Tuesday, 30 September 2008

a helpful suggestion

This is how one of my readers reached Tory Troll. 

I'm still not convinced they weren't really looking for Boris Idol though. 

Now that's a Saturday night TV show I'd stay in for...

Old hands push new backs as Boris takes the chair

Boris circled the room manfully shaking hands and patting backs. From the other side his Transport Director Kulveer Ranger did the same until the two silently crossed paths.

Halfway around the horseshoe and Boris Johnson stopped for a long chat with Steve Norris. Norris, who some say should be the man chairing the board, appeared to be cribbing up the new boss.

And with once Chairman Tim Parker burning magazines in Australia, and with his Deputy Chair absent as well, it was down to Boris alone to get proceedings underway.

But as he began his opening statement it was not board finances, but annoyed commuters who got in his way:

"Can't we get an agenda in advance?" shouted an elderly man from the audience.

Boris carried on.

"Can't you use a bit of reason man?"

Boris told him to write to him.

"I did write to you and I did not get an answer."

Boris stumbled on. The man's wife joined in the assault:

"I thought things would get better with you but they have got worse."

Boris called for security, but the couple refused to give up.

"I would like to suggest" continued the woman, "that you make Ken Livingstone the chairman instead." 

Boris quickly adjourned the meeting.

But with his hecklers refusing to leave and with time ticking on, Boris stepped into the gallery for some direct diplomacy. 

And with a promise that they could deliver a 'two sentence' presentation, the meeting began again.

But with normal proceedings in danger of getting going, it was Boris's tutor who brought them back to a halt.

"I can't see how it is going to take until 2015 to phase out all of the artics," put in Steve Norris. Boris looked on dumbfounded.

"That seems like an extraordinary length of time to me. I understand, in fact I know, that they could do it from tomorrow."

Hendy whittered something about not getting a 'bargain basement deal' but Norris was unconvinvced.

"I know that we could negotiate this with them sooner if we wanted... unless of course we don't want to do it at all."
Boris's smile had by now fixed into rigor mortis. This was not what he had expected from his old chum.

And with his eyes down, he listened as Hendy replied for him, before looking up and quickly adding:

"The important thing is that we get value for money"
Which it seemed was all that was needed to be said.

Boris Johnson to chair his first ever meeting of TfL

I'm off now to see Boris Johnson chair his first meeting of Transport for London. According to the Times, he no longer has a conference pass, so there's no reason why he shouldn't be at City Hall. But will he turn up?

Andrew Neil vs Boris Johnson on the Daily Politics

Andrew Neil continued his habit of making Boris Johnson feel uncomfortable yesterday with this cringe-worthy performance from the Mayor.

Boris has shied away from doing full-scale interviews recently. His only real interview since the summer exodus was that painfully fluffy love-in with Vanessa Feltz.

Thankfully that has come to an end now and Neil gets more out of Boris in just nine minutes than the rest of us have got out of him in three stage-managed half-hour press conferences.

This is well worth watching in full, but if you haven't got the time right now, then Mr. Stop Boris has an excellent summary over here.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Spot Boris?

  • Read the full Pyongyang style email here.
  • Read Boris-including accounts here and here.

Will the Tories really back more trains over planes?

An incoming Conservative government would scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow and construct a high speed railway to the North.

The new line would run from St. Pancras to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and would cost taxpayers an estimated £15.6 billion over 12 years.

But with Boris Johnson backing a new £30 billion four-runway airport and with his u-turn on the expansion of City Airport complete, the number of flights coming out of London and the South East would still be likely to increase.

However, although the Thames Airport is still officially under consideration by the Mayor, Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers has now disassociated her party from the plan.

Speaking at conference, Villiers said that the Conservatives would not be 'actively' looking at the development, although she did not rule out similar developments elsewhere.

So while I welcome their backing for a new high speed rail link, it comes as ever, amidst a confusion of other policies which will greatly increase the use of cars and planes.

