Thursday, 29 January 2009

Boris Johnson aide says council estate life a 'joke'

When Boris Johnson came to power he brought with him the power of the punditocracy. Many members of his team were current or former journalists and all of them knew how to string a sentence together.

Which makes these comments from Boris's housing advisor and former journo Richard Blakeway all the more surprising:

"London mayor Boris Johnson’s housing director has branded quality of life on social housing estates a ‘joke’.

Nearly half of social tenants love their dogs more than their neighbours, Richard Blakeway told yesterday’s British Property Federation conference."

Come now Inside Housing, you're exaggerating. Surely he didn't say that?

"Quality of life is a joke. 46 percent of social tenants on estates love their dog more than their neighbour. Why? Largely because of the total absence of the market."

Okay he did say it. He's an idiot.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Boris Johnson tells Tories to forget allowance grab

Boris Johnson today urged Conservative members of the Fire Authority to show 'restraint' in the future after a failed attempt to increase their own allowances.

Asked whether he supported the actions of Brian Coleman, Roger Evans and Tony Arbour he replied:

"I'm generally in favour of restraint and as far as I'm able to direct it, I will direct restraint."

As the members under discussion looked on nervously, Labour AM Navin Shah told the Mayor:

"Your group Mr Mayor on the Fire authority is aspiring to have increased special responsibility allowances not only for the Chair and the Vice Chair but also for Assembly members who are on the fire authority. Is this something that you support personally given the moral obligations you mention in these difficult ecomonic times?"

Seemingly unaware of the cash-grab by his members, Boris replied:

"I'm in favour of us all setting an example yes."

Let's hope they all follow that example from now on.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Brian Coleman votes for even greater allowances

Ever since Boris Johnson came to power he has tried to project his Conservative administration as one dedicated to cutting costs and increasing 'tax-payer value'

Unfortunately he made the mistake of appointing the man above.

Not only have Brian Coleman's astronomical tax-payer paid taxi bills kept ticking over, but so too have the continual (and increasingly tedious) gaffes.

Whether it's saying that Olympic medallists have blood on their hands, or that a woman concerned for her own safety is a 'dizzy airhead', Coleman has pissed off everybody from international athletes to the the very firemen he is paid to represent.

Well if that wasn't 'value-for-money' enough, Coleman has now attempted to extract a little more from us all.

At a meeting of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority that he chairs, Coleman voted for an additional £7,564.91 (plus SR allowances) to be paid to authority members who are also on the London Assembly.

Coleman, who already receives £25,612.50 for chairing the authority, was joined in the vote by his fellow Conservative Assembly members Roger Evans and Tony Arbour.

Currently, most Assembly Members who are on the authority are expected to do the work as part of their basic £50,582 salary.

However, a recent change in the law meant that Assembly members chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Fire Authority were also able to draw allowances for that as well.

The result of this legislation was the inflation busting allowance hike given to Kit 'nine jobs' Malthouse last year.

Public spirit

In a moment of public spiritedness, Brian Coleman last week voted in favour of his chums on the Fire Authority also getting some extra feathers for their caps.

But in a moment of genuine public spiritedness, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green members of the Authority all voted against the further amendment to the law.

Thank God those lefty spendthrifts aren't in charge eh?

-Update- Tory Assembly Members told to show 'restraint'

Monday, 26 January 2009

Boris Island(s): Come for a holiday. Stay forever...

Usually when people find out how spectacularly expensive and problematic something will be, they reconsider. Not with Team Boris:

"It's going to happen, I just know it," enthused his deputy Kit Malthouse, when we spoke on the phone that evening. Malthouse has, as he puts it, "brought to prominence" anew the old idea of a whole new airport in the Thames Estuary and was among those on the dredger Brabo inspecting the proposed location. On learning of the nasty weather I'd texted him, asking if anyone had thrown up. I got no response to that, but his later reply informed me that the sea was "full of clobber."

The fact that the sea is 'full of clobber' is apparently a good thing. As are the bad conditions, the long distance of the airport from land, and well everything else really. It's all good:

"Malthouse explained: the shallowness would make the engineering easier and the "clobber" showed that this stretch of water is far from environmentally unspoiled. As for the eyesore factor, he assured me that both the Kent and Essex coastlines were mere "thin lines" in the distance."

