Friday, 27 February 2009

The Evening Standard and the Boris-Watching blogs

Lib Dem Voice have been crunching the numbers:

"In the three weeks before the departure of editor Veronica Wadley from the Evening Standard the paper’s stories about Boris Johnson broke down as 61% positive, 27% neutral and 12% negative."

"And in the three weeks after her departure? They were 43% positive (down 18%), 22% neutral (down 5%) and 35% negative (up 23%)."

Well that certainly fits with my own experience. In fact things at the Standard have gone so far in the other direction, they've started nicking our stories:

"But, in a move that has angered his political opponents, a fleet of more than a dozens cabs was ordered to take Mr Johnson and several others home after the meeting ended about 9pm.

"The Mayor's office could not say how many people were given a free ride home and refused to reveal their identities. Earlier this year, after it was claimed there were plans to provide Mr Johnson with an official car, his office said:

"He cycles everywhere he possibly can, and if he cannot he happily uses public transport, or very occasionally a taxi."

Now I don't want to have too much of a crack at Danny Brierley. If he wants to lift our stories including a quote from the mayor's office supplied only to this blog, then that's okay with me.

But I do wonder about this cut and paste journalism.

-Update- Now also available in The Daily Mail.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Boris Johnson's fire chief triples his expense claims

Brian Coleman has almost tripled the amount of expenses he claims from the London Fire Authority, Tory Troll can reveal.

The figures released to this blog, show that the man Boris Johnson appointed to chair LFEPA claimed a whopping £2275 in 'subsistence and travel' between 1 April and 31 December 2008.

This is almost three times what he claimed between April and December the year before.

To put that into context, the other 25 members of LFEPA claimed just £1395 worth of expenses between them over the same period.

Now quite why Brian Coleman needs any extra 'subsistence' after accepting over 60 free dinners is anyones guess.

As is why he would need to claim extra travel expenses from LFEPA after claiming £18,000 from the Assembly over two years.

And when he's also been looking for top ups to his £100k allowances then some serious questions still need to be asked.

No Restraint

The news that Brian Coleman has almost tripled his expense claims comes after Boris Johnson advised Assembly Members to show 'restraint' during the recession.

Asked about his member's allowance grab at last month's Mayor's Question Time, Boris said:

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

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

Well he certainly can't accuse Coleman of not setting an example to Londoners. It just happens to be a spectacularly bad one.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Victoria Borwick apologises for conflict of interest

A Conservative Assembly Member has apologised after being found to have used taxpayers money to promote her husband's business.

One time mayoral hopeful Lady Victoria Borwick sent out letters to fellow Assembly members and London Council leaders stating that:

"we are often discussing ways of helping reduce noise levels and pollution and I realized that most people are not aware of the various fully electric options available to us.”

In order to make them more aware, she included brochures for Modec Electric Vehicles, a company chaired by her husband Lord Borwick.

The letters, which were written on GLA-headed paper prompted complaints that she had misused taxpayer money in order to 'secure an unfair advantage.' 

An investigation was launched by the GLA Standards Committee, which has now concluded. 

Borwick has agreed to repay the money and to send out written apologies. No further action will be taken by the GLA.

In a letter mailed to all those who received the brochure, Borwick writes:

"I wrote to you in October 2008 in relation to London’s challenging targets for the reduction of carbon emissions. I enclosed with that letter, for information purposes, a brochure on Modec commercial electric vehicles. In that letter I openly and fully declared my interest because my husband is Chairman of the company. You should know that, because I was mindful of the proprieties in this, prior to sending that information I sought advice and approval from the Head of Legal and Procurement and Monitoring Officer of the GLA, and on the basis of that guidance I sent the letter. However, on reflection, and even having taken the above steps, I am concerned lest it could be thought that my letter might appear to fall under the category of “using a position to secure an unfair advantage for any person”. This was, and is, clearly not my intention. I do hope this clarification is helpful and I apologise to anyone who might have been misled."  