And with the economy so tight, there are also doubts about how feasible any new line will be. As top railway blog RailwayEye puts it this morning:

'with Treasury finances going west as yet another bank bites the dust... a new Government will be hard pressed to buy a cup of coffee let alone build a new railway.'

But if things do improve and the next government can afford that coffee, then will they spend the change on a brand new train line or on a brand new airport? 

-UPDATE- Christian Wolmar thinks it's a scam
-UPDATE- A round-up of other reactions

Andrew Gilligan: You heard it all there second

Hey Gilligan, I knew you were never very good at concealing your sources, but I would never have taken you for a plagiarist.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Simon Milton, Dave Hill and John Ross on the BBC

The BBC's Politics Show has become the only programme on television with any half decent coverage from City Hall.

Today's edition has analysis of the Conservatives shaky relationship with Boris Johnson, a contribution from the Guardian's Dave Hill and interviews with Simon Milton and John Ross.

In his interview, Milton confirms that Boris will be bravely fighting crime by cutting the police budget, and vastly improving London's transport by cutting the transport budget.

These admissions did result in this story on the BBC's website. 

However, I think it is fairly safe to assume that 'Crime-fighting Mayor cuts Crime-fighting budget' will not be gracing many of the newspapers tomorrow.

Instead you should probably expect plenty of this, this and of course versions of this.

But if you would rather read about today's biggest news today, then you will need to head back over two months and take a look at this.

Tories favour Boris over Dave on eve of big speech

Boris Johnson is more popular than even David Cameron amongst Tory activists, a major survey revealed yesterday.

The survey conducted by ConservativeHome, gives Boris a net satisfaction rating of plus 86 per cent, a full three points ahead of his once boss David Cameron.

The result will further fuel the rivalry between the pair, on a day in which Boris Johnson makes his debut conference speech as Mayor.

Boris was originally pencilled in to appear as a 'warm-up' for David Cameron on Wednesday. 

However, his slot has since been moved to today, so as to not overshadow the official star of the show.

In fact the Conservative leadership are said to be so worried by Boris, that there have even been suggestions of deactivating his conference pass straight after his speech.

But with Boris now willing to tell anyone who will listen, that he has his eye on Cameron's job, then it will take more than one humiliating curfew to keep Boris from the party in whose popularity he leads.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The British National Party writes off 'Red' Boris

The British National Party have abandoned their previous support for Boris Johnson after he told a Muslim newspaper that he is both learning Arabic and studying the Qur’an.

According to a report in this week's edition of The Muslim News: 

"When Johnson found out about his Muslim ancestry, he feels that “with more understanding there would be less conflicts”.

When he found out that his great grandfather knew the Qur’an by heart “I immediately bought the Qur’an and I have been learning Arabic. Actually it is not that difficult as the script. It has very simple alphabets.”

He said he was making progress and to prove it, he recited the kalimah – La ilaha illa Allah. Muhammad Rasulullah (There is no deity except God. Muhammad is His Messenger)."

The BNP are predictably unimpressed:

"London mayor Boris Johnson has given a startling insight into his true political leanings and the shameless way he is prepared to sell out native Londoners to pander to the Islamic vote. His words will also be a stark reminder to those who still believe that David Cameron’s Conservatives intend to sort out the country’s problems.

"In a quite astounding interview, Johnson promised the Muslim News that he would carry on in the footsteps of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, by supporting the myriad of diversity and equality projects foisted on Londoners by Red Ken."

As ever, the best fun is to be found in the comments:

Never mind fellas. At least your man doesn't mix it with the immigrants and the darkies. Oh wait...

Anthony Browne and Boris Johnson: A History

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Boris Johnson: Cost Cutter or a False Economist?

Over at MayorWatch, ex-assembly member Damien Hockney has rightly expressed concern about the redundancy of Director of Corporate Services Janet Worth from City Hall.

Janet was by all reports a highly respected administrator who was ready to take on both the old and the new administration when it was necessary.

Her departure has therefore caused much surprise and consternation within City Hall.

