Thursday, 30 April 2009

Me at Comment is free: Boris Johnson's first year

Read the rest here

Monday, 27 April 2009

Andrew Gilligan comes out scratching... once again

I do love a good Andrew Gilligan smear don't you? Take this one for size:

"On a dozen blogs, Ken and chums blame Boris for every crack in the pavement, accept no failings of their own, and rant endlessly about how the capital is Going To The Dogs. They remind me of a failed, Lefty version of the Daily Mail."

As usual there's a heavy dose of projection going on (who does Andrew blame for every crack in the pavement?) and the usual cowardly generalisation (which blogs is he talking about exactly?)

But most of all there's the repeated Gilligan smear that any and all critics of Boris Johnson (and himself) must be chums, cronies, fans, or acolytes of Ken Livingstone.

So let's settle this one once and for all shall we.

Before Boris Johnson was elected I had never met Ken Livingstone. 

Since then I have spoken to him once when I was invited onto LBC (when he couldn't even pronounce my name) and once when I asked him a question after Mayor's Question Time.

I am not and have never been a member of any political party, campaign or organisation and I have voted for Lib Dem, Labour, Green Party and independent candidates in the past. 

On the other hand, Andrew Gilligan is notoriously a 'chum' and acolyte of Boris Johnson.

He has been employed by him, defended by him and has spent the past year and a half attacking anybody who dares to criticise him.

He is, in short, as close to being in Boris Johnson's pocket as it is decent for a supposedly independent journalist to be.

And while in the past year he has dedicated acres of comment to how bad the previous mayor of London was, pretty much his only criticisms of the present Mayor have been that:
  1. He has not sacked enough people associated with Ken Livingstone 
  2. He is 'not Tory enough'.
He is, in short, a bit of a joke. And a joke that's wearing increasingly thin.

-Update- Andrew Gilligan stars in Octopuppet

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Is Brian Coleman the best Boris Johnson can do?

Brian Coleman
Over at the Guardian Dave Hill reports on rumours that Boris Johnson sanctioned Brian Coleman's "Commend a Copper" Facebook page.

Now I'm all for a bit of commending at the best of times although I do wonder whether now is quite the time to be doing it.

And I wonder even more whether it should be Brian Coleman of all people doing that commending.

Just to remind you, this is the man whose response to public anger about the Met's actions during the G20 was to say that Nicky Fisher deserved the slapping that she got from the police:

"Nicky Fisher turned up to this protest, which everyone said could be violent. She put herself in this situation and lo, she was hit. It's like going gambling and then complaining that you've lost money. All right-thinking people will have little sympathy for her. The police were dealing with a very serious situation caused by some very silly people."

On the cobbled together Commend a Copper Facebook page Coleman then states that:

"I’m hoping to hear your views and to get many many hits, including from all London Assembly members, which I can then pass on to the Mayor..."

Silly Brian. I think that he should be expecting a few slaps and kicks from them as well...

The Master Race take a short break at City Hall

Richard BarnbrookMeanwhile, Boris Johnson's triumphant St George's Day celebrations are looking a little quiet.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Boris Johnson for Prime Minister (or a quick exit)

I've tried to ignore this story, bit it's just too much fun:

"The Mayor's revelation that he might not stand again, made in the Evening Standard, created shockwaves in Conservative circles.

"It is so early in the electoral cycle that no clear camps have emerged in City Hall. Even the mechanism of a selection process is not in place. But already a clear picture has emerged of some of the likely candidates — and who would be the choice of Central Office."

"[Cameron] would be presented with the choice of a City Hall insider, who would inevitably be close to Mr Johnson and associated with his regime, or finding a candidate to take on Labour in what would be a mid-term referendum on the Government. Already Conservative Central Office figures have formed a view that they would rather have a high-profile candidate who would energise the election, not a local government figure."

Ha ha. Love it.

"One name widely touted is youth worker Shaun Bailey, 37, who is currently Tory candidate for Hammersmith, and a rare commodity as a black Conservative who already has a profile.

A Tory source said: “There is no doubt that Shaun is young, gifted and black, which would make him very difficult for Labour to attack.”

Today Mr Bailey told the Standard he was open to the idea.

Brilliant. Anyone else up for it?

"Within City Hall, Kit Malthouse, is emerging as the clear favourite. Regarded as highly capable, he is already the Mayor's deputy on the Metropolitan Police Authority..."

Good old loyal Kit eh?

Anyone else?

"Other options are the deputy leader of the Tories on the Assembly, James Cleverly, Assembly members Victoria Borwick and Andrew Boff, Conservative candidate for Richmond Park Zac Goldsmith and policy adviser Nick Boles."

Any more for any more? What about Roger? Or Kulveer? Or Steve?

Boris for PM? 