Don't worry Victoria. It's all crystal clear to me.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Boris Johnson clears himself of GLA conduct breach

Boris Johnson tonight headed-off the results of a GLA Standards investigation into his conduct, by releasing a summary of a report prepared for its consideration.

The statement released by the Mayor's office gives the impression (as seen here, here and here) that Boris has been cleared of all breaches of the GLA code.

It also bemoans the £11,000 spent by the authority on investigating the case.

However, the relevant City Hall Standards Committee appointed to decide the case, is not even due to decide the case until next week.

And when the Committee does meet, they may decide to refer Boris to an official hearing, whereupon he may still be found to have broken the code of conduct.

Extraordinary and Unwise

Also, despite claims to the contrary, Jonathan Goolden's report is not yet available on the Mayor's website.

(Update- I now have the report. More later).

However, Len Duvall has now revealed some more of the report's contents. In a statement released within the last hour he said:

"I welcome Mr Goolden's finding that the Mayor's actions were 'extraordinary and unwise' and his implication that this must never happen again. Anyone who reads this report will see that this it is a very serious and unprecedented warning to Mr Johnson. He has had a lucky escape on technicalities and been given the benefit of the doubt this time but in my view his actions were reckless, improper and made for political advantage. They also have clear and serious implications for future police investigations.

"I remain of the view that Mr Johnson tried to help out his friend by ringing him to discuss his case, then saying three times in public that he did not think the police investigation would produce a charge. Unless he is going to contact all criminal suspects, I fail to see how Mr Johnson has not shown favour to his friend, colleague and political ally. There are a number of questions the Mayor still needs to answer about who knew what when, and why he contacted the people he did.

"It is now for the Standards Boards of the GLA and MPA to look carefully at Mr Goolden's report and to agree the proposed new rules governing Mr Johnson's future actions and conduct."

According to Duvall the report found that:

Boris's actions:
  • Were “extraordinary and unwise” (paragraph 8.20) 
  • Might “inhibit full and free discussion” of high profile cases “between the chief officer of police and a police authority chairman” (6.33)
  • “Placed him at risk of being called as a witness by either the CPS or defence in any criminal prosecution of Mr Green, to the potential detriment of his office as Chairman of the MPA” (8.21)
  • Risked being “perceived as furthering private interests” (8.21)

Until we can see the whole thing, it's impossible to judge exactly how critical or otherwise it is. Also, some of it's findings are still being contested by members of the committee.

With this in mind you may have expected the Mayor to hold off this press release until the Committee meets next week.

But then why would we expect the small matters of due process and accountability to get in the way of another piece of Mayoral spin?

 Iain Dale and Con Home have fallen into line.

Has the Lebedev deal killed off the Evening Boris?

Image by Beau Bo D'or
I was on my way back from an interview this afternoon when I took the chance to buy a copy of the newly liberated Evening Standard. And do you know what, it didn't make me feel physically ill.

Things I liked:
  1. Interesting front page scoop on the Met.
  2. Report on Boris admitting he can't build 50,000 new homes
  3. First ES interview with Ken Livingstone for seven years
  4. *Relatively* balanced editorial on Boris and Ken
  5. Scathing attack on Boris Johnson from Simon Jenkins
  6. No Andrew Gilligan.
So all in all, not a bad use of my fifty pence piece. 

Of course it's early days and I'm sure tomorrow's edition will bring yet another 1000-worder telling us about TfL's latest sinister racist plot.

But for once it was just a relief to read an entire copy of the Standard and not feel like spitting blood by the end. Long may it continue.

Image by Beau Bo D'or

Friday, 20 February 2009

Boris Island(s) and the sound of the Listening Mayor

Say what you like about Boris, he certainly knows how to unite people across party lines:

"SOUTHEND councillors are being asked to unite in condemning London mayor Boris Johnson’s suggestion of major new airport in the Thames Estuary."

That would be staunchly Conservative Southend-on-Sea of course. Must be the local Labour lot causing trouble?

