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?


Anonymous said...

'What is the point?'

Last time I checked comrade Ken was still in exile and his cronies were still crying themselves to sleep every night. Mission accomplished as far as I'm concerned.

The Troll said...

So as long as Comrade Ken is gone, Comrade Boris can do as he pleases? Doubleplusgood Anonymouse.

Anonymous said...

I really do think the 'borough by borough' housing target makes absolute sense. The aim is to have as many affordable homes built as possible and it is a fact that with the same amount of money you could get many more homes built in an area such as Tower Hamlets than in an area such as Kensington.

Chris N said...

Umm not quite - what will happen is that (as you say) Tower Hamlets and Hackney will reach their targets and the Western and Outer Doughnut boroughs will not. I suspect that will lead to a net reduction in overall affordable housing and have the delightful effect of ghettoising the 'poor' into enclaves away from the more well heeled. The subtext of Anon's comment suggests this is what he is looking for.

For reference, I live in Tower Hamlets and am moving across to Hackney shortly. Happy to have as much affordable housing as we can fit into the borough.

Tom said...

The really clever thing is that councils are being rewarded for having low affordable housing targets by, er, not being given affordable housing targets. Labour boroughs, who are ideologically forced to promote affordable housing, therefore end up building more, which concentrates various kinds of expensive social provision in those areas. Tory councils, shouldering less of the burden, then accuse Labour councils of fiscal profligacy for having to take up more than their share. Classy.

In other words, it's the Tories gerrymandering London at a strategic level. Perhaps Sir Simon Milton learnt more from Dame Shirley than we thought?

The Troll said...

Apparently Boris has been reading her biography. Take from that what you will.

angelneptunestar said...

Great idea to give free travel to war veterans. I can't stand it when they are shabbily treated. Free travel is the least we can do in thanks for what they go through.

Tom said...

"Free travel is the least we can do in thanks for what they go through."

How about not starting any bloody stupid wars in the first place? Ask Boris about his support of the invasion of Iraq sometime.