Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Boris Johnson "worse for wear" at Pride Reception

Like it's patron, joint founder and long-time champion Peter Tatchell, I didn't receive an invite to the Pride London reception at City Hall last night.

However, through the magic of the internets I did receive the following updates on the night:


One commenter at Pink News concurred:

I understand he was drunk at the reception and could hardly put two words together during his speech!

Why did you not put London mayor drunk a gay pride reception or was the supposed to be swept under the carpet! He was hardly being respectful to us as a community by doing that was he?

Although another thought they should all lighten up:

"I think its a bit rich to describe Boris getting a tad tiddley at last year's Pride as 'disrespectful to the gay community' when literally 1000s of our community can be seen swaying round the streets of Vauxhall and Soho drunk as skunks or high on whatever narcotic is falvour of the week. There is no room for pious monkish twaddle, the Mayor entered into the spirit of the ocassion and had a darn good time. Good On Him."

Commenter Mike thought it was all a bit academic:

How can you tell if Boris is sober or drunk?????

Meanwhile, the content of the speech was less than impressive for some:

@Zefrog agreed:
Ah yes the old stump speech. The ever reliable, ever-repeated stump speech.

So let's all have a watch and see for ourselves shall we? It can't have been that bad could it?

Oh well, at least his heart was in the right place I guess.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Who's this on the side of our 'hated' bendy buses?

Andrew Gilligan, Bendy Buses
It couldn't be could it?

Andrew Gilligan, Bendy buses

Gilligan, a bendy bus and Press TV. "24/7 News Truth"

Ian Clement suspended from Bexley Conservatives

Boris Johnson's disgraced former deputy has been suspended from his constituency association, it was confirmed last night.

Members of the Bexleyheath and Crayford Conservative Association Executive Council, unanimously agreed to suspend Ian Clement at a private meeting held last week

According to the statement issued yesterday:

"The process of formally terminating his membership has begun. By the terms of our constitution, this will require a special meeting of the Executive Council, whereby fourteen days notice must be given to Mr Clement."

A fraud inquiry into Ian Clement was launched last week, after City Hall officially referred his case to Scotland Yard.

The London Assembly want to question the Mayor about exactly what he knew about Ian Clement's abuse of his corporate credit card.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Move along Londoners, there's nothing to see here

From Red Boris's latest missive to the faithful:

"It's been a tough week this week. I was angry and disappointed to learn that my former deputy had made some very serious errors of judgement when it came to expenses. He rightly stepped down and we must now move on."

Please, please move on now.

"I won't gloss over my own issue with expenses"

Of course not.

"To be honest, I always prefer using the bike, even to very posh functions."


"And it is important to focus on our broader efforts to run an open and value for money City Hall. We have made significant savings, such as cutting the media budget by £700,000 and closing down the office in Venezuela, saving £100,000."

Which cost a deal worth millions to bus users (unlike Boris who never uses them).

"We publish all spending over £1,000 and, more importantly, City Hall no longer spends money on narrow political causes. I am pleased to report we have not held any lavish lunches with South American dictators!"

Look over there! It's Ken! Look!

"All this has enabled us to freeze our share of the council tax for the first time in 8 years."

Which saved households about 11p a week, whilst public transport users (unlike Boris) have seen their fares raised by many more times.

"So, I believe we have a good record when it comes to respecting your money, using it with care and in a transparent manner. I will always be in favour of shining a light into dark corners, and one thing I will promise is that you will never see anything blacked out when it shouldn't be in any document we publish."

So you'll rip us off, but you'll be open about it?

Forward Londinium! To victory and to unredacted expense claims!

Brian Coleman keeps the taxi meters turning over

Brian Coleman is a Conservative councillor from the London Borough of Barnet. This is how he lives:

"The chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Tory Councillor Brian Coleman, claimed nearly £400 from brigade funds to make a taxi journey across town to attend a glittering banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor...

"Rather than make the short hop across London using the free travelcard that comes with his position, Coleman decided to arrive in style by black taxi. The return fare itself totalled £104, but the bulk of the cost - an eye-watering £264 - was incurred due to the driver being told to wait for five hours on the pavement, while Coleman was inside hob-nobbing it with the rich and powerful."

This single claim is just one of many many outrageous claims made by Coleman over the years.

In the year 2006-7 Coleman claimed more than £10,000 in taxi fares from the London Assembly.

This was more than all other members' claims put together

The next year he appeared to claim less at around £8000.

However, as my investigations showed, Coleman had simply transferred some of his claims onto his lower profile job at the London Fire Authority.

And this is without even mentioning his lunching habits.

This has all been widely publicised, yet for some reason Boris Johnson decided to reappoint Brian to his position just last month.

Is it because Brian is a man after Boris's own heart?

Or is because Boris Johnson is just the worst judge of character in London politics?

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The taxi expense rules Boris Johnson signed up to

There's been some predictable whataboutery following the release of Boris Johnson's extortionate taxi bills.

So just to clear all that up, here are the rules that the Mayor personally signed up to when he took the job.