"Labour group leader David Norman and his deputy, Judith McMahon, have put forward a motion to the council, expressing their concern about Mr Johnson’s suggested alternative to expansion at Heathrow.

Thought so. Surely the Conservative leader will deliver a slap-down?

"Council leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “I have said it before in the past and I will say it again I simply do not believe a scheme like this would be feasible. I am certainly not going to get worked up about it until I see some concrete plans which could actually work.”

I wouldn't hold your breath on that one Nigel.

Working against the boroughs

Now the fact that a Council within the Thames Gateway opposes the airport is not big news. 

In fact you have to go a long way up the river (Greenwich as it happens) before you can find anybody who will speak up for the plans.

But with the sound of cross-party, local and county-wide opposition continuing to grow, just for how much longer can Boris Johnson pose as the listening Mayor.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Barnet Council raises funeral fees above inflation

After sinking £27.4 million into a failed Icelandic bank, Barnet Council will sneak through a series of above inflation hikes on funeral and interment charges.

The council, which was until recently administered by Boris Johnson's new chief executive Leo Boland will bring in over 50 above inflation increases. Here are just some:

Barnet Council had originally intended to raise the cost of burying a child under three years of age by 10%, but backtracked when the local press picked up on the story.

However, the revised charges highlighted by Barnet Council Watch, are only slightly less punishing with many increases still pushing 10%.

Meanwhile, allowances paid to foster parents will increase by just 2% apparently 'in line with inflation'. Inflation currently stands at 3%.

Stealth Politics

The above inflation rises follow those of nearby Hammersmith and Fulham which has paid for headline reductions in council tax by hiking fees across the board.

My own worry is that the recent proposals by David Cameron to allow referendums on council tax rises will only increase these pressures on Councils to bring in stealth charges.

And with local newspapers in many parts of the country all but non-existent, these are exactly the kinds of below-the-radar measures that they will take.

Thankfully a few bloggers like disaffected Tory David Miller, have managed to keep these stories in the public eye.

But with most local authorities acting with little or no press oversight, is it really wise to keep slipping them extra powers on the side?

-Update- The Barnet Times have followed up on the story. What, no comment Mr. Coleman?

Monday, 16 February 2009

Richard Barnbrook under new investigation by GLA

BNP London Assembly Member Richard Barnbrook is under investigation for another alleged breach of the GLA code of conduct, Tory Troll can reveal.

The complaint, made by James Cleverly AM, concerns material distributed during the recent closely fought Bexley Council by-election.

Barnbrook is accused of distributing petitions for the controversial BNP-backed 'London's Mothers Against Knives' campaign with City Hall given as the contact address.

He also stands accused of misusing GLA resources as well as other related breaches of both the GLA code of conduct and the Local Authority Publicity Code.

At a recent meeting of the City Hall Assesment Sub-Committee it was decided that the complaint warranted further investigation by the Monitoring Officer.

Sanctions for breaking the code range from an obligation to make a formal apology to full suspension from office.

A separate complaint about 'false' claims that he made in a Youtube video on the subject of murders in Barking and Dagenham is also still under investigation.

Friday, 13 February 2009

BBC and Channel Four on Boris F***ing Johnson

Cockamaniac!? Now that's a little more like it Boris...

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Boris Johnson f***s everyone off

"Sadly your honeymoon has ended" said Assembly Member John Biggs to the Mayor yesterday "and nobody has come to see you from the public."

Looking around the City Hall chamber yesterday morning it was hard to think otherwise. Of the thirty odd people in the gallery, almost all had been paid to turn up. 

This was not the kind of attention Boris has become used to. 

For that kind of attention he had to wait until today:

Now a few things come immediately to mind here. 

  1. How f***ing stupid is Boris Johnson to talk like this to a man who can so publicly f*** his reputation?
  2. Why the f*** has Keith Vaz released the transcript of a f***ing private conversation?
  3. What the f***?
Green members of London's Waste and Recyling Board also have a question for Boris Johnson which is 'where the f*** are you?'

