Sunday, 30 November 2008

Boris's diplomatic stand-off lasts just three weeks

Boris Johnson speaking about foreign diplomats who refuse to pay the Congestion Charge:

"I think it's the Geneva convention which prevents me from slapping an asbo on every single diplomat who fails to pay, I think it's an unbelievable scandal."

It is Boris. It really is.

"This is not a tax, this is a charge for the use of our roads, and I believe the diplomatic community should have the decency to pay it. I intend to stick to that decision."

That's what we like from our leaders in this country Boris - stubborn pig-headed determination. 

But hang on a minute, what's this from just two days ago?

"I have asked Transport for London to begin the legal process to remove this charge with all convenient speed...

"we can lift this tax within fourteen months at the absolute outside and hopefully earlier than that."

Whoops! I guess those diplomats can refuse to pay those fines a little while longer then.
(With thanks to prj45)

-Update Mon 16:30 - This just in from the Mayor's office:
"The Mayor, TfL, and the government share the view that the congestion charge is a charge, not a tax, and that foreign diplomats should pay it. The original zone has clearly served a useful purpose, but the western extension was forced upon local people despite fierce opposition, and the legal process to remove it will now begin."
So we're clear then. When it's useful it's called a charge. When it's no longer useful it's called a tax. 

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Evening Standard: Spot the Difference

Evening Standard editorial before Boris Johnson announced that he would scrap the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge:

Evening Standard editorial after Boris Johnson announced that he would scrap the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge:

Yeah but, no but, yeah but, he's a progressive really!

No Further Extensions to Boris's C-Charge U-Turns

Watching the London Right manoeuvre around the issue of the Western extension of the congestion charge has been an out and out pleasure. That pleasure has now unfortunately been brought to an end:

Only this week the Evening Standard desperately tried to convince it's readers that a full-scale scrapping of the zone would be 'a retrograde step' and only last night the Associate Editor of Autocar told us that the expected modification of the scheme was 'inevitable.'

Oh well, farewell to small pleasures. The extension is going and I will have to console myself by watching yet another acrobatic reversal of their position.

Boris, to his credit has been consistently inconsistent with this one. 

First we were told that he would scrap the extension, then we were told that there would be a consultation, then we were told that he preferred a modification of the scheme and now we are being told that it will go after all.

If I was being charitable I would say that he had initially been for scrapping the extension, before becoming convinced it was the wrong move to make, before finally (and wait for this line) relenting to the will of the public (unlike his predecessor don't you know).

If I was being less charitable I would say that for twelve months he has said whatever the person he happened to be talking to at the time wanted to hear, before at the last moment hiding behind the result of a public consultation.

Boris will be putting his arm around traders at Portobello Market later on, before being carried down Kensington High Street on the shoulders of Kit Malthouse and Stephen Greenhalgh. Bring your Porsche.

-Updates and Links-

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

London's Only Quality Freesheet

Tim Ireland & D-Notice hand out today's Ailing Standards

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Boris Johnson's Policy Director on Darling's Budget

Feeling let down by yesterday's pre-budget report, I turned to read the verdict of Boris Johnson's new Policy Director Anthony Browne:

"This was the payback Budget: the wealthy of London, or at least its bankers, had caused the economic crisis, and now they would have to pay for it through their pockets."


"Short of introducing a London banker tax, this is as close a direct hit that the Chancellor could get on those who brought the country to its knees. It is overall an Old Labour redistributive budget, yanking up taxes on the rich to help the poor."

Wow. Here was me thinking this was just another piece of New Labour tinkering which would fail to help the poorest. Turns out I was worrying about the wrong people:

"in London this effect is magnified massively: Alistair Darling has done far more to redistribute wealth here than anywhere else. It is redistribution with a capital R."

Better than spelling it with a capital M I suppose. So how about giving us some detail?

"the Chancellor's various measures to increase taxes on the rich - with different tax hikes hitting those on more than £100,000 a year, more than £140,000 a year and more than £150,000 a year - may be hardly felt at all in many parts of Britain, but in London they affect significant numbers.
...of rich people.
"All those on more than £100,000 a year will be at least £1,000 a year worse off because of the halving of their personal allowances. All those on more than £140,000 a year will be at least £2,000 a year worse off because of the scrapping of their personal allowances. It is almost as though the Budget is the revenge of England on the affluent of Kensington and Chelsea."