However, what is more worrying, is the widespread perception that Boris has prioritised cost-cutting above all other considerations.

Hockney, who is a member of the Taxpayers Alliance and a long time small government man, believes that Boris is making short term cuts at the expense of longer term value for money:

"A remark the new Mayor made about wanting a lean mean machine to run London should receive the support of all. But squeezing local government of good people and treating those who remain like a second class state in the name of savings is false economy and is the type of thing that brings the concept of value for money into disrepute."

Hockney quotes a senior official within City Hall as saying:

“Staff and elected members are shocked at Janet’s early retirement and many are concerned that she will not be there to work with them through a time of change and uncertainty for hundreds of staff who have always turned to her as the steady, calm leader. What does it say to other female managers - if someone as outstanding as Janet is forced to leave why would they want to stay.”

Of course the loss of one official is not cause for concern of itself, but when it comes amidst the loss of other highly experienced staff, and amidst the appointment of staff members who have nowhere near that level of experience, then alarm bells should start to ring.

False Economies

The restructuring of the Mayor's office, highlighted here earlier this week, now seems a clear sign of things to come. 

For a demonstration of this, take a look at this table taken from the Mayor's leaked reorganisation plans:

The first figure which jumps out at you is obviously the total savings of £847,000 a year. 

However, if you look again, you see that what has happened is the replacement of higher grade officials, with lower grade alternatives.

Now you can argue that this may have been necessary, and like Hockney, I am not against job cuts per se. 

But when you are bringing in a new Mayor and new appointments, some of whom have little or no local government experience, then you should always be cautious about losing those very people who actually do have the experience that's required.

As Hockney points out, this isn't an argument about big-spending vs small-spending, but an argument about how you get the value out of the money that you do spend.

And by giving so much focus and publicity to his short-term cuts, is Boris merely saving up longer-term problems for himself and his team at City Hall?

David Cameron looks to 'work with the boroughs'

Local authorities would be given 'massive' powers over policing, health and skills spending, under proposals drawn up by a Conservative policy group.

The group which includes Boris Johnson's 'chief of staff' Sir Simon Milton, recommends devolving more powers to borough and district councils as well as creating more regional elected mayors.

David Cameron is expected to announce soon which of these policies he will pursue, but he will almost certainly propose further devolution of powers to individual authorities.

Milton's proposals will please those Conservative London Assembly members such as Tony Arbour, who have relentlessly lobbied for more powers to be taken away from City Hall.

However, paradoxically the move to establish more elected mayors, may well take powers away from other local authorities elsewhere.

The proposals have not been released in full but they are said to include the now obligatory call to cut back on regulation with: 

"councils judged against locally set targets drawn up in conjunction with local businesses and other parties."

Which if I was to be cynical (and I will) translates as:

"councils judge their own low performance against their own low targets drawn up after discussing them with their low business mates."

Because the problem with the relentless drive to 'localism' is that those decisions which would otherwise be taken and scrutinised at a national or regional level, are pushed off to a place where they receive little or no press attention or opposition whatsoever.

And while all the eyes are forever on the national government's every move, at a local level, corruption can often take a grip without even so much as a whisper.

Of course, the standard calls to 'give away more powers' and to 'extend democracy' always goes down well.

But when those powers are being given away at precisely the time when whole swathes of the country are losing all press scrutiny, then it is not something that should be allowed to pass without question.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Boris Johnson advisor calls Thames airport madness

A man charged with advising Boris Johnson on 'retaining London's status as one of the world's leading cities' has dismissed the plan to build a Thames Estuary airport as 'madness'.

The Chief Executive of upgrade-denying British Airways and member of Boris's Business Advisory Council Willie Walsh said today:

"The idea of Boris Island is madness."

"It's not going to work. It's a distraction to a tough decision that has to be made in relation to Heathrow airport.''

Walsh said that while he had voted for Boris to be Mayor, his idea of building an airport in the Thames Estuary would be prohibitively expensive.