"It appears the London Mayor is so caught up explaining his role the Damian Green fiasco, he is seriously neglecting the business of running London. The Waste and Recycling Board has an £84m budget, yet only one million has been spent to date on the recycle for London campaign in this financial year. The failure of the Mayor to turn up to the board meeting today, means further unacceptable delays in promoting waste and recycling across London."

F***ing hell Boris, I thought you were dead set on this f***ing recycling lark. So where the f*** are you? Are you in such an almighty f***ing mess, that all your other responsibilities get shot to f***? FFS!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Budget Day - Part One

I'm off to City Hall this morning to watch the London Assembly wave through Boris Johnson's budget. 

The Assembly do a pretty good job of scrutinising and holding the Mayor to account, but they are basically powerless. 

The only real power they do have is to amend Boris's budget and for some reason best known to Tony Blair, they need a (non-existent) two thirds majority to even do that.

Like much of what goes on in City Hall, the budget is pretty dry stuff, but also very important. 

It may not fill the headlines now, but the choices Boris makes here will affect everything from how you get to work next year, to the health of your family in years to come.

Now I've been (rightly) upbraided on these pages for not yet covering Boris's decision to scrap the expansion of the Low Emission Zone scheme.

This decision, buried under a snow drift, may end up having more impact on our future health than any smoking ban or advertising restriction.

And no matter what headline-grabbing moves he makes on knife crime, this decision, along with the rephasing of London's traffic lights, will have a incalculably bigger impact on the safety and health of our kids in years to come.

But they're complicated, long-term, and (here's the crucial bit) invisible issues so you won't be reading too much about them any time soon.

And unlike the big boys it's a one-man operation here so I don't always have the time or the insight to cover all of the most important stories.

For that I need your help. And without the help of a band of informers, politicians, civil servants and all-purpose know-alls, this blog probably wouldn't still be going almost a year after I started it.

So if you know something I don't, then please don't hesitate to drop me a line

You may think that what you know is too technical, complicated or simply too much of a throwaway scrap of information, but it's from these scraps that stories come.

Right, I'm off to City Hall now. Report back soon...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Are You Satisfied with Public Transport in London?

Transport for London' have now published their most recent customer satisfaction survey. Here's a summary of what it found.

Docklands Light Railway. Passengers on the DLR were far and above the most satisfied, giving it an overall rating of 92 per cent. Boris has delayed any further expansion to Dagenham Dock.

Dial-a-Ride. People using London's assisted travel scheme were the next most satisfied, rating the service at 88 per cent. Not everyone in London seems to agree with that.

River Services. Andrew Gilligan's only means of travel is next up scoring an impressive 87 per cent. Tory Assembly members love it and Boris agrees. He now plans to Oysterise it.

Croydon Trams.  Trams remain popular with Londoners scoring a respectable 86 per cent. Again, Boris has abandoned another planned expansion.

Taxis. London's cabs are also relatively popular at 85 per cent. More action of the kind we saw this week probably won't help that much.

London Minicabs. Private hire vehicles are creeping up behind them on 81 per cent. Boris has now given them a seat on the Tfl board.

London Buses. Of the big three, buses still marginally come out on top, maintaining an 80 per cent satisfaction rating. How will Boris's policies affect that?

London Underground. Some people love it, but many others avoid it all costs, putting the satisfaction rating at just 79 per cent.

London Overground. Last and definitely least is London Overground which continues to frustrate us at just 72 per cent. Will Boris's (non) emergency summit do much to help?

So are you satisfied? Does this tally with your own experience of London Transport and is Boris right to prioritise the areas that he has? What do you think?

Monday, 9 February 2009

Boris Johnson recycles himself for Londoners

Some news just in from our Twittering Mayor:

Which must have come as surprising news to Recycle for London, who were established back in 2003.