You almost sold it to me there Anthony Browne. You almost went and managed it.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Richard Blakeway and Kulveer Ranger on the BBC

Fascinating edition of the Politics Show yesterday. Andrew Cryan and Tim Donovan do a good job of teasing out the effects of Boris's housing policy and we get our first(?) live interviews with Ranger and Blakeway.

Ranger, whose first six months as Boris's Transport Director haven't exactly been the easiest of his career, makes his debut on the (let's face it) not particularly difficult issue of Boris's cycle-hire scheme.

Coming almost three weeks after his transport bonfire, and almost three months after his above inflation fare rises, I think it's fair to say that Kulveer's minders have been ever-so slightly selective with his media appearances.

As Tim Donovan put it in yesterday's programme: "you wait ages for them to come along and then two come along on the same day."

Good quality coverage of London politics is also few and far between, but the London edition of the Politics Show is one of the few places where you can expect to find it. 

Essential viewing for all Nerdistanis. Watch in Full.

Beau Bo D'or on Andrew Gilligan's Identity Crisis

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Richard Barnbrook investigated for 'false' claims

Richard Barnbrook is currently the subject of a Greater London Authority investigation, following a complaint that he broadcast 'totally false' claims about a series of murders in Barking and Dagenham.

In a video posted on his blog on September 24, the BNP's London representative claimed there had been three murders within the past month in Barking and Dagenham. 

He also criticised the local authorities and the GLA for their inaction in tackling knife crime.

Introduced as a London Assembly Member, by his personal assistant Simon Darby he claimed:

"This year alone, up until now there has been 27 murders of youths between 13 and 17 by knife crimes with several thousand more being attacked by knives.

"In Barking and Dagenham alone three weeks ago there was a murder of a young girl, we don't know who's done it, her girlfriend was attacked inside an Educational institute.

"Again two weeks ago there was another attack by knives on the streets of Barking and Dagenham and two people were murdered."

However, following the broadcast, a complaint was made to the Standards Committees of both Barking and Dagenham Council and the Greater London Authority.

The complainant wrote to the GLA:

"Richard Barnbrook quite clearly states that 3 weeks ago a young girl was murdered in an education establishment in Barking and Dagenham. I know this to be an absolute lie.

"He also goes on to claim a further 2 murders in the borough in the last 2 weeks which is also a lie.

"On making these false statements not only on his blog but on You tube which has a world wide audience I believe that Richard Barnbrook has brought his position as an elected member of the GLA into disrepute he has also tried to damage the reputation of the GLA and its elected Members as well as Barking & Dagenham Council,"

A GLA Standards Sub-Committee met privately on Thursday to discuss the complaint.

After watching the footage, the committee members agreed that it warranted a referral to the Monitoring Officer. 

The Monitoring officer will now investigate a possible breach of the GLA Code of Conduct.

Under section five of the code, a London Assembly Member: 

"must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute."

Richard Barnbrook today declined to comment on whether he had broken any GLA rules. 

However, he did admit to me that his dyslexia may have led him to have "muddled" his account.

He also said that one of the three murders he had referred to in the video, had actually taken place "just over the river" from Barking and Dagenham.

The case is ongoing. All comments will be moderated to avoid prejudicing the investigation.

-Update- The Guardian have now taken up this story.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Tory Troll now appearing at Comment is free...

The Guardian have very kindly given me a slot on Comment is free today. Head over there for more on the Evening Standard, Andrew Gilligan and London bloggers.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Richard Barnbrook number two under investigation

An internal investigation by the Greater London Authority was launched today after it was revealed that Richard Barnbrook has employed a senior BNP member as his personal assistant.

According to the Times, Simon Darby who was the BNP's 'reserve leader' during Nick Griffin's trials, admitted that he has used City Hall offices in order to undertake party political work:

"Simon Darby admitted to The Times yesterday that he regularly used his City Hall office to work in his capacity as the BNP’s media spokesman, a job that is unrelated to his publicly funded position.

"The disclosure will raise concerns over whether Mr Darby is receiving taxpayers’ money to support his prominent position in the far-right party."

Darby claims that he has made up for any time spent on his BNP role and that he has not used any public resources in order to carry out party political work.

However, since Barnbrook's election a number of videos have appeared on Youtube featuring him and Simon Darby within their City Hall office.