Now I'm always suspicious of these kind of stories, not least because you never know who is spinning them and for what purpose.

But having said that, it has long been an open secret that Boris is at the very least doubtful about wanting to stand for another term.

On top of this, there are a couple of Conservative MPs, who have been telling anyone who will listen, that Boris will make a run for Downing Street as soon as he reasonably can.

Now in order for him to do that, Boris would need to secure a seat in the Commons with enough time for a leadership contest in the run up to the next general election but one. 

And that means standing down in 2012.

At this point, somebody normally points out that there's no way Boris would give up the chance to be Mayor during the Olympics etc etc. But I mean come on. Do you really think he cares that much about waving a flag that he would be willing to drop his only chance to ever become PM?

A Disloyal Band

The other interesting part about this story is the speed at which other tories have rushed to get their names on the ballot.

Unlike Ken, who had (and still has) a loyal team behind him, Boris Johnson entered City Hall with an uneasy mix of London councillors, Cameron placemen, and unknown think tank wonks.

The short term result of this mix was the steady conveyor belt of hirings and speedy firings, eighth floor rows and briefings that marked the start of Boris's term.

The long term result is that at the slightest sign of Boris's sweet white ass heading for the exit, those around him have rushed to boot it out the door.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Boris Johnson breaks promise to rape crisis centres

Boris Johnson today admitted that he will break his promise to fund three new rape crisis centres in London.

In Boris's now deleted manifesto, he wrote that:

"It is nothing short of a disgrace that the government has cut the funding for Rape Crisis Centres in London, and I will release funds that Ken Livingstone has earmarked for his own personal press officers to be spent on providing long-term funding for new Rape Crisis Centres in London so the victims of this horrendous crime are no longer ignored...

"London does not have enough Rape Crisis Centres, because of woefully inadequate funding from the Labour government. We will call upon the government to provide extra funding for this vital service. Additionally, we will act immediately to provide long-term funding for four Rape Crisis Centres in London...

"In 2007/08 the budget for Mr. Livingstone’s Media and Marketing team was more than £3.6 million. A reduction of this by 20% would yield the £744,000 which would fund our commitment to dramatically increasing access to support services for rape victims.

"Quite simply, we believe that it is more important to fund Rape Crisis Centres than press officers."

Yet when Boris came into power he alloted over half a million pounds to his team of campaign members, spinners and public relations bods.

Within months he had cut £511,000 from his rape crisis budget.

Campaigners will now have to turn to our 'woefully inadequate' government to fulfill his pledge.

-Links and Reactions- 

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Time to go

I won't be long...

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Brian Coleman says shut up about his expenses

Brian Coleman
Brian Coleman used GLA resources in order to tell another politician to 'keep their mouth shut' about his expense claims.

The press release, titled "News from Brian Coleman: Slams Shah over use of public money" was posted on the Assembly website last week.

In it Coleman is quoted as saying:

“My expense claims are published and totally legitimate.

“I am not going to take lecturing on the use of public money from a man who after his stint as leader of Harrow left the Council with a £9million black hole.

“Or who’s Labour colleague in Harrow, Tony McNulty, claimed that his parents’ home was his second home and charge the tax payer £60,000 for it – even though he’d never lived there.

“And they’re both from the same political party as the Home Secretary, whose husband puts ‘adult films’ on expenses and expects the tax payer to fund it.

“Navin Shah is throwing very big stones in a very small glass house. He would do well to keep his mouth shut.”

The release was preceded by a disclaimer that:

"[these] are the views of the individual Assembly Member identified in the release and do not necessarily reflect the views of the London Assembly or the Greater London Authority."

However, it is generally accepted practice that press releases should be restricted to the work of Assembly members, rather than to furthering their political grievances.

In fact under the GLA Code of conduct Assembly Members:

Members have also been urged to 'err on the side of caution' when using GLA resources as there are 'significant consequences' if they are used for political purposes.

Yet within an hour of me first asking questions about this, the original Coleman press release was  removed from the GLA website.

In the past year I have run a number of stories about Brian Coleman's expense claims, some of which have found their way into the local press and the Evening Standard.

Brian Coleman has subsequently used Mayor's question time to ask the Mayor totally irrelevant questions about London's daily newspaper,

So is Brian Coleman's mind on the job at hand, or has he been too busy attending to other matters?

(click on image for full picture)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Why Boris Johnson cancelled the Rise Festival

Boris Johnson has cancelled the Rise Festival less than a year after he stripped it of its anti-racist theme.

The news, which I caught wind of last week, was confirmed by the Evening Standard today.

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: 

"Without a major sponsor in place it is not considered appropriate to spend such a large amount on a single music event, particularly during a recession. Instead, the money will be used to fund a multitude of events and grassroots activities across London."