Still, at least Boris has left it over five years before recycling his predecessor's press releases. He certainly hasn't waited that long to recycle his own:

At this rate I'm going to have some real trouble choosing next year's top ten.

Boris Johnson gets in a spin over 'no pay snow day'

Blimey that was quick Boris. It was only an hour ago that we all read this:

Sky News: Tube Fury Over No Pay Snow Day

"London Underground staff are fuming after learning they will not be paid for missing work last Monday when the capital was paralysed by snow."

And before you know it we're all reading this:

Evening Standard: Boris won’t dock pay of snowed-in Tube staff after all

I particularly enjoyed this spluttering reply to the Standard:

"The Mayor has absolutely no intention of penalising anyone who failed to get to work due to last week's exceptional weather."

And I'm absolutely confident that he hasn't. At least not now that everyone knows about it.

Boris Johnson rules out another SE London bridge

Brockley Central reports that Boris has ruled out supporting a proposed pedestrian and cyclist bridge at Rotherhithe.

Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson is unimpressed:

"This is an excellent scheme, but we will have to wait for a more imaginative mayor to build it...

"This connecting bridge is the type of investment which has to be made if walking and cycling are going to be made easier and more enjoyable. I hope that Boris Johnson will think again, but I suspect that he won't. This Mayor is getting a reputation for closing down innovation and new transport schemes."

Now I can understand why supporters of the bridge are disappointed, and when Boris is intent on pouring billions into the Thames estuary, £65 million for a bridge doesn't sound too bad.

But unlike other projects tossed on to the bonfire last year, this bridge was never even on the long-list for funding by TfL.

The project would also almost certainly have met resistance from the Port of London Authority who generally oppose crossings where sight-lines aren't clear.

So while I share Nick's frustration about the absurd lack of crossings in this part of London, this is one project that was unlikely to get off the ground

Boris Johnson defends his team's £1000 taxi bill

I think it's safe to say that we have touched a nerve:

You can read the whole shebang over at Dave's but I was particularly struck by this section:

Now I'm reliably informed that the Heathrow debate ended at 8.30.

So is Boris really suggesting that no public transport could be found at that time of night? Was there a little snow on the roads perhaps?

Or is it simply the case that the London transport network is now too dangerous for a few Mayoral advisors to use after 8.30 at night?

If so, there's a certain Kebab-eating home secretary that they should have some words with.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Boris admits Heathrow QT "not the most balanced"

Boris Johnson admitted that the controversial Heathrow 'People's Question Time' was 'not the most balanced' of events shortly after coming off stage.

Speaking to camera, the Mayor admitted:

"I think we had fairly overwhelming support, but on the other hand as far as I could tell of the 600 people in the audience only two were against our position so perhaps it was not the most balanced of debates if I'm being totally honest."

The admission comes after complaints from London Assembly Members about being excluded from the event and after one AM called for the full £20,000 cost of staging it to be sent to the Conservative Party.

Speaking to the Guardian, John Biggs said that the presence of so many Conservative politicians on stage, made the whole event little more than 'Tory party propaganda.'

Biggs, who along with all other Assembly Members is against the expansion of Heathrow, feels that only Conservatives were allowed to associate themselves with the cause. 

According to the Guardian:

"The panel of speakers arguing against the plans was made up exclusively of Conservatives: Johnson, Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Richmond Park, and Ray Puddifoot, the Conservative council leader of Hillingdon council and a representative of the 2M coalition of councils opposed to expansion.

"The event was also chaired by a Conservative, Richard Barnes, who is Johnson's deputy mayor and the assembly member for Ealing and Hillingdon."

The case for the expansion of Heathrow was left to a local businessman, a Labour MP and an empty chair.

The chair was supposedly to be filled by Gordon Brown although it has since emerged that he never agreed to come.

As if to emphasise the true purpose of the event the footage of the Mayor is accompanied by a link to the following press release:

As Boris said, this was not the most balanced of events.