In one of these, BNP promotional material is prominently on display whilst Darby and Barnbrook discuss constituency work.

These films along with Darby's other records should be examined by GLA officers to see if the code of conduct, or any other ethics or employment rules have been breached.

For my own part, I have repeatedly tried to contact both Darby and Barnbrook in recent weeks about this and other matters, but have had no luck whatsoever.

The emails I have sent have been ignored and their GLA phone has remained unanswered.

A separate email sent by a reader of this blog to Richard Barnbrook was followed by a highly unhelpful one-word answer.

According to the GLA Code of Conduct, Assembly Members such as Barnbrook should:

"be accountable to the public for your actions and the manner in which you carry out your responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to your particular office."

Under the GLA Code of Ethics, a member of staff such as Simon Darby should also:

"uphold the political impartiality of the Authority's staff, not to use public resources for political purposes and not to act in any way which would conflict with this Code."

If you believe that either Richard Barnbrook or Simon Darby have breached any of these rules, then you can make an official complaint to the GLA here

-Update- Five Chinese Crackers points out that Richard Barnbrook has also been using the GLA phone line for his BNP front campaign 'London's Mother's Against Knives'

Full details on the investigation coming soon...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Andrew Gilligan, 'Ross281' and a tale of two socks

The day after I first accused Andrew Gilligan of using a sock-puppet at the Guardian, a new user named 'Ross281' appeared there, and left their first and only comment:

So when this appeared few days later in an Andrew Gilligan column, I was understandably suspicious:

"She claims it will cost “£300,000 per vehicle, per year” to bring in new single and double-deckers — a figure that would be plausible only if Jonathan Ross were driving and Lakshmi Mittal checking tickets. Even this month's issue of the restrained industry trade journal Buses calls it “naive” and “amazingly high”."

Further scouring of the web by Tom from Boris Watch revealed that similar opinions had been expressed by an "Andrew Ross" at Liberal Conspiracy, the day before Gilligan's article appeared:

Even further searches revealed that 'Andrew Ross' had left comments criticising Ken Livingstone underneath another Andrew Gilligan article.

So who is Andrew Ross and what connection does he have to Ross281 or to Gilligan himself?

Well a seperate search through Liberal Conspiracy's comment logs reveals that whoever left the 'Andrew Ross' comment there, is likely to share the same email address as Ross281 at the Guardian.

They also crucially left a record of their i.p address, which is the number that identifies your location on the internet.

Transferring that number over to Tory Troll I can see that whoever left the Andrew Ross comment, shares an address with whoever left this comment on my last post about Andrew Gilligan:

"Sorry mate, I see no mention of potential cuts in police numbers in that July piece by anyone except you. Breaking a story, and making up a story, aren't the same things at all."

Now I didn't publish this at the time, because I had reason to believe that it may be Andrew Gilligan hiding behind anonymity.

But sure enough as day followed night, a further attempt at this comment was sent the following morning, this time with the commenter identifying themselves as Andrew Gilligan:

"I was fascinated to hear about your claim to have broken the police numbers story. I did have a look at that post of yours for July. Can you point me to the bit where anyone (except you) says anything at all about police numbers"

Now I don't want to keep this amateur sleuth stuff up for too much longer Andrew. The evidence of what has been going on is getting fairly long and tedious.

So come on, I know you read the blog. You've been asked this many times by myself, other bloggers, journalists, and even commenters at the Evening Standard.

So here's your umpteenth chance to answer:

Do you deny leaving comments underneath your own articles and articles about you, whilst pretending to be a third person? Come on Andrew, what do you say?

Cadburys, the Olympics and flat-earth politicians

"I'm quite partial to a bit of Dairy Milk" began Brian Coleman surprising nobody, "but how does it fit in with the healthy agenda that the Olympic Games were meant to promote?"

Now I'm also quite partial to a piece of Dairy Milk and not in any way partial to a piece of Brian Coleman, but I have to admit that he has a point here.

How exactly is using the worlds biggest set of sporting events, as a platform for the promotion of the artery-clogging products of Cadbury-Schweppes, a good idea?

Speaking to Sebastian Coe at City Hall this morning, Coleman continued:

"Isn't the truth of the situation that with the economic climate as it is you are just desperate for any sponsorship you can get and all the high-flying ideas about getting the nation fit have just gone out of the window."