What the Mayor fails to acknowledge of course, is that trade union sponsorship for the festival was only withdrawn after Team Boris decided to strip it of it's anti racist message.

In fact the TUC, who established the event in 1996, confirmed to me today that they have not been asked for any sponsorship by the Mayor this year.

"No great surprise"

In any event trade union sponsorship last year only made up a minority of the funding for the event, which was primarily funded by the Mayor and private sponsors.

And with all purpose removed from the event, there was now little reason for others to fund it.

As the Labour Assembly Member Jennette Arnold said today:

"The festival embodied all that is good about London, bringing people of all ages and cultures together. It was a celebration of London for Londoners - something Boris just doesn't get. It's no great surprise the Mayor couldn't find a sponsor for the event, given that he had already got rid of all its meaning. Who is going to sponsor a festival of nothing?"

Fears that the Mayor's re-branding was just the first step towards cancelling an event his team disapproved of were first raised after Munira Mirza's "doing anti racism for real" article.

These fears were soon confirmed when Patience Wheatcroft included the following in her 'Forensic Audit Report':

"There may also be scope for reviewing the list of events offered through Events for London; it is possible that a detailed critical analysis could generate substantial savings, particularly if entire events such as the ‘Rise Festival’ (which cost over £300,000) were cancelled. Careful consideration should be given to the rationale behind such events..."

That 'careful consideration' has now been taken.

Boris Johnson urges 'thorough' Tomlinson inquiry

Following the shocking Guardian footage of the events leading up to Iain Tomlinson's death, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson has released the following statement:

"It is very regrettable that a man has died and the Mayor extends his condolences to Ian Tomlinson's family. The video footage which has come to light is clearly disturbing and the Mayor is taking this matter very seriously. Kit Malthouse, the Deputy Chair of the MPA, is meeting the IPCC tomorrow to urge them to ensure a speedy and thorough inquiry."

Policing of the G20 demonstrations was a joint operation between the Met and the City of London police.

Questions now need to be asked about the statement put out by the Met shortly after Tomlinson's death.

-Update- Lib Dem member of MPA says public trust in the police could "take years to recover"

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Mayor's Fund for London opens with a whimper

Boris Johnson on the Mayor's Fund in April 2008:

"The Mayor's Fund for London will be a streamlined vehicle for getting money from the wealth-creating sector to communities across London that are facing hardship and deprivation, and are the victims of crime."

Boris Johnson on the Mayor's Fund in April 2009:

"The Fund has already attracted considerable support from donors. It will spend £1.5m in 2009..."

Now that's what I call streamlining.

The Mayor's Fund for Shoreditch?

The Mayor's Fund for London aims to spend £9.5 million on alleviating child poverty by the end of 2010 and to turnover £20 million a year by 2013.

However, with it's original banker head now in exile, Boris has been forced to concede that there is still "not an awful lot" in the pot

In fact after ten months of pressing the flesh, Boris now admits that he has raised less than five million pounds, from those London bankers he urged to "palliate their guilt."
The lack of donations has been reflected by the initial £1.5 million programme which will centre on Shoreditch rather than the capital at large.

The survival of the planned future programmes to help '600,000 children' will be dependent on a huge upturn in donations, an unlikely goal in a growing recession.

And with existing charities already scrabbling for their share of the pot, it is hardly a great start for this new charity on the block.

Following on from Chris's question in the comments, Lib Dem Assembly Member Mike Tuffrey said today:
“I hope that this new charity is successful over the next few years.

“However we should not pretend this is just an ordinary charity. The Mayor must take steps to avoid the inevitable accusation that some donors are seeking to influence or win favour with him.

“I urge the Mayor to ensure that all donations of £1,000 or more are formally declared and open to public inspection. Large donations that are not publicly declared will generate controversy and in the long term harm the reputation of the charity.

"Secret millionaires may make great TV but have no place in London government.

“If the Mayor is keen to ensure the charity flourishes he should ensure it operates to the highest standards of transparency.”

Bank note image by Beau Bo D'or

Monday, 6 April 2009

Why is Brian Coleman such a popular lunch date?

When he's not lunching at our expense, Brian Coleman is lunching at the expense of others. 

If you take a look at the Assembly's website you will see that Brian's entries take up almost a fifth of the entire hospitality register.

Since the beginning of this year alone Brian has lunched off of with (among others)
Now quite what is discussed during these meetings we'll never know, but at least the fact that he's accepting them is declared publicly on the assembly website.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of those he declares to the London Fire Authority.