We've been watching this boondoggle for a while now and I'm beginning to think that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that could dissuade Kit and Boris from thinking this is a good idea. Try it out for yourself.

Threat to wildlife? Environmental nonsense.
Threat of birdstrike? Totally exaggerated.
Local opposition? Easy to overcome.
Government opposition? Easily voted out.
Conservative opposition? Easily persuaded.
The fact it's not in London? A minor technicality.

All of which reminds me of what a certain Barack Obama said about the Republicans during the presidential elections:

"It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

"You know, they think it is funny that they are making fun of something that is actually true. They need to do their homework. Because this is serious business."

And it is a serious business, because when things go wrong, they can go really wrong. Take the building of the Kansai off-shore airport in Japan:

"When Kansai international airport was completed in 1994, it was hailed as an architectural marvel - a 24-hour gateway to Asia that would revitalise western Japan.

"Five years on, the terminal building remains as spectacular as ever. But the artificial island on which it perches is sinking into Osaka Bay, its business strategy is in tatters and its financial position looks increasingly like a black hole..."

Read on and there's plenty more out there as well. Take the supposedly successful Hong Kong Airport, also reclaimed from the sea:

"Seven months after Hong Kong's new $20 billion airport opened amid a riot of lost luggage and rotting cargo, a Government commission today laid most of the blame on the airport's Western managers.

"Describing them as ''overconfident,'' the report said the executives should have asked the Hong Kong government to delay the opening by two months to fix bugs in the airport's flight information screens, baggage-handling systems, and its vast cargo terminal.

"Shortly after the airport opened on July 6, its display screens went dark, luggage went astray and crates of cargo -- including fresh fish -- were left to rot on the runway. Though most of the glitches were soon solved, it was a stinging embarrassment for a city that prides itself on Swiss-watch efficiency."

Of course it wasn't particularly becoming for those Western managers either. I wonder who they could have been?

"Among those harshly faulted are Henry D. Townsend, an American who was the airport's chief executive, and Douglas E. Oakervee, a British construction expert who was the project manager. Both have retired, and they could not be reached for comment."

It's funny, because since he's come out of retirement, he seems much more willing to comment:

The senior engineer behind Hong Kong's island airport claims Boris Johnson's plan for a Thames Estuary airport would be easy to deliver.

"Douglas Oakervee, who is carrying out a feasibility study for the Mayor, said it was “quite clear” it would be “relatively straightforward” to build a new airport. After visiting the site with Mr Johnson, he said he was “encouraged” that the project — which has been dubbed “fantasy island” by critics — was possible.”

Will a Mayormobile be bought for Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson's advisors discussed buying him an official Mayoral car, Tory Troll can reveal.

The vehicle, already referred to as the Mayormobile, would have been paid for by the London taxpayer, and used for official engagements only.

However, Boris's advisors were understood to be cautious about taking the move, given previous controversies over his pro-motorist policies.

His already shaky image as the value-for-money cycling mayor would also have been put at risk.

However, most government ministers and other high-profile politicians already have a similar arrangement.

For these reasons and others, no final decision has yet been made about the car.

But with January Sales about to be over, could there really be a better time for them to decide?

-Update- A spokesman for the mayor said:
"The Mayor has no intention whatsoever of acquiring an official car and has never wanted one. He cycles everywhere he possibly can, and if he cannot he happily uses public transport or very occasionally a taxi."
So there is to be no Mayormobile.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Alexander Lebedev to give firearms to journalists

Anyone who thinks the new Evening Standard owner will be a softer touch than Paul Dacre should think again:
MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - The Novaya Gazeta newspaper will ask Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) to issue arms licenses to its staff after one of its journalists was shot in broad daylight in downtown Moscow, a co-owner of the daily said on Thursday...

We will address an unusual request to the Federal Security Service: If you are unable to ensure our security, let our journalists have firearms," Alexander Lebedev said.

Oo er. Let's hope the offer doesn't extend to this man or things could start to get real messy.

Boris Johnson lauded at his Heathrow rally.

When I first heard about Boris's plans to hold a People's Question Time in Hillingdon I received the following email from somebody close to City Hall:

"Re the "additional PQTs" that Boris promised, 

"Boris has reportedly said that these will not be proper PQTs with all the Assembly Members present, as in the present format, but will be something called "PQT light" – which apparently means that Boris and his advisers will be answering questions along with the Assembly Member for the constituency where the meeting is held, but no other AMs will be invited.