Well the short answer is yes. In an ideal world the Olympics would only be sponsored by sports equipment firms and Golden Delicious Apples, but in the real world, Locog have to take what they can get.

And hey, why not look on the bright side? Labour's John Biggs was:

"It is always nice to follow the flat earth wing of the Tory party"

"but would you not agree that a different interpretation of their sponsorship is that the Olympics should be a grandstanding of British businesses as much as possible and that we should celebrate that."

Well I guess...

"And if we're going to be pernickety about this, you can say that Cadburys have a Quaker background and they have a very strong history of social concern."

And an even longer history of making thin kids fat. But let's not get all pernickety about things.

Brian Coleman's Greatest Bits

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Embassies fight it out in a Congestion 'Cold War'

Transport for London will today publish a league table detailing some £23 million worth of congestion charge penalties which remain unpaid by foreign embassies.

At the top of the group is the American embassy who have racked up an impressive £2,735,245. 

The Russian Federation have also worked hard, pushing the Japanese into third place with £1,849,260 in unpaid fines.

Of course when Ken Livingstone labeled the US ambassador a 'chiselling little crook' for refusing to pay the charge, he was swiftly reported to the Standards Board for England.

However, when Boris Johnson said that he would gladly slap an asbo on offending ambassadors, the resultant controversy mysteriously failed to surface.

Speaking at his first People's Question Time in Bromley, the Mayor said:

"I think it's the Geneva convention which prevents me from slapping an asbo on every single diplomat who fails to pay, I think it's an unbelievable scandal.

"The Swiss typically have come forward with trying to broker some kind of deal, I'm very keen that whatever deal we do should reflect the fact that these people are using London's roads. This is not a tax, this is a charge for the use of our roads, and I believe the diplomatic community should have the decency to pay it. I intend to stick to that decision."

The disagreement centres on whether the charge is considered a tax or a toll. Under international law, embassies are exempt from paying local taxation.

The charges if paid in full, could scale down the size of Boris's planned fares increase or give new hope to the transport projects recently abandoned by the Mayor.

However, with no new powers to resolve the claims, it will take more than one of Boris's imaginary asbos to bring the dispute to an end.

-Update- Hélène Mulholland now has more.

Evening Standard asks Ray Lewis if he is innocent

And apparently he is...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Richard Barnbrook and a joint conspiracy of silence

You may not have noticed, but Richard Barnbrook is now the country's most electorally successful Nazi politician. I say you may not have noticed, because as far as the press is concerned he no longer seems to exist.

There was a minor outrage after he was elected and an even more minor outrage when he was allowed a blog on the Telegraph Website (clue: everybody is).

But since May there has been nothing. Zero. Zilch. Type his name into a Google News and you will get nothing in return. 

But in the alternate universe that is the BNP blogosphere, Barnbrook is the stuff of legend. I mean literally.

Take this story which has been doing the rounds over there for some weeks:

"Tories, Labour, Lib-Dems, Greens and other Tweedle-Dee Tweedle-Dum parties on the Greater London Assembly were all shocked last week when the only GLA member to oppose their motion on granting amnesty to illegal immigrants was the BNP’s Richard Barnbrook."

The story had it all. The brave fearless white knight fighting for the white rights and the cowardly liblabcon betraying the masses once again.

The story had it all. It just wasn't true:

The problem is that in the absence of any mainstream press coverage, fantasy has taken the place of reality and the berk-in-brown has become a knight in shining silver.

Worse still, the Assembly and Mayor have done their best to ignore the man. Take this clip from Mayor's Question Time last week:

Picking up the theme he has pushed for months, that the 'white minority' in London are neglected in favour of the 'ethnic majority', Barnbrook is left almost entirely unchallenged by the Mayor.

Boris's tactic, to ignore, in fact not even to look at the man, is an understandable one. To anyone who has been watching him for the past six months, it is clear that Barnbrook is little more than a joke.

For all his bravado, Barnbrook has little real powers or following in the capital. His BNP entourage present for his first month or so of Assembly meetings has dwindled to almost nothing and his only real attempt to mobilise Londoners was a humiliating failure.

However, in April the Times reported that Barnbrook's election would:

"be the biggest prize the extremist Right has ever won in British politics," says Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics. There are no neo-fascists on the councils of Berlin, Paris or New York, he adds. “For London to end up with such a thing would be an embarrassment and difficult to explain away.”

