Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Boris Johnson, bendy facts and a question of view

If you ever fancy coming along to Mayor's Question Time, I have a warning for you: be prepared to listen to plenty of them. Questions I mean.

Today's edition was full of them. We had questions on the financial crisis, on Trotskyism vs neo-liberal socialism and on the 'iron curtain' of Oxford Street buses.

Oh yes there was to be no shortage of questions, but the bigger question was as to whether we would hear any answers.

Lib Dem AM Mike Tuffrey was one of the first to give it a shot:

"There is something of the 'don't panic Mr. Mainwaring' about your remarks" he began in what has now become Assembly Members' customary approach to dealing with the Mayor.

"I have not heard a word from you on how London should respond to the financial crisis. You must come forward with some ideas of what to do."

"I accept," replied Boris "the desire of Liberal Democrats to be gloomy, but I do not think we will get anywhere by talking like we are going to be slitting our wrists."

Labour Transport spokesperson Val Shawcross was one of the next to give it a go:

"How much is it going to cost to replace the bendy buses Boris?"

"I can't give you the answer to that."

"This was a flagship manifesto commitment. Why do you not have any idea about how much it will cost to replace them?"

"I do not want to get into the costs. It will be much cheaper than the figures I have read."

"Travelwatch say that it will cost an extra 12.4 million a year to replace them. That is an extra £60 million when you take into account other costs."

"I do not agree with those figures."

Getting nowhere with the cost, she moved on to the safety record:

"What advice are you getting from officers at TfL? David Brown for one says they are 'no less safe than any other vehicle on the road'."

"I have every respect for David Brown, but as a cyclist I think they do pose an unacceptable risk."

"Is that not the advice you are getting?"

"That is not my view. I am the chair of TfL"

Pleased as he was with his new status, Caroline Pidgeon thought she would give it a test. 

She asked Boris about the £40 million cut back at Camden station. Boris replied that he did not recognise the figures. 

Asked for the second month running about the Olympic contract with Cubic he made it clear that he would have to pass:

"You are chair of TfL. You should be aware of this," said Pidgeon. Boris tried out a smirk.

"It sounds to me that you are really not on top of your transport brief" she carried on. "It should be a simple matter of yes or no."

Mayor Boris looked back at her, his feathers hardly ruffled. A simple yes or no, he must have thought. A simple yes or no?


angelneptunestar said...

Sometimes when he is asked for figures, he comes out with totally the wrong ones, so this is a step up.

On the bright side, he seems very relaxed in the role.

The Troll said...

Oh he's got it down to a tee alright.

angelneptunestar said...

But it is so so funny and I just laugh my ass off.

Anonymous said...

He appears totally at sea, indeed floundering, but what does that say about Labour? A toff twit who can't even comb his hair is seen as lovable. All he has to do is not pay his partner £100000 per annum and people will still think of him affectionately.

Livingstone's own mother admitted he had no friends as a teenager. Apart from his newts. And what have you got for 2012? Lee Jasper? Perhaps if he has even more children he can win with their votes.

ps if you want to smear me as a Guido Fawkes-ist try not putting any typos in it this time...
pps I have started reading that vibrant and much visited site since your recommendation. Thanks!

victor allen said...

Far be it from me to ever suggest what may be patently obvious: the reason we do not get answers from Boris is a. that he doesn't know them or b. more likely, he does know thm but it might be politically problematic for him to answer.
Can't be said that he's telling a lie, then.

The Troll said...

prospero13 - Who are you talking to? Is everything okay?

Anonymous said...

Yes, as I'm not an amateur blogger living in South London everything is indeed ok. If you've forgotten your clodhopping error on the Dave Hill blog, then I'm not surprised. You spend all day smearing your enemies rather than answering them.

Which is even less interesting than the Mayoralty. Or the tumbleweed tundra that this site resembles.

Still, you've got more action than 'Bonehead' Hill. Almost in double figures. Have the last word, fatboy. For your massive audience.

The Troll said...

I'm afraid I can't beat 'fatboy' or 'bonehead'.

The Troll said...

I'm actually not fat (or a boy). I feel hurt now.

Helen said...

Boris's favourite answer to every question is "Well, you know..."

Tom said...

"He appears totally at sea, indeed floundering, but what does that say about Labour? "

Would it be surprising if I said I don't particularly care what it says about Labour? I do worry what it says about Boris and his ability or otherwise to go into bat for London in negotiations with hard-nosed people who don't rate a floppy haircut and an engaging offhand manner particularly highly. I'm thinking Treasury civil servants, professional engineering contractors, private service companies - the kind of people who keep London moving forwards. We can't afford a four-year learning curve from someone manifestly unsuited to the role - would you trust taxpayers money to him just at the moment?