The BA chief's dismissal of the Thames airport plan follows another unequivocal rejection by the leader of Kent County Council yesterday.

It also follows a full scale u-turn by Boris, in which his spokesman admitted that he would no longer consider closing Heathrow airport, just twenty four hours after saying that he would.

So with Boris's deputy saying one thing, his advisor saying another, and his press operation left desperately spinning in the middle, it is about time we found out exactly where Boris stands.

Because while I understand there will be a study and a consultation and a discussion with stakeholders, and a cup of tea with council leaders, what I don't understand is what Boris believes himself.

And while it's all very well hiring an ever-growing legion of ever-disagreeing advisors, deputies, commissioners, directors and boards, at some point Londoners are going to want to hear from the Mayor himself.

Anthony Browne spouts latest broken society piffle

If you want a sense of what the next Conservative government will sound like then read the latest report from Boris Johnson's new Policy Director and Policy Exchange wonk Anthony Browne.

The report entitled 'Has there been a decline in values in British society?' (you can guess the answer) is part of the Joseph Roundtree Foundation's 'social evils series', in which leading think tank wonks dissect our impending social doom.

Browne runs through all the usual nu-con talking points from multiculturalism and moral relativism (bad) to the benefits culture and 'human rights' (note the obligatory quotation marks) - also bad.

Disease-spreading immigrants and muslims are given a wide steer this time, but that aside, this is pretty standard fare from the man soon to be thrust upon London town.

However, what is striking to me in this report is the complete lack of answers given to any of the problems that he outlines.

We learn that society is broken, ipods are symptomatic of our social alienation, families are increasingly messed up, the poor are increasingly dependent, 'human rights' make us irresponsible, benefits make us lazy, Nick Cohen is on the good side, the rest of the left are on the bad side, etcetera, et-bloody-cetra.

But when it comes to solutions, Browne's hand comes up empty. I will quote you Browne's conclusion in full to show you what I mean:

What can be done?

"Policy-makers are left wondering what can be done about all this. The first challenge is to be really clear about what changes have been for the good and what for the bad. The legalisation of homosexuality was a definite improvement, as was the decline on the taboo in pre-marital sex.

"There are many other things we wouldn’t want to change because the benefits they bring are so large. We don’t want to uninvent female emancipation, even if the earlier lack of freedom of women meant fewer families broke up. We can’t uninvent television. Even where there is widespread agreement that we should tackle some aspect of decline, government has been notably ineffective in making much difference.

"In Britain in 2008, we have tried a decade of passing ever more draconian laws to curb behaviour such as binge drinking, but it has just got worse. It is clear that where there has been moral decline it is usually pretty unresponsive to legislation. Behaviour change can be powerfully affected by a change in culture, but a change in culture is notoriously difficult to achieve.

"For half a century we’ve had a value system that declared that the state knew best, and had the right to intervene in the most private part of people’s lives. That, hopefully, is now on the wane. There are many things we can do, not least start talking about it.

"Politicians can use their pulpit to bring to national attention some of the issues that we face as a nation. We can shift legislation, to put more emphasis on responsibilities rather than rights (such as the responsibility to do community work if you want to receive unemployment benefit). But there is no magic bullet. We should be concerned, but not despair. We have an open society that talks about and confronts its problems in a generally honest manner, which is the first step to making things better.  

"There have been improvements but also unprecedented, unsettling declines in values in our own lifespan. Each age has been concerned about moral decline. Ours is no exception –although a lot of what is happening to society now is exceptional."

And that's it. That's all we're getting. Society is on the decline. Laws don't work. Human rights don't work. Nothing works.

So what's your solution Anthony? You actually are a policy maker now. You've got the big job. 

In less than two years you may even have a seat in Number 10. In less than two years it could be you calling the shots in Broken Britain. 

It could be you Anthony. In fact it is you right now. We're all looking to you Anthony. What have you got Anthony? We're waiting for you. What have you got?