But rather than explain it away, the mainstream media and the Mayor have sought to pretend it hasn't happened. If we just don't mention him then he might just go away.

But if the BNP's flagship politician is given a free pass by the press and politicians, then it will be left to the BNP to invent his own record and to design their own future.

Dave Hill now has some more thoughts on Boris and Barnbrook over at his Guardian blog
This post now also appears over at Liberal Conspiracy

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Andrew Gilligan socks it to the 'anti-Boris blogs'

Andrew Gilligan, it's fair to say, is getting annoyed:

"Several anti-Boris blogs now purport to "enhance the accountability of the mayoralty". Alas, most read more like Private Eye parodies, daily finding new evidence of sinister neo-con evil in Johnson's choice of breakfast cereal. Even the more measured ones simply copy stories from other media outlets (they all have a particular, and flattering, obsession with the Standard). Boris's enemies in Nerdistan won't do much damage until they learn the difference between investigative journalism and a Google search."

Meeeeowww! Now here's my response to his criticism submitted under my full and real name:

"While it is fair to say that blogs take some stories from other news sources, they at least have the courtesy to provide a credit and a link. This is not something which can always be said about newspapers including your own.

"Also the story about potential cuts in police numbers was first broken by a blog. My blog. London blogs are not perfect by any means but they have at least tried to hold Boris Johnson to account.

"Some journalists at the Evening Standard have also tried to do so. You, on the other hand are stuck on scrutinising the last mayor and mocking anybody who dares to criticise the new one. Isn't it time you moved on?"
For some reason the Evening Standard moderators judged this to be unpulishable. However, they have since found room for this gem:

It's nothing but fair and balanced I tell you. Nothing but fair, balanced and accountable.

-Update- Andrew Gilligan says: "I'm not the Mayor"

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Is Simon Milton part of the secret 'Ken Left' cabal?

I'm only asking because of this from Andrew Gilligan:

"while (Boris's) sunny outlook is a key to his appeal, some of his more committed political supporters claim that a still overwhelmingly Ken-era City Hall machine is exploiting that same ecumenical good nature to frustrate change."

Those damn Kennites are holding him back again. So how will he manage to stop them Andy?

"In the War for Johnson's Ear, the forces of Livingstonite conservatism by no means always prevail...

Thank God for that.

"only last week, there was widespread relief among Johnson allies at the choice of an outsider, Barnet's Leo Boland, to be the new GLA chief executive, rather than an internal, Livingstone-era candidate."

Right. So where was this widespread relief felt then do you think? Among Boris's closest advisors perhaps? Or in the heart of the 'lone ranger' himself? Apparently not. 

According to a senior source at City Hall:

"The truth is that it was the Assembly members on the interviewing panel who were mostly in favour of Boland's appointment.

Jeff Jacobs (the internal candidate) was so strongly supported by Johnson, and Simon Milton, who was in on the interviews but didn’t have a vote or say, that the panel had to meet twice to finally persuade the mayor to accept Boland as the best candidate."

You better tell Boris to watch out for that nasty Sir Simon Milton, Andy. He's nothing but a goddamn stooge.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

'Boris Island' still floating around inside City Hall

Boris Johnson is pressing ahead with his fantasy island:

"Highly experienced engineer and Executive Chair of Crossrail Doug Oakervee has agreed to lead the Greater London Authority's preliminary feasibility study into a new airport in the Thames Estuary, the Mayor confirmed today."

Kit Malthouse is ecstatic:

"To have such a colossal figure from the engineering world bringing his extensive skills and judgement to this unique and important project is great news."

Kulveer Ranger is more measured:

"His conclusion will be based on thorough and detailed analysis and will be crucial in aiding a final decision on the feasibility of an airport in the Thames Estuary."

So what about Boris? Where does he stand?

"The Mayor has made it clear that if there is an overriding economic, environmental, political or practical reason why the airport would not work, then he will not progress the project"


"But he is determined to consider all the arguments first so it can be decided once and for all whether the airport is a feasible option."

Phew. He's still with you Kit. Don't worry yourself man, he's still with you all the way...

-Update- Boris Island is 'dead in the water' says BATA

Ken Livingstone in 'Progressive London' coalition

You can read all about it over here or at their new website launched earlier today.