However, thanks to a Freedom of Information request I submitted last month we can now see exactly who else he has been lunching with:

Councillor Brian Coleman (LFEPA Chair)
  • Lunch on 27/9/07 provided by Deputy Fire Commissioner
  • Dinner on 23/10/07 provided by Sir Ken Knight 
  • Lunch on 30/10/07 provided by Asset Co 
  • Lunch on 26/11/07 provided by James Flynn, LFEPA Head of Communications 
  • Dinner on 21/4/08 provided by Licensing Committee of the City of London Corporation  
  • Lunch on 28/5/08 provided by Mr David Cartwright 
  • Lunch on 2/7/08 provided by 4Ps 
  • Dinner on 2/7/08 provided by T-Systems (sister company of T-Mobile)  
  • Dinner on 17/7/08 provided by Sir Ken Knight 
  • Dinner on 23/7/08 provided by Mr John Shannon 
  • Lunch on 26/8/08 provided by Mr John Smith 
  • Dinner on 1/12/08 provided by Chief Fire & Rescue Adviser 
  • Harvey Nichols hamper provided by John Shannon Asset Co on 24/12/08 
  • Dinner on 19/1/09 provided by John Shannon 

So why it is that Brian Coleman feels the need to accept so many of these offers of hospitality? 

And why is it that the rich and the powerful feel the need to offer them to to him at all?

Whatever could it be about Brian Coleman that makes him such an appealing dining companion, and why is it that everyone else seem to be able to feed themselves?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Boris Johnson walks out in a strop over Snow Day

-Update- More highlights from the transcript:

Boris Johnson: I don't think it behoves you or your committee to cast aspersions on the preparations made by the boroughs or by a lot of hardworking people across London

Graham Stringer: I don't want to put words in your mouth. There's been a lot of those already. But can you tell us if you took any action between getting the notice of this snow and the actual snow starting to fall late on Sunday? I don't want absurd answers about trying to repel snowflakes. Did you call people together? There's been some criticism from the people who've already looked at this from the GLA that….

BJ: Well I don't think there have actually. I don’t think there have. You're talking complete tripe 

Chair: Would you let Mr Stringer put his question

GS: …that there was poor coordination between boroughs

BJ: Complete tripe. Nonsense. Bollocks. Nonsense 

Eric Martlew: Sorry, what was that word?

GS: I would be grateful if you could tell us whether you made any attempts to engage emergency powers, to coordinate the action of the boroughs, to talk to the bus companies, with your strategic role as the leader of transport in Greater London, to ensure that we had the best possible outcome from this event?

BJ: I know what you're trying to do and I understand why you're trying to do it and I respect the narrow, partisan, political reasons why you're trying to do it. The answer is that I did repose complete confidence in my officials and in Transport for London to get the job done and to their best of their ability they did


Peter Soulsby: The fact is, something very exceptional in view of weather conditions was predicted for the capital and you have given us not a single example of anything at all that you did to prepare for it

Boris Johnson: Well I think that's absolute tripe and I'm under obligation to leave

Eric Martlew: Can I ask a partisan question?

BJ: No, because I'm off. (stands up, picks up bag, walks towards exit) 

Chair: Mayor, that is unacceptable to walk out in the middle of a question. Would you please let Mr Martlew ask a question

BJ: (returning, still standing) Mr Martlew asked if he can ask a partisan question 

Chair: Mayor, I do understand that you have a time limit and I have agreed with that. Mr Martlew, could you ask a quick question and the Mayor will be able to answer?

EM: I understand you're going to leave Mr Hendy to answer the hard questions when you go Mr Mayor but the question is..

BJ: Are you saying none of your colleagues have asked hard questions? I think that's an insult to your colleagues

EM: Before you went to bed, did you make enquiries about what was happening that night? And at what time did you wake up and were you informed there was a major problem?

BJ: Well, as Peter has already said, I think he contacted me shortly after six and I think I replied before 7 o'clock in the morning

EM: So you didn't make enquiries that night to see if there was an issue?

BJ: I observed that it had started to snow

EM: But you didn't make any enquiries?

BJ: Oh for god's sake, goodbye (walks out)

Dear oh dear. Journalists knocking his record and politicians asking him questions? This isn't what he signed up for now was it?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Half price fares for London jobseekers from today

Today would ordinarily be a good day to bury bad news, but there is one story that should not go unnoticed.

From today, all Londoners who have been on Jobseeker's Allowance for thirteen weeks or longer will be able to travel on buses and trams for half-price.

The concession, along with the now revived half-price fares for people on income support, should go a long way to helping those most affected by the recession.

Liberal Democrat AM Mike Tuffrey, who campaigned for the change, said today:

“Half price bus and tram travel will make a real difference for over 150,000 unemployed Londoners on JSA who very much need to be able to access libraries and job centres as well as attend interviews. "

“Being active and mobile is key to getting back to work, yet at present even the shortest bus ride costs £1 with an Oyster card and £2 for a cash fare. Half price travel will make a real difference to JSA claimants, who in some cases only receive an income of £47.95 a week.”

Full details of how to apply for either concession can now be found on the TfL website