Thursday, 22 January 2009

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?


Helen said...

Yep, it was a Tory back-slapping fest. Local mace-wielding MP John McDonnell wasn't even allocated a seat with the "VIPs" in the front and was relegated to near the back of the audience.

Anonymous said...

And should they be part of the quota of People's Question Times?


AdamB said...

Thanks Helen - I was going to attend but I had a feeling it would be as it turned out.

Guano- It doesn't count towards the statutory two a year which I've listed the timetable for here.

However Boris promised to hold an additional four People's question Times a year. These are the so-called PQT lights that Hillingdon was apparently the first of.

The problem with them is that they are not People's Question Times in the sense that the people can only ask questions on the subjects that Boris sets. You can see this with the State of London 'debate' which focused on youth issues and was effectively a rally for him and Ray Lewis.

Helen said...

Boris's schedule of public meetings:

"ad hoc issue based" - the issue being how many Tory supporters can I get in a public hall at once.

AdamB said...

Good spot Helen:

"June – Ad hoc issue based Public Meeting Waltham Forest (Olympics)

What, didn't fancy taking on NOGOE in Greenwich Boris?

Jared said...

mmm, I usually agree with most of what's on here, but I don't agree with the idea we should feel sorry for the Labour MPs who are anti the 3rd runway, in the sense that they should be given a platform at the Mayor's question time. Surely the MPs can also use taxpayers' money to hold constituency meetings for similar purposes? The point is that it is the Labour Govt who are allowing this to happen, and it is an outrage. The Lib Dems and Tories are against it. All 33 london local authorities are also against it, from all parties, so it's not like Boris is storming into west London as the lone white crusader to save the day. My main concern though is that anyone going to such meetings should jump on the Tories at the first mention of the effect of the 3rd runway on climate change- as Boris' policy on a Thames Estuary airport makes a mockery of that line of argument if they try to use it. The Tories only have some credibility if they stick to the noise, transport, and air quality problems that will further blight huge parts of london if this ever eventuates.

AdamB said...

You make some excellent points Jared. My main worry isn't about Labour MPs (they can stick up for themselves) but that Boris is using a forum designed for the public to scrutinise him and turning it into a platform for his own agenda. Boris promised to expand the number of PQTs which I was very pleased about, but these sessions are not PQTs. In the PQT format, all assembly members share the stage and the audience can ask about whatever they are concerned about. Turning up at Hillingdon, with an empty seat for Gordon Brown and an audience full of people who agree with you on the one issue that is up for discussion is hardly increasing your own accountability. It's a publicity stunt. it may be in a worthy cause this time, but it's a publicity stunt all the same.

Tom said...

Indeed, if it wasn't such an important issue it might be worth turning up armed with the details of what a PQT should be like and asking politely if that was allowed. When you're told to sit down or ejected, conclude that it wasn't a PQT after all.