I will be talking about blogging London politics at the first convention in January alongside Tom Barry from Boris Watch and Martin Hoscik from Mayor Watch.

Other speakers include Jon Cruddas MP and the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green leadership on the London Assembly.

Head over here to find out more about Progressive London or to register your interest in attending.

Boris Johnson cuts funding for 'lame duck' groups

Organisations that rely on subsidies from the London Development Agency, in order to continue operating, may lose their funding under Boris Johnson's new plans.

Speaking at City Hall today, the Mayor's new LDA chief Peter Rogers said that they would no longer invest in "lame duck" groups:

"We shouldn't be investing in organisations which require continual subsidy to operate, unless there are very exceptional circumstances."

He insisted that the LDA would continue to provide revenue funding but that it would be 'tapered' to encourage those groups to find private funding elsewhere.

Labour Assembly member and former vice-chair of the LDA John Biggs said in response:

"The LDA is there to operate in areas of market failure and in particular to help communities which can't help themselves.

"Is there not a clear and enduring role for the LDA to continue to fund organisations which have a worthy regeneration, and possibly social objectives as well, which are not going to be met by private or other sources of funding?"

Peter Rogers replied that in some circumstances they would but that:

"the question is should we be funding the same people in the same climate and the answer is no."

He also said that £3.5  million worth of savings had already been made at the LDA. 

However, claims made earlier this year that 170 people would lose their jobs have been radically cut back. 

After conducting a 'consultation' within the organisation, only 30 posts are now expected to go this year.

Rogers also downplayed the role of the much-vaunted Forensic Audit Panel, saying that they had provided 'no new initiatives' to the London Development Agency.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Boris Johnson gets one copper for the price of two

Boris Johnson's has agreed to pay Sir Ian Blair for another two years of service despite the fact that he is due to stand down in three weeks time.

The deal, thought to be worth £400,000 comes after it was revealed that the Mayor had sought no legal advice before ousting the Met Commissioner. 

The Metropolitan Police Authority Chief Executive Catherine Crawford agreed the pay-out in consultation with the Mayor, his Deputy for Police and two other members of the MPA.

Fellow MPA member Jenny Jones said Londoners had been left:

"paying for two police commissioners but only getting the services of one.

"If the Mayor had consulted other parts of London Government about both the original decision to dismiss Sir Ian and the subsequent decision to compensate him, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation."

The job of replacing the ousted Commissioner is descending into farce with acres of speculation emerging daily before a job advertisement was even placed.

But with it becoming increasingly clear that Boris sought neither legal nor professional advice before ousting Sir Ian Blair, his one moment of mayoral bravado is becoming one momentous and expensive mess.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Feral Beast takes a bite out of Andrew Gilligan

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Mayor Boris Johnson: The Troll's Six Month Update

Dave Hill is the latest to offer his thoughts on Boris's first six months in the job, following Tony Travers and Christian Wolmar efforts earlier this week.

Writing on the Guardian's Comment is Free site Dave asks:

"What is the character of his still new administration? For all Johnson's reputation as a wild card of his party's visceral hard right, there are strong, emerging themes of a stout centre-right orthodoxy. For all the fun had by me and blogosphere Boris-bashers proclaiming lurches to the left, much that he's said and done is in mainstream Conservative traditions of civic activism, political pragmatism and stubborn moral certainty."

Now for the record, I never expected Boris to be Norman Tebbit in clown's clothing

During the election campaign I repeatedly argued that the best case to be made against him was that he was inexperienced and had a clear record of incompetence

This rather than any attempts to paint him as a racist monster should have been the focus of the campaign against his election.

But we are where we are. Boris is our rather chaotic Mayor and we're stuck with him. So what does it mean for the next four years, indeed for the next decade of life in London?

Well in some superficial ways it has meant very little. Much of what Boris ran against, he has since been forced to accept. Ken's embassies? Most will stay. 'Mayors for Peace'? Yes he's still one of them.

But on the bigger issues of transport, housing, policing and the environment, a much clearer difference is beginning to emerge.

Earlier this week in the shadow of Barack Obama's election victory, Boris announced the biggest wholesale destruction of London's transport infrastructure plans since the blitz.

Some ten major transport and infrastructure projects, many of which had been in the pipeline for decades, have been shelved or scrapped.