You can watch Boris's new Policy Director talk about Broken Britain at 18.00 this evening at the RSA or listen live on their website.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Boris Johnson endures the Vanessa Feltz treatment

After declaring a new found love for the BBC, Boris joined Vanessa Feltz this morning for her London breakfast radio show.

If you have a spare hour of your life to waste then you can listen as Vanessa quotes his Telegraph column in full before feathering him with possibly the easiest set of questions he is ever likely to face.

You can listen too as he dusts callers to the station off with with his patronising manner easy charm.

Vanessa ends the session by asking why he has taken so long to come in to her show. 

But if today's love-in was anything to go by, then I think Vanessa will be seeing plenty more of her mayor.

Kent and Essex abandon Boris Johnson to his Island

Boris Johnson's reverse ferret hasn't reached media land just yet. BBC London's chief reporter is in Manchester and the  Standard are still investigating Ken Livingstone (investigation due to end 2013).

Meanwhile Boris is doing his best to distract us and Kit Malthouse has gone mercifully quiet.

But with the news still clogged up somewhere under Tower Bridge, politicians in Kent and Essex have been desperately trying to raise the Thames Barrier in advance.

Kent County Council yesterday held an emergency meeting on the crisis, after which its Leader Paul Carter told the BBC:

"I'm not best pleased. I said this morning that all administrations have big ideas, and I think this is a big bad idea. It's a totally unsuitable place for an airport. When you think about the winter weather we have in the Thames Estuary - lots of mist and fog." 

Meanwhile over the water in Essex, Southend Council Leader Nigel Holdcroft told the Echo:

"I personally think it is really a non-starter simply because of the massive costs involved."

Not to be outdone Boris Johnson's spokesman also graced them with a quote:

"The mayor wants to undertake a study to establish the feasibility of the idea once and for all and is examining the best way to take the study forward.”

Oh well I guess we're stuck with that study now. I wonder how long it will take for them to find out 'once and for all' that it's never going to happen. 

Monday, 22 September 2008

Boris paddles away from Malthouse International

Boris Johnson paddled away from his plan to move Heathrow to the Thames Estuary this evening, saying that any new airport would only come 'in addition' to those that already exist.

The Mayor also told the BBC that he was examining a range of solutions and that 'Boris Island' was just one option under consideration.

He suggested that he was now considering expanding existing airports instead. 

In fact after twenty four hours of ridicule and disbelief, the Mayor appears to have gone cold on Malthouse's dream and looks set to make yet another mid-air u-turn.


During the election campaign Boris told supporters that he would neither back expansion of City Airport nor the construction of a new airport in the Thames Gateway.

But after u-turning on both of these pledges, he now looks set to u-turn once again, and this time with decreasingly amusing results.

Boris Johnson to overhaul eighth floor of City Hall

As Boris and Kit return from their ill-fated intervention into the geopolitics of Kent, political life back in City Hall is being quietly overhauled.

Starting from today, the Mayors' office will be completely restructured with 36 posts deleted and thirteen new posts created.

A leaked document drawn up by the Interim Head of Paid Service Jeff Jacobs suggests that the restructuring will save £835,000 a year.

The posts set to go are as follows:

However, with some of these posts already unfilled and with some new posts appearing to be adapted versions of deleted ones, it is unclear just what the saving will be in real terms.

Unsettled pay awards and the continuing cost of the transition will also confuse the sums.

But that aside, there are further questions about how the new team will operate, and to what extent Sir Simon Milton has overplayed his role within City Hall.

Chief of Stuff

Under the new structure (outlined above) Milton will only have direct line management over a private secretary who in turn will manage individual advisors. 

These advisors will then be appointed to individual policy directors such as Ranger and Mirza and to the Deputy Mayors such as Malthouse and Barnes.

But with no direct line management from the self-declared 'Chief of Staff' to those holding individual portfolios, there is a risk that the rivalry and infighting that we have seen so far will continue.

And with Malthouse and Coleman already stretching way beyond their portfolios, it remains to be seen if harmony can still break out in City Hall.