Friday, 6 February 2009

The man's a menace

Boris Johnson, PQT and the cost of rallying a team

The full costs of Boris Johnson's recent Heathrow Tory Rally People's Question Time have been revealed.

The costs, obtained by Will Parbury break down as:

Now I'm not quite sure how spending £1000 on taxis tallies with this statement on the Mayormobile:

"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."

But there you go. Maybe it really was impossible for the Mayor and his guests to use public transport at 8.30 at night. Who am I to say?

Still, the cost is down from the £30k budgeted for the statutory People's Question Times, which just shows the kinds of savings cutting out proper democratic checks can make.

Meet the Stooges

In other news, we now have some more details about the forthcoming People's Question Times.

The next PQT is a statutory one which means that you can ask questions on whatever topic you like (there's a novelty). That's being held in Bethnal Green and you can register for a ticket here.

After that another 'ad hoc' single-issue meeting is tabled for June. 

This one's on the Olympics, which is jolly good as long as that's the only subject that residents of Waltham Forest want to talk about.

After that the format changes. Perhaps stung by the criticism of the Hilingdon PQT as a 'Tory Propaganda Event' the Mayor's office have decided that the Croydon event will not be single-issue based.

However, rather than follow the proper statutory format with invites being given to Assembly Members, the guests for this event look set to be his Mayoral appointments alone.

According to a reply sent to the Croydon Labour party:

"The format of this meeting will not be the same as the Heathrow meeting in Hillingdon. The Mayor's office have proposed different formats and agendas for the additional four Public Consultation Meeting events (in addition to the statutory 2 People's Question Time meetings). Although the exact agenda is still being worked on, it will be along the lines of Meet the Commissioners (Met Police & TfL) and the Mayoral appointees."

So rather than hold a Tory Party rally, Boris is to hold a Team Boris rally instead. Now how many advisors can you fit in the back of a taxi cab...


The total cost for the event given above is £17,800. However, the total cost given in response to a question by Mike Tuffrey AM earlier this week was £19,000. Now the Mayor's office have given me yet another figure:

"Our budget for this event was £25,000. Figures provided to date reflect invoices received at the time. We currently await receipt of final invoices, however based on orders raised for the event, we anticipate the final figure to be in the region of £20,000."

Any more for any more?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Too much information...

Richard Barnbrook troops the colour at Notting Hill

Another month, another totally idiotic question from the BNP's Richard Barnbrook:

"Written Question: Can the Mayor confirm that no members of Her Majesties Armed Forces were employed in quelling rioting and crushing criminal civil disorder after last year’s Notting Hill Carnival?

"Answer from the Mayor: The Armed Forces were not involved. Policing of the Notting Hill Carnival is a Metropolitan Police Service operation."

I assume Dicky will be disappointed. Next year perhaps?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Brian Coleman 'too confrontational' - Audit Report

London's Fire Brigade is officially 'excellent' according to the Audit Commission, which you have to admit is great news and fantastically reassuring.

Now all London needs is a safe pair of hands to keep it on course. So who did Boris choose for that again? Ah yes here he is:

So what's Brian Coleman got to say for himself after nine months in the job? Does he think he's done well?

"I am very pleased that our determined leadership of LFEPA has been recognised by the Audit Commission. It reflects political leadership that I have shown at the Fire Authority since the election of a Conservative administration at City Hall last May."

Okay so let's have a look at the actual report shall we. What does it really say about that new leadership? 

Well first of all it's very pleased with the current Commissioner Ron Dobson. Dobson, who was appointed during the previous administration is apparently:

"a strong and visible leader. He inspires the confidence of staff, unions and Authority members and this helps to drive organisational change.

Good. Elsewhere:

"The Commissioner is highly regarded by staff. He inspires their confidence and trust. This has helped achieve changes such as introducing performance-related pay that would have been difficult in the past."

Excellent. Sounds like the right man for the job. So how about our new man in the Chair? How does the Audit Commission rate him?

"The Chairman is robust and challenging but staff and some external stakeholders find his style too confrontational."