"The first "PQT light" will be held in Hillingdon in January, with the main subject being Heathrow expansion. So the platform will presumably be the Tory mayor, the Tory deputy mayor (Richard Barnes) and a bunch of Tory advisers.

"If so, Boris will be able to blow his own trumpet, making a big thing about being against the proposed third runway, but prominent non-Tory AMs who oppose Hethrow expansion will be deprived of publicity for their stance."

Well having watched both Dave Hill's clips and listened to the LBC podcast it's clear that not only was this a platform for the Tory Mayor, his Tory advisors and a Tory AM, it was also a platform for the Tory Leader of the local Tory council.

Now I don't have any real objections to him holding these kinds of meetings. There's lots of opposition to the expansion of Heathrow and Gordon Brown has so far shied away from any real debate on this.

But if Boris is going to launch a series of what are effectively party political rallies, then should they really be held at the taxpayer's expense?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Evening Standard the latest victim of price crash

"With four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a garage, it used to be the most expensive house on the street at £40,000."

Scooped the Evening Standard last year.

"Now a detached home in the U.S. city of Detroit has been sold for just 50p."

Sad news. But then if nobody wants to buy it, I guess you have to take what you can get. Speaking of which:

"Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev has today succeeded in his bid to buy the London Evening Standard from Lord Rothermere's Daily Mail & General Trust, for a nominal sum, understood to be £1."

One pound!

"The deal, which sees Lebedev take a stake of 75.1% in the loss-making Evening Standard, is a watershed moment for the struggling UK newspaper industry..."

You're telling me. Now if only he could have spared another 33p he could have bought himself a newspaper.

Anton Vowl faces up to a dilemma

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Boris Johnson & Kit Malthouse: a timeline of peace

How Boris Johnson and his deputy Kit Malthouse found peace & love:
  • June 25, 2008: "Boris Johnson has withdrawn London’s membership of the global ‘Mayors for Peace’ initiative, founded by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, CND has learned."
  • September 16, 2008: "I have reviewed my initial decision and decided that London will remain a member of Mayors of Peace."
  • September 18, 2008: Kit Malthouse registers "Attendance at Peace Awards Dinner for me and my wife."
Well they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach...

Kit Malthouse on the Evening Standard 'Smugfest'

What's wrong Kit? Were you as unimpressed as I was?

But maybe you're a Guardianista at heart...

Monday, 19 January 2009

Me at Comment is free: Progressive London

My latest for Comment is free is part of the Progressive London series. Head over there for more on the government, blogging London, and that Mayor of ours.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Derek Draper Guide to Weblogging 2009

From Derek Draper's Duffers guide to blogging:

"The 'blogosphere' is a community of internet users sharing information and ideas through web-based platforms known as 'blogs.'

Agreed. Fine examples can be found both here and here.

"Associated with the term is the idea that blogs are all somehow interconnected to form part of a wider blogging community, or social network."
Again we're agreed.

"It is these communities that facilitate rapidly spreading viral content on the internet and new cultural phenomena, known as ‘memes’."

Ah yes memes. You know there seems to be a new meme rapidly spreading through that community Derek, and it involves your good self

From: Derek Draper
To: Tim Ireland
CC: Greg Jackson, Sue Macmillan, Tom Miller, Alex Smith
12:33 PM

see below, in caps


"So you refuse to answer any questions about your use of creative material without credit? Again, I want to be absolutely clear on this point."


[Derek Draper]
020 7486 2400

MIND Journalist of the Year

Now I was pleased when I first heard about LabourList. There's definitely a place for a Labour version of Conservative Home and LabourList seemed as good a spot as any.

And if the Labour Party was genuinely interested in reaching out to the grassroots, then a site like LabourList would be very useful indeed.

But if 'reaching out' means shaking down certain members of that community for ideas, whilst mocking certain other members for not being 'MASSMEDIA' enough, then I think I'll pass for now.

But then what does that really matter to you eh Derek? I mean, who do I think I am?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Is this the beginning of the Evening Tatler?

The Evening Standard editor Victoria Wadley is set to go if the Lebedev deal goes ahead, with all eyes now on the Tatler editor Geordie Greig to take her place.