Boris Island: the morning after the flight before

After emerging from the blue skies of Sunday, Boris Johnson's plan to move Heathrow to the Thames Gateway has come crashing through the grey clouds of Monday.

The Financial Times reports that Virgin Airways are less than impressed and The Telegraph says that British Airways are flat out opposed.

Peter McKay at the Mail thinks it is a distraction, and the Evening Standard think it is unrealistic.

Even Boris's Deputy for Spin, who for eight long paragraphs tells us all how wonderful it would be, then at the last reluctantly admits that it will never happen.

Meanwhile the Mail reports the airport would cost £30 billion, while the Standard reports it would cost the capital 77,000 jobs.

But with Boris's feasibility study already ahead, and with mixed messages continuing to emerge from the Tories on Heathrow, just what will be the end result of Boris's expansion into international aviation?

Fantasy Island?

Well as Tom from Boris Watch points out, building a major airport in Kent would be controversial and costly but is still clearly a possibility (although an unwise one). 

And with Boris's u-turn on City Airport, there are obviously other alternatives to further expansion at Heathrow.

But with Terminal Five only just open, and with huge investment already sunk into the area, it seems fantastical that any government bar a Boris Johnson one would do anything but keep Heathrow where it is.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Kit Malthouse to move Heathrow to 'Boris Island'

Boris Johnson's Deputy is planning to close Heathrow airport and move it to an island in the Thames Estuary.

The project to shift voter-bothering flights out of London, has already been nicknamed 'Boris Island' by the Times, and will be led by one-time failed airline hopeful Kit Malthouse.

Malthouse, whose dream of a budget domestic airline crashed before take-off, believes his new dream will be a winner:

“I think it’s madness to expand any of the other airports when there is an obvious solution elsewhere.

“We’re not proposing to switch the lights on at the new airport and switch the lights off at Heathrow, firing everyone overnight. This would be a phasing from one airport to the other. Over the space of three or four years, those [workers] that wanted to, could migrate.”

The new island would be built from landfill alongside the Isle of Sheppey in Kent and passengers would be connected to the mainland by train and ferry. According to the Times:

"Aircraft would descend over the North Sea instead of disturbing residential areas in the approach to Heathrow.

“You would have no problems with expansion or noise,” said Malthouse. “You could run a 24-hour airport.”

Now quite whether the people of Sheppey and Kent would see 'no problems' with the expansion and noise remains to be seen, but the project would certainly have to overcome many other difficulties.

Not least of these is the technical difficulties in moving Britain's largest airport onto an island in the Thames.

Island airports have been built successfully in the past, most notably in Hong Kong. However, the process is not straightforward.

Kansai International Airport for instance, became one of the most expensive civil projects in history after the island it was built upon sank over eleven metres into Osaka Bay.

Pipe Dreams

Maltouse's vision of outsourcing Heathrow was first revealed in The Times a year ago, but has so far got little further than:

  • His dream of suspending Iain Blair (he can't) 
  • His vision to build cities underground (he won't).

Now whether this latest dream will be any more successful depends largely on the bargaining power of his boss Boris Johnson.

But with all other unfunded transport projects officially put on ice, it will take more than a Malthouse vision to make 'Boris island' rise from the waves.

-UPDATE- Boris Island: the morning after

Friday, 19 September 2008

Andrew Gilligan urges Boris to break his promises

The Evening Standard's serialisation of the Gilligan Doomsday Prophecies has continued, with a call for Boris to sacrifice all spending commitments, to the coming FINANCIAL APOCALYPSE.

With all the electoral nouse that has so far kept him out of politics, Andrew Gilligan declares:

"What hasn't yet been widely understood — not least by the politicians themselves — is that in this new world, many of the cornerstone assumptions that have governed London politics for years are going to be destroyed. Huge numbers of things London's rulers have been talking about as recently as the May election are either at serious risk, or are effectively already dead."

Oh really. So what will be the first to get the chop Mr. Gilligan?