Too confrontational. Could that cause some problems?

"Implementation of the Operational Efficiency Programme in 2009/10 represents significant organisational change in areas such as shift patterns, resting arrangements and station work routines. The programme is likely to test industrial relations and need good, agile leadership to take staff forward and drive through such challenging changes."

Oh well. At least we've still got the Commissioner right?

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful about the Evening Standard

I spent a large part of today trying to figure out how to use my webcam before spending an even larger part of the day trying to record something.

You should be able to watch the fruit of my labours on a certain telly programme later in the week.

In the short clip I point out that Lebedev will have a hard job making the Evening Standard "more wanted by Londoners" given that so many of us have been so totally alienated by it in recent years.

But given he's starting from such a low base, and given the fact that Wadley's already buggered orf to Keen-ya there's hope that a better, less divisive newspaper will emerge.

Of course I still have my concerns about Mr. KGB and Mr. Tatler, and I question quite what kinds of influence they are seeking to impose.

But despite this, there does seem to be some cause for optimism. Take these words sent to me today by one current member of staff:

"Geordie came in this afternoon and I think people were generally pretty impressed. He was very upbeat about the future and said that city, politics, the arts and breaking news were areas of interest, and (crucially for us) said it was about time we emerged from "the shadow of the Daily Mail". We're all still expecting some redundancies, but suspect they will involve a few expensive staff members rather than across-the-board cuts."

Now I know the chances that Geordie Grieg and/or Alexander Lebedev are reading this are pretty slim, but if you are reading, may I offer you some advice?

If you want to get rid of a pricey employee and 'get out of the shadow of the Daily Mail' at the same time, then there's a certain navel-gazing, blogger-baiting, sock-darning, oddball you should take a look at right away.

-Update- Dave Hill sees some green shoots.

Should Boris give up his Daily Telegraph Column?

Dave Hill carries the news that Telegraph readers very nearly didn't get the weekly address from our Dear Leader in City Hall.

But perhaps the more important question is whether Boris Johnson should be writing this stuff at all.

Of course there's nothing wrong with him keeping his skills honed and doing the odd bit of paid writing when he has the time.

But when he's flitting between dealing with the worst economic crisis for seventy years and the worst municipal crisis for twenty, should he really be taking time out for this?

But then I guess if you were being paid £250,000 to work for the Telegraph and a mere £137,579 to work for the rest of us, you too would know who the boss was.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Boris adds extra specification to new Routemasters

Snow Day...

Boris encourages more non-essential travel

The Highways Agency on today's extreme and dangerous weather conditions:

Okay, so we get it. If you're thinking about driving anywhere, please don't. And if you know of anyone else who is, then please just tell them not to bother.

Why don't you just dish out bank notes on the way in?

Len Duvall on getting along with Boris Johnson

“The thing about Boris, is that he always wants to be liked” he says laughing.

“He wants to know that we can still talk to each other. You’d think that he would be more worried about this investigation, but he’s worrying that we can still get on.”

You can read the rest of my interview with the London Labour Assembly member and former Chair of the MPA, over at

-Update-  Helene Mulholland on the interview at The Guardian

Kit Malthouse vs Tony McNulty on the Politics Show

It was clash of the ego time on the Politics Show yesterday as TonyMcNulty and Kit Malthouse competed to see who could appear the most self-important.

In the end it was no real contest with Kit Malthouse easily out-smugging his older rival. 

There was a stumble or two as he tried to separate improvements made by the government and Ken Livingstone (invented) from the improvements made in the last eight months (very very real) but overall it was a clear win for the 'house.

The accompanying report from Andrew Cryan and the interview by Tim Donovan are as ever bang on the money. 

However, it was a little harder than usual to adjudicate, given that both Malthouse and McNulty are as keen as each other to cook the books.

Still, overall it was yet another weekly dose of quality London political coverage on the Beeb. And it's on a Sunday as well. Who can complain?