These projects which have already had many millions of pounds invested in them will be filed away at least for the next four years and possibly forever.

Most of these, you will be unsurprised to learn, were in the poorest parts of London. The poorest and the least Boris-favouring will not be helped to move around.

In fact they will be positively encouraged to stay put. One of the first things Boris did when he came to power was to scrap Ken Livingstone's 50 per cent London-wide target for affordable homes. 

This single target has since been replaced with individual targets for individual boroughs. So what has been the result of this?

The result has been that the vast majority of affordable homes will now be supplied by the non-Boris voting boroughs, with only very low targets being set for those with Conservative councils.

Did you fail to vote for Boris? Well you aint going nowhere my friend.

PC Plod

So what about policing? Surely here a Conservative administration will have wanted to make their mark. Well actually no.

Earlier this year Boris Johnson's Deputy for Policing quietly announced that there would be a real terms cut in police funding for the first time in a decade. 

Would this mean cuts in police numbers? He couldn't say. Would it mean better service for the public? Of course it would!

Now all mayor's need to make difficult decisions. Money is tight at the moment and it goes without saying that some things will need to be cut back.

But what has really been the mark of this administration has been the totally disingenuous attempts to misrepresent what they're doing.

Should we encourage more people on to public transport? Of course we should replies the Mayor. Should we invest in the infrastructure to do that? Of course we should he replies again. So are you actually going to invest that money? No.

And while most of what Boris has done has been to simply reverse the decisions of the past mayor, there is little vision of what the new mayor will put in its place.

I mean does anyone know what Boris's plans are to protect us from the recession (well apart from raising our fares and sticking up for bankers that is)? 

And does anyone know how he will promote London as a tourist destination (well apart from slashing funding for Visit London and pissing off the Chinese)?

I mean does anyone know any of these things? Does he even know himself? What ultimately is the point of his administration? I mean really Boris, what is the point?

Boris Johnson: People's Question Time in Bromley

Via Goebbels' blog I see that LBC have put the webcast of this week's People's Question Time up.

I've tried to embed it here, but repeated attempts have repeatedly crashed my computer.

Repeated attempts to take Boris seriously have also repeatedly crashed my patience.

If you haven't quite got the patience to sit through it then you can read a good summary of the proceedings by the Bromley Times here.

But if your patience is longer than mine, then you can calmly listen to the full two hours of fist-chewing, hair-tearing, disingenuous bluster here.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Richard Barnbrook warned over false race statistics

The BNP's London representative seriously misled the London Assembly and the public this week, with a series of false and unattributable crime statistics.

Richard Barnbrook was warned to be careful by a City Hall budget committee after he wrongly suggested that one in ten black Londoners had been arrested following a routine stop and search.

Quoting from figures he claimed to have obtained from "individual boroughs from various activities" he told the committee that "ten per cent of the black population have been found to be correct stop and searches."

He also claimed that the number of stop and searches had massively increased for white people whilst decreasing for black people.

However, if you look at the Met's actual figures, you can see that the rate of stop and searches have increased by around the same amount for both black and white people in the past year.

And despite his claims to the contrary, the percentage of stop and searches which lead to arrests are almost exactly the same for blacks and whites, at around nine percent.

Black people in London are also still around four times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. 

After misleading the Assembly on these points, he went on to claim that there had been a 'drastic' reduction in 'hate crimes' against ethnic minorities and other groups. 

He also questioned the value of spending money on recording them separately. 

However, again if you look at the actual figures supplied to Mr. Barnbrook you can see that there has been a three per cent increase in racial offences and a ten per cent increase in homophobic offences in the past year.

Barnbrook's public attempts to mislead the assembly came after it was reported that the BNP will be distributing hundreds of thousands of brochures titled 'racism cut's both ways' to school children and members of the public across the country.

These brochures which can be read in summary here are an obvious attempt to stoke up fear and racial hatred using false and misleading information.

Desperate Measures

Although the British National Party's most electorally successful politician, Richard Barnbrook has struggled to get any significant media attention since entering City Hall. 

As a result he has increasingly resorted to a number of failed stunts and tedious confrontations in the Assembly chamber.

His appearances at the Assembly have also been followed by entirely false reports from the BNP's own media team.

However, if he continues to use false statistics, whilst being paid as a public servant, then it may not just be a telling off that he will have to contend with.
With thanks to Five Chinese Crackers.

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