TAXI CARDS

5.1 Cards are available to the Mayor, Assembly Members, Directors and some other senior officers.

Taxis should only be used when public transport is unavailable or impractical

5.2 It is expected that the majority of journeys will be undertaken by public transport, and the majority of Assembly Members have now taken up the option to have an Annual Oystercard. However, the ability to use taxis has been provided where the use of public transport is impossible or inappropriate e.g. when carrying large or heavy packages.

Taxis are to be used for official GLA business only

5.3 Taxi cards should only be used for GLA business. If they are used for travel from home to work (ordinary commuting) or private journeys the Authority must be reimbursed for the costs of those journeys. (See Travel, Section 3, for more details). A tolerance of up to 20 minutes’ waiting time is permitted (noting that, for example, it is sometimes difficult to be absolutely precise as to when previous engagements will end) – with the Authority to be reimbursed by the individual concerned for any waiting time costs in excess of 20 minutes. The Chair and Deputy Chair of the London Assembly may, when undertaking consecutive engagements and carrying their badge of office, by exception incur reasonable waiting time costs in excess of 20 minutes.

Taxi cards should only be used by the Cardholder

5.4 You should not give your card to anyone else to use. You must quote the card number, cardholder name and PIN number when booking a taxi.

5.5 If there is consistent contravention by cardholders of the Taxi card guidance, then the card will be removed from the authorised user.

5.6 If you need to use a taxi and are not a card holder, a “central” corporate taxi card is held by the Head of Financial Services and can be used for exceptional journeys where urgency is required. Authorisation for the use of this card must be sought from the Head of Financial Services, telephone 020 7983 4204, prior to its use.

Home to Work Travel

3.12 The GLA will not normally reimburse you for travel to and from home and work. There are, however, some exceptions to this general rule and these are covered below.


Late Night working

3.13 You can claim the cost of using a taxi/personal car to or from home and work where all the following conditions are met:

· you are occasionally required to work late, (after 9pm).
· those occasions are neither frequent nor regular, (frequent means more than sixty times a year and regular means a predictable pattern), and

· by the time you can go home public transport has stopped or it would not be reasonable to use public transport.

So is that clear enough?

Take a look through Boris's expenses yourself. Do you think he should have his own taxi card "cut into four pieces" now?

And rules aside, Boris promised Londoners that he would ensure tax-payer value at all times.

As commenter saifu03 put it:

"Where exactly does Boris cycle to? Is it just to and from photo shoots? The taxi receipts here would suggest so. I saw Boris at Waterloo station at the ticket barriers and he looked lost. As if it was a foreign land.

This HAS to be seen in the context of his campaigning. This is directly contrary to his campaigning for lower cost travel and cycling. DIRECTLY contrary. 1st class train travel; short (walkable/cyclable) journeys by taxi; long journeys by taxi; accomodation for party politics; £400 on *low cost economy return* to zurich; expensed commutes and even more."

Perhaps the simple truth is that like his hero Maggie Thatcher, and his old pal Andrew Gilligan, traveling on "mainstream" public transport is something strictly for the plebs.


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Boris spends hundreds on keeping his taxis waiting

Boris Johnson claimed hundreds of pounds to keep taxis waiting outside his home, in between appointments, his latest expense records have revealed.

One journey, just ten miles from his home in Islington to Edmonton, cost the taxpayer almost £240 including waiting time.

Another journey from City Hall, to his home and then onto Chelsea Park cost us £186.

Boris claimed a total of £4689 in taxis up until March of this year.

However, like Assembly Members he also has access to a free Travelcard.

Earlier this year the Mayor's office told me that:

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

Under GLA rules he can only claim for taxis:

"when public transport is unavailable or impractical"

It's hard to see how this applies to his commute to City Hall. Or indeed from City Hall along the river to the Tate.

You can read through Boris's full itemised expenses here

Boris personally approved Ian Clement's expenses

Boris Johnson personally approved Ian Clement's credit card logs and expenses for several months of this year it was revealed today.

Between March and June the Mayor was personally responsible for signing off Clement's credit card logs and expenses, a committee of the London Assembly was told.

Speaking after the meeting today, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall Mike Tuffrey said:

"Since March 2009 the Mayor has been personally responsible for approving the expense claims of his Deputy Mayors.

"Serious questions remain about why Boris Johnson personally approved these claims, when staff knew there was a history of irregularities. The Mayor now needs to come and explain himself to the Assembly."

Boris's 'chief of staff' Sir Simon Milton, told the Assembly that the Mayor asked Clement to return his corporate credit card as early as August last year.

The Executive Director of Resources Martin Clarke also said that he repeatedly told Clement in person and in writing to desist from making personal use of the card.

However, despite this Clement continued to keep and misuse his card right up until he was forced to resign this week.

Despite having signed off these claims, Sir Simon still insists that the Mayor had no knowledge of the abuse, or even that Clement still had the card.

Asked then why he had signed off the logs for that card this year, Sir Simon replied that the Mayor could not be expected to "check every heading" that he signed.

Assembly Members today pushed for all GLA expenses to be itemised and made available immediately.

Mike Tuffrey said:

"For the future, there must be line-item disclosure of individual expense claims for the Mayor, for all mayoral advisers and Assembly Members, on-line and to the Audit Committee.”

Neither Ian Clement nor the Mayor were available to be questioned at