing and clearing up the event. 

The announcement that the GLA will no longer be financing it's own anti-racism event will therefore be warmly welcomed by London's favourite fascist.

No more bang for our bucks

The reasoning behind Boris's move is not yet clear. However, whatever it may be, it is not based on getting more bang for Londoner's buck. 

Because re-branding the festival will almost certainly increase the costs of putting on the event as acts will not want to perform at the reduced rate of previous years, when there is no political motive for them to do so.

But like Boris Johnson's decision to scrap half-price fares for London's poor, this decision will have had more to do with meeting political dogma than with any sensible management of the capital. 

Taking a zero tolerance approach to David Davis

The subject of David Davis has now officially reached medio-blogosphere saturation point. Any further discussion of this hero stroke clown and his important public debate, stroke vainglorious media circus, will risk complete flooding of the politico-commentariat floodplain. 

To save us all from this total Davis-mania throttling the nation I propose the following emergency measures to be implemented with immediate and dramatic effect:

  1. Any further public discussion of David Davis and his Magna Carta defence fund should be immediately banned. Any journalist/blogger/politician/pleb wishing to discuss our nation's saviour, stroke pompous Tory, should do so within their their own space and time and beyond all access to a rapid broadband connection stroke vox-pop television link-up.
  2. David Davis should be summarily arrested under existing legislation and detained for a period not exceeding 28 days in anticipation of a longer detention period to be secured imminently.
  3. All Labour MPs stroke left-wing bloggers looking to join David Davis's campaign should be placed on a strict control order, stroke issued with a Conservative Party application form to be filled in immediately with regulation blue ink.
  4. If all else fails, David Davis's plans to bring back the death penalty should be quickly brought before the house to be rushed through with full use of the Parliament Act if necessary and with the public support of Kelvin MacKenzie if appropriate. 

Now the Troll understands that the kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux and soon they will settle again. But in the meantime, a zero tolerance approach must be taken to any further fanning of the Davis media firestorm. 

Because these are dangerous times for British politics and these dangerous times require dangerous measures. Let us take those measures.