On a related note, I don't notice much backup from leading Tories for his increasingly petulant demands for Government handouts - of course, they're trying to paint Gordon Brown as a profligate, so Boris jumping up and down and demanding his cut doesn't fit the picture.

BenSix said...

How did he react to Pidgeon in the end? Bluster or Latin?

"If you've forgotten your clodhopping error on the Dave Hill blog, then I'm not surprised. You spend all day smearing your enemies rather than answering them."

Or maybe - and please stop me if this sounds too out there - just maybe there's better things to do in life than assiduously logging one's spelling errors.

The Troll said...

I don't think he deployed Latin on her. I may be wrong, but it certainly did come out at least once in the session.

Pidgeon gives a full response to the bluster here.

angelneptunestar said...

Just because Boris makes the odd mistake doesn't mean he isn't doing a fantastic job.

Anonymous said...

"What does that say about Labour?"

Well current evidence is that at least some of the Labour members of the London Assembly (along with at least some of the LibDems and Greens) are doing the job that they are paid for: they are doing their research and asking relevant questions about key issues and explaining to the public why they are asking those questions. And I don't remember Livingstone appearing to be so at sea, which suggests that he, and his much-maligned advisers, had a clearer idea of what they were doing and why. If Boris cannot say what are the costs of his flagship poliy (getting rid of bendy buses) then either the answer is too embarrassing or he is not doing his job.


angelneptunestar said...

Anon. don't forget Ken was in the job for an awfully long time, well it seemed like eternity, but it was 8 years, and Boris has only been there six months.

Ken himself was honest enough to admit that when you are London Mayor, it is impossible NOT to make some mistakes. He was on some comedy chat show about 2 months after he left, and he did say that, he said he had made mistakes, and when the interviewer asked him for an example, he gave one.

That is the good side of Ken, he will not always say what you expect, and sometimes he has come out and told the truth about what a hard job it is.

I know that Boris does muddle up figures sometimes and he is certainly not perfect, but his flaws are outweighted in my eyes, by his massive good points. I went to Tate Modern yesterday, and we walked along the river and admired the fantastically beautiful London skyline. I know how Boris appreciates and protects that skyline, as well as it possible, and there are loads of other things he does that makes me glad he is Mayor.

Rob said...

"If Boris cannot say what are the costs of his flagship poliy (getting rid of bendy buses) then either the answer is too embarrassing or he is not doing his job."

He said he wouldn't give the costs at the current time because they were subject to ongoing commercial negotiations. The quotes in this blog post are the slightly adbridged version of what he said.

The Troll said...

There are plenty of other ongoing commercial negotiations that he has been happy to give an estimate for. The cost of getting a prototype Routemaster being the first one that comes to mind. Whatever the final cost, it is likely to be within a certain range, hence the Travelwatch estimate. Have Travelwatch prejudiced the negotiations by stating that range?

Rob said...

You might well be right, and I'm sure that's a good point. I just wanted to make clear, for anyone that didn't see it, that your quotes don't quite reflect the entirety of the exchange. He didn't just simply say he couldn't give a cost - he gave a reason as to why he couldn't, which you can then quite rightly question/criticise/pour scorn (delete as appropriate).

The Troll said...

Fair enough. The full exchange did last a good number of minutes and was then extended by some witty opposing comments from Roger Evans and others which you can get a flavour ofhere.

I was considering making the entire post on the bendy exchanges but thought better of it.

The Troll said...

Rob, you have watched a few of these. Out of interest, what did you think of his performance compared to previous months? Personally I think he had a harder time of it with the assembly members and there wasn't the same kind of easy rapport and response from the assembly and the audience as there has been at previous sessions. I don't know if it is because of the more serious times that we are in, or because his evasiveness is wearing thin with people, or what, but there was a definite change in feel to the proceedings.

Rob said...

I wish I could give you a considered opinion but to be honest, I tuned in late and got ever so slightly bored after about 20 minutes or so and decided to watch a DVD of Spooks instead. That may say more about me than the state of proceedings.

Tom said...

The subsequent blizzard of Lib Dem PR via the Assembly suggests that they feel his accountability promise has been, to put it mildly, not fully kept yet. Initially obviously people would give him the benefit of the doubt, but we're now 12% of the way through his term and it's reasonable to expect him to have stepped up to the plate:

"For a Mayor who has set himself up as the chair of TfL it's very worrying. It's all very well falling back on platitudes in public but Boris was clearly dumbfounded by some of the issues I raised. While this could've been excused in his first few weeks or even months in office it's totally unacceptable now."

Caroline Pidgeon AM