"At the election, one live issue was the best way to get developers to build affordable housing. Ken famously promised all new developments would be 50 per cent affordable. Boris rejected quotas but still promised to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes in his first term.

"That argument, and both those policies, are now as quaint and irrelevant as the debate about Irish home rule in 1912. Some new homes, started during the boom, are still in the pipeline — but nobody will be building any more, affordable or otherwise, for quite a while. Several developers are on the verge of bankruptcy."

Okay so there will be no more new homes. What else Gilly?

"Tall buildings is another one of those live issues which might be about to die. There is already a glut of office space. Whatever your views for or against, whatever the mayor decides, it seems highly unlikely that many tall towers will ever get off the ground."

Now quite why you would want to get a multi-storey office block 'off the ground' is anyones guess. But if Boris had indeed promised that and I somehow missed it, then I must agree with Andrew wholeheartedly. 

Of course there are some things that Boris can't scrap. His anti-crime measures for instance. No?

"violent crime, may become less of a concern. Recessions usually reduce crimes against people and increase crimes against property. Because property crime is common and violent crime is comparatively rare, however, that could also halt or reverse the recent reductions in crime."

Right, so as we get poorer we will have less fear of violent crime. Now remind me where are the most violent parts of the capital again Andrew?

"So what should the new times mean for Boris? Obviously, it adds urgency to his so far unconvincing effort to slim down TfL and the rest of the “GLA family”. I've sometimes been accused of favouring cuts for their own sake: actually, I favour cuts in unnecessary vanity projects to ensure that we do not have to cut the things that matter, such as bus and Tube services."

Ah yes. Unnecessary vanity projects. Care to remind us of any Andrew? Care to think of any vanity projects that would come at vast expense and with little justification? Care to think of any doomed pet projects that you have personally pushed for against all expert advice

No? Somehow I didn't think that you would. 

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Why Boris Johnson joined the reds under the bed

Dave Hill has posted the latest rather brilliant missive from the anonymous sleeper cell of Kennites, currently barricaded behind a water cooler, on the upper levels of City Hall.

As a fellow correspondent with elements of this cell, I can confirm that they do indeed have a terrible and secret mission, and it is this: the total and systematic indoctrination of their new boss.

Andrew Gilligan is of course unimpressed:

"four months in, marvels one senior TfL figure, “Boris's arrival has made no difference whatever. It's all going on exactly as before.” No programmes have (yet) been cancelled. No personnel changes have been made. Indeed, one senior TfL person has just been appointed, of all things, Boris's environmental adviser.

"Less than a year ago, as further leaked emails show, Mr Hendy was secretly plotting with Ken's chief of staff to “refute Boris's transport ideas”. Now, in a truly gymnastic feat of brown-nosing, he has apparently persuaded the new Mayor that his sole purpose in life is to implement those very same ideas.

"It's surprising that someone as bright as Boris can fall for this obvious nonsense. What it probably means is not that TfL will end up working for Boris — but that Boris will end up working for TfL."

Of course it all started off very well for Mission Gilligan. Many of his Policy Exchange colleagues (himself aside) got jobs and the appointments of Tim Parker and Patience Wheatcroft looked set to propel London to the bright sunny uplands of Ken eradication.

But with the complete debaathification of London almost in sight, Mission Gilligan went and axed itself.

First we had the flop which was the FAP report and then we had the steady exodus of failed Policy Exchange and CCHQ place men, culminating in the complete discrediting of those very people who had been sent in to organise Boris's every move.

And with their fall from grace complete, Boris instead fell upon exactly those people who had been running the show for years.

And as the old borough boys moved in to clean up the mess, we are left with an administration not radically different from the one that Ken left behind.

Of course there will still be many controversies and bungles ahead. 

But if Boris wants to make a success of his Mayoralty (and he clearly does) then he can only do so by taking the kinds of practical steps that only those people who have run London for the past decade and beyond know how to take. 

And if that means listening less to Gilligoon and his pals, and more to the reds under the bed, then that is precisely what he will do.

