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.
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.