According to the Media Guardian:

"Lebedev intends to make the Standard fresher and younger, and possibly more progressive, and move the paper away from the direct influence of Paul Dacre, the powerful and opinionated editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, the DMGT subsidiary that publishes the paper.

"Greig, an Old Etonian and Oxford University graduate, has edited Tatler, part of the Conde Nast empire, for nearly a decade. He has worked at the Daily Mail, Today and the Sunday Times as a war reporter, crime reporter, fashion writer, New York correspondent and literary editor. He started his career at the Kentish Mercury, based in Deptford."

Now I'm no fan of Dacre, but to me this sounds like the Evening Standard is going to become even more lightweight than it was under Wadley.

Of course if Greig does comes in, there is always the chance that he could return to his days at the Deptford Mercury, rooting out the dirt on serious local issues.

Or alternatively we could just see more stories like this:

I won't be holding my breath...

Reactions to the Evening Standard Lebedev deal

I've been reading up on some of the press reactions to the Lebedev deal and it's mostly been positive.

It seems that in a sinking industry, the crew will jump onto just about any passing boat, no matter who the captain is.

In fact far from being gloomy, there seems to be joy about Lebedev being a man of culture and about this being an altruistic gesture which could extend to other papers.

Now I can understand these thoughts. Nobody wants to lose their job, and it would be a sad day if London no longer had a newspaper.

And if Lebedev was genuinely putting money into the industry for the good of journalism and the capital, then I would be happy as anyone.

But Lebedev isn't quite the anti-Kremlin champion of free speech that some have portrayed him as. 

Lebedev is a hard-nosed practitioner of mayoral and presidential politics and there's absolutely no way that he won't be making use of his new toy.

And besides, there's an old Russian saying, which I first heard from my grandad when Putin came to power. He told me:

"Adam, in Russia they say once KGB, always KGB."

I'll be keeping that in mind over the next few years.

Conservative Assembly Members earn their keep

I've often wondered what certain Conservative Assembly members do for their money now that their man is in charge. The Telegraph has found out:

'Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London may have bitten off more than he could chew (or indeed afford) when he invited members of the London Assembly to come up with ideas to improve City Hall.

'Lady (Victoria) Borwick suggested "a few table tennis tables and other fun things would not go amiss in certain areas". Richard Tracey, for his part, suggested "attractive daily flower arrangements in the entry concourse – look at the ones Norton Rose opposite us have each day". Richard Barnes thought it would be a good idea to paint the place in a more "welcoming colour instead of the awful yellow". Just as well money isn't in short supply these days.'

Or time it would seem.

The Notdailymail on the Evening Standard sale

  • Follow Notdailymail_uk here.
  • Follow Tory Troll here.

The Evening Standard for sale to Russian oligarch

For all those people predicting the death of newspapers, here's why you're wrong:

"The billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev is to buy London's Evening Standard tomorrow, in a dramatic move that would see him become the first Russian oligarch to own a major British newspaper, can reveal."

But hang on Alex, why are you going to piss your money away in a failing industry?  

"As far as I'm concerned this [buying the Standard] has nothing to do with making money. There are lots of other ways. This is a good way to waste money,"

So there you have it. When once newspapers provided a service to their readers and a profit to their shareholders, in the future they will purely be a plaything of their owners.

Fancy an introduction to the Prime Minister? Buy a paper. Fancy a chat with the Mayor of London. Buy a paper. A few foreign property deals. Buy a paper. Some protection from a thug. Buy a paper.

Still, the Standard has always been a bit of a propaganda rag hasn't it? It couldn't get any worse could it?

"The Russian tycoon also wants to establish a new editorial and advisory board for the Standard. This could include heavyweight global figures such as Mikhail Gorbachev – the former Soviet president and Lebedev's personal friend – as well as Tony Blair, former French president Jacques Chirac and leading Russian editors."

Oh please. Could it get any worse?

"The paper would be less under the influence of its sister paper, the Daily Mail, sources suggest, and would not necessarily reflect the Mail's rightwing editorial line."

That's something I guess.

"It would probably continue, however, to support Boris Johnson, London's Conservative mayor, they add."