Nick Clegg promises Britain 'human shaped' policies

This is how I felt watching Nick Clegg's conference speech yesterday.
Video by Beau Bo D'or

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Boris Johnson at Mayor's Question Time 10/09/08

Just in case you were one of the few not to crowd round your television for Boris's monthly sermon, I have decided to give you another chance.

For some reason best known to themselves, the BBC take these down after a week, after which you can only watch them on the postage stamp sized screen of the Mayor's website. 

Highlights of this session include a row between Jenette Arnold and Brian Coleman near the beginning and Boris Johnson's slapdown of Richard Barnbrook at about 2 hours and 16 minutes.

It's thrill a minute stuff this Londoners. Watch in awe.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Boris Johnson - decisively indecisive

I'm not saying Boris can't keep his word but...

Boris has an 'extraordinary revolutionary moment'

Muesli-eating, sandal-wearing, fringe-growing hippy Boris Johnson will rejoin 'Mayors for Peace' just months after pulling out of the group.

The original decision was one of those red slaying, Gilligan appeasing, Barnbrook pleasing, gesture policies that so annoyed us at the beginning of Boris's term

But with no positive press coverage from the move, and with the CND condemning him as 'A Mayor for War,' Boris perhaps decided that he had gone a bit too far.

Writing in response to a question from Joanne McCartney, Boris declares:

"I have reviewed my initial decision and decided that London will remain a member of Mayors of Peace.

"Membership of Mayors for Peace does not involve any significant use of GLA resources. I agree with the principles of Mayors for Peace, which deplore acts of violence and that cities should be spared the scourge of war. In this context, I consider my continuing involvement with the network to be efficient, reasonable and a good thing for Londoners."

Right on Red Boris. Take that Gilligoon. Ban the Bomb peoples. Ban the Bomb!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Boris Johnson's team: ever so quietly expensive

Over at the Guardian, Dave Hill answers the question on everybody's lips, which is whatever has happened to Munira Mirza?

Boris Johnson's cultural Director, has been rather quiet of late, ever since she told us how to 'do anti-racism for real'.

Mirza's approach to 'doing it for real' was apparently to stop doing it at all, and you would be forgiven for thinking that this was her approach to the rest of her job.

But according to Dave, Mirza has in fact been hard at work. We just hadn't noticed it yet:

"She does still have a job and is, I'm told, working very hard at it in a mostly low profile way. She was at the launch of the Thames Festival alongside The Blond and attended the event itself. She also attended Simcha and said a few words to those in attendance. What else can I tell you?"

What else indeed. But if Mirza is 'low profile' then what does that make his new Director of Marketing Dan Ritterband? 

Ritterband who was not formerly known for his demure nature, was given a six figure salary at City Hall earlier this year but not deemed worth even so much as a press release. 

So while his unpaid 'food champion' Rosie Boycott and his unpaid 'sports commisioner' Kate Hoey, got the full fanfare, one of the Mayor's most senior and high-paying appointments was ushered through the door without so much as a squeak.

Now why ever could that have been?

Could it be perhaps that championing food is just that little bit more appealing to voters than that more expensive business of championing yourself.

Who knows? But whatever the reason, let's take a look at what he has to show for his two months in the job?


Well without any official updates I can only go by his recent efforts to secure sponsorship for the Freewheel cycling event.

The event, which had been intended to attract 100,000 people has been scaled back to 45,000. And the reason for the change? Tory thrift? Elf and safety? Afraid not. No the real reason was insufficient sponsorship.

Of course whereas under communist era Ken, the dangerous lefty cabal secured £300,000 from capitalist overlords Hovis - under Ritterband, the true blues secured just £100,000 from Sky Sports. 

And while other sponsors could potentially been brought in to fill the gap, under Ritterband, the deal came with free-market bunking exclusivity.

So with loss of sponsorship threatening to close the curtain on other events, and with consultant costs still riding high, just what kind of value are we still to expect from our 'bang for your buck' Mayor.