Some things change. Some things they stay the same...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Boris Johnson gives 1/2 price travel to job seekers

Fair's fair Boris, you've made a good decision here:

"Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today announced that over the next year London's half-price bus and tram travel scheme will be extended to include thousands of unemployed Londoners in receipt of Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) or the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)."

Well I have to say, I didn't see that coming

"The move, which is part of the Mayor's Economic recovery Action Plan, is designed to help people back to work by making it easier to travel to interviews, and access libraries, job centres, and other amenities. It means that from 1 April eligible Londoners in receipt of the allowances will be able to access the same half priced travel concession that those on Income Support currently benefit from."

Now it wasn't that long ago that things weren't looking so good. To the anger of many last year, Boris Johnson scrapped half-price fares for people on income support.

But in just a few months we have seen not only a u-turn of that decision but also this welcome extension of half-price fares to people looking for work.

Lib Dem Assembly Leader Mike Tuffrey, who campaigned for the extension, said today:

"No one should be forced to turn down an interview because they can’t afford a bus fare. Yet Boris Johnson has put up fares this month by 11% - three times the rate of inflation. At present an unemployed person on JSA, with a weekly income of just £47, will end up paying £2 for a return trip to an interview. If they pay their fares in cash the fares will be £4.

“When you are on such a low income cheaper travel can make a world of difference to getting back to work.”

Obviously this announcement would be more welcome if everybody's bus fares were not going up by 11 per cent at the same time.

But with today's decision at least, Boris has done exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. Can we have more of the same please?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

BBC London report on the Boris Watch websites

The London Paper scrutinise Mayor Boris Johnson

A new report by the London Assembly reveals that London's finances are now under significant and increasing strain. 

The oncoming recession and millions of pounds worth of cuts brought in by the new mayor means that there are now threats to the financing of our police force, fire safety and transport infrastructure.

According to the report 2009 could be:

"the worst year for London since the 1970's."

But before you go heading for your bunker, just be thankful that Rupert Murdoch's London Paper has got it's finger on the pulse:

"SCRUFFY Boris Johnson has been bombarded with gifts which suggest people want him to smarten up his image.

"The Mayor, notorious for his dishevelled suits and blond mop, has received a series of presents since coming to office, including 12 ties, a box of soap and some silver cufflinks.

"The list of his ‘freebies’ from July to December shows he also received two pairs of new shoes and some posh Gold Hunter wellies to help him keep his look intact in even the worst weather conditions.

"The GQ Man of the Year Prize winner, 44, was also presented with some face cream and a bottle of 1980s aftershave Aramis.

"However, how a cowboy hat - one of the more bizarre gifts on the list - can help him improve his image is in some doubt.

"A City Hall insider said: “Perhaps people are trying to tell him something…”

Go back to bed London, your government is in control...

The Courage of Colonel Kit

My congratulations go out to Boris Johnson's overworked Deputy Kit Malthouse who has finally found the time to oust the Iraqi insurgent from his website.

But Kit, surely you've missed something?

Maybe Marqos was annoyed with the results of these polls:

Talking of biting bullets, it seems that David Cameron's finally bit right through one:

'Mr Cameron, who fielded questions on a range of subjects during an hour-long meeting including knife crime and immigration, also appeared lukewarm about the idea of an island airport off Sheppey.

'Although he declined to rule out the idea, he said extending existing capacity at regional airports and building a high speed rail link to cities like Leeds and Birmingham were the answer:

He told the Kentish audience:

"Boris does not have the power to build a new aiport."

Whoops. It Looks like you're going to need a lot more of that courage now Kit.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Boris Johnson's City Hall 'shredder' story in shreds

Anyone listening to Radio Four's 'Inside City Hall' documentary last night will have heard Boris tell this story about the weekend following his election victory:

"One of the things about the first weekend is we weren't allowed in. We weren't allowed in (to City Hall) until Monday. So I think the shredders were a-whining and a-humming for the first weekend, but we weren't there."

Now there was something about this claim that didn't quite ring true. Surely Boris gave this speech on the Saturday?

Okay, but maybe he was just allowed into the main chamber. Maybe in the upper regions of the tower, the shredders were still a-whirring?

Well apparently not. According to one current City Hall worker Boris's claims are:

"Absolute rubbish. City Hall was open to all that weekend. Indeed I met with Tories (and others) at 9am on the Saturday."

Right. So some Tories were let into the offices but maybe Boris's team were kept at bay? Well not quite. According to one member of the old administration:

"They were not allowed to take 'possession' of the offices but I'm pretty sure they had tours around; and either way it's just rubbish to say they weren't allowed in the building. As I was arriving to finish off emptying my office on Saturday Nick Boles was coming in for meetings."

Hey, but what's a few carefully placed smears between political enemies eh? I mean it's not like we're talking 'secret wine cellars' here. Are we?

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Will Boris's motorbike trial be given an easy ride?

Boris it seems, is quite proud of his motorbikes in bus lanes trail. So proud in fact that he congratulated himself for it long before before it even came in.

Further signs of his pleasure came today as reported by Dave Hill:

I hadn't realised until I'd browsed a few more sites quite how, well, quasi-corporate the launch of the mayor's bikers-in-bus-lanes pilot had been. I've no problem with Honda UK organising a celebratory convergence on Wembley's Ace Cafe, but was it right for Kulveer Ranger to not only take part in the event but, apparently, "lead the ride" with Honda UK's general manager? How confident can we be that the conduct and assessment of the trial will be objective when the mayor's transport director seems to have made so crystal clear what outcome he'd prefer?

Well. Quite.

But then it kind of assumes that Boris gives a stuff about the result of the trial anyway. I mean can you really see it going now it's here? 

I mean what kind of mass chaos or disaster would need to ensue for Boris to scrap this policy after 18 months? Can you see it happening?

Still, there's a survey up if you want to add your voice to those of Kulveer and his convoy, but really what is the point?

Because all Londoners may be equal, but some consultations:

Are more equal than other consulatations:

Go Iain!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Have Your Say: Heathrow

21 January 2009, 7pm
The Beck Theatre, Hayes

"This special nimby love-in People's Question Time meeting with Mayor of London Boris Johnson will focus on just one issue - the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

"Come along for a pre-election campaign rally lively debate around the issues of the Heathrow expansion and what it means for the environment, businesses, residents and London.

"The Mayor will ignore anything he has actual responsibility for take your questions with speakers representing opinions for and against expansion."


"The meeting will be held at The Beck Theatre, Grange Road, Hayes, Middlesex, UB3 2UE."


"To request free tickets, please call the box office at The Beck Theatre, tel 020 8561 8371.

"Tickets are limited to two per household. Ticketholders will need to be seated by 6.45pm on the night to guarantee entry." ALSO HERE.

Investigation into Boris Johnson goes to next stage

The investigation into possible breaches of the GLA and MPA codes of conduct by Boris Johnson will continue to the next stage, it was revealed today.

If it is found that he has broken the code of conduct, then he could face sanctions ranging from the requirement to make a formal apology, to full suspension from office.

Although not yet officially announced, today's decision means that Boris will have to take part in an interview with the monitoring officer before a possible referral to the Standards Board for England.

The investigation was launched last month after Boris
  • Spoke out against Damian Green's arrest
  • Revealed he had spoken to Damian Green about that arrest,
  • Revealed the contents of a private discussion with the Commissioner of the Met before
  • Publicly throwing doubt on the possibility of any prosecution of Damian Green ever taking place.
The full details of the case can be read here and I don't want to go over anything that has already been said.

However, whatever the results of this investigation, I do hope that the mayor is not suspended or removed from office in any way.

Despite what some people say, breaking the code of conduct is a serious matter and appropriate action should always be taken

But unless a politician is guilty of a criminal offence, it should be down to voters and voters alone, when and for how long, politicians should stay in their jobs.

-Update- The full decision notice can be read here.

Boris Johnson's Bendy Jihad: boondoggle edition

Tom from Boris Watch and Andrew Bowden have both been studying TfL's bendy bus consultation. The results?

Okay so we've been over most of this. We know, that Boris knows, that we know, that this policy has absolutely nothing to do with common sense value-for-money policy-making and everything to do with ideologically-nonsensical politicking. 

He's confidently marched us up the double-decker stairway anyway, and even though there's a gang of knife-wielding maniacs on the top deck, there's no way he's going march us back down again.

This is what his deputy Kit Malthouse calls courage

Now one man's hard-headed courage is another man's blind folly, but we are where we are. 

Bendies are going and eventually we will get the gleaming red boondoggles that are the new Routemasters. So let's take a look at those boondoggles.

Into the abyss

Well when you're marching up a bus stairway, you always have to keep in mind that at some point you're going to have to march back down again. Even if the gang of knife-wielding maniacs doesn't set you on your heels, at some point you're going to need to get off at your stop.

With this in mind, and with the Routemaster competition still ongoing, London Travelwatch prepared a report on which staircases work best on a double decker. Here's a summary:

The original Routemaster staircases were rear ascending and had a steep 90 degree turn. Steps on the curve were obviously narrower and more difficult to traverse, but overall they seemed to work.

The onset of front-loading buses meant that some later designs put the staircase at the front. 

Thankfully these were never taken up in London, partly because of the risk of being hurled into the abyss whenever the bus made a particularly sharp stop.

As a result of this fault, future designs put the staircase in the middle. Although they were no longer front ascending, the DMS and Titan designs unfortunately had the added obstacle of a 180 degree spiral turn.

This meant that the staircase treads were even narrower and more dangerous to descend than those they had replaced.

The solution was the 'square' staircase as shown above. Less precarious than the spiral and with a wider tread, the Metrobus seemed to be the ideal solution. However, space considerations meant that later designs incorporated the now ubiquitous straight staircase:

The straight staircase is almost in universal use in London. It is both easy to ascend and takes up a minimum amount of space. However, there are significant problems with it as pointed out by Travelwatch:

"For the passenger, the problem with a straight staircase becomes apparent once the bus actually moves. The reality is that a bus lurches about – back and fore, sideways, up and down and in any combination of these – and can brake suddenly. For passengers going up the stairs there is no real problem; if they are thrown off balance the worst that is likely to happen is that they fall forward onto the staircase. This is unpleasant and may result in minor injury, but it is a risk which passengers seem willing to take.

"Descending a straight staircase is different. When standing at the top, the passenger looks down on a long open space which offers an unbroken fall if the bus lurches or brakes suddenly. Even for the most able bodied, this is psychologically disturbing, causes most users to hesitate as they descend (thus slowing the unloading of the bus) and is particularly difficult for those who are carrying bags and therefore have only one hand free to hold the handrail."

Of course the ideal solution to all of these problems is to simply *not* have a staircase at all. 

But accepting that double deckers are necessary on some routes, and accepting that a whole new fleet of them is about to be designed and built, then it is important that these considerations are taken into account. 

So what did Travelwatch advise? Well here's how they broke it down:


That London TravelWatch adopts the following policy on bus staircases (subject to any further evidence becoming available from practical trials) :

(a) All staircases should be forward ascending. 

(b) Straight staircases which present descending passengers with a long drop into an open void are not acceptable.

(c) Of previous staircase designs in London – 
  • The square staircase used on the Metrobus is the preferred option. 
  • The 90 degree curve used on the Routemaster may be acceptable, subject to careful attention to design detail and to user testing. 
  • The 180 degree spiral used on the DMS and the Titan is not acceptable.
Okay, so the straight staircases don't work, the square ones do, the 90 degree curve just about does the job, but the 180 degree curve absolutely doesn't.

Now after reading all of this can you guess which type of staircase our common sense, listening mayor went for. Yep, you've guessed it:

Monday, 5 January 2009

Boris's top ten least newsworthy press releases

Well it's certainly a part.

Let us know when it's finished.

In case you were worried...

Well you probably had been (worried that is).

Mayor Who?

Following his plea for 'Royal' Boris to give a 'Queens Speech' (he kind of did) Andrew Gilligan has another suggestion for his Mayor/ his Majesty:

"It strikes me that Boris (a child in the Seventies) has based his entire persona on the Tom Baker Doctor Who of that era: the same unruly hair, the same rumpled and jovial exterior concealing the same razor-sharp scientific brain, the same implacable hereditary enemies (surely John Biggs, Labour's deputy leader in the London Assembly, must be a Cyberman?)

"To those who object that Boris already has a job, I reply that in fact he has about six, without notable ill effect. If you're already chairing TfL, the MPA, the waste board, the skills board and writing a Daily Telegraph column into the bargain, what's a little light acting on the side."

And how about doing some light reporting on the side as well? It's not like anyone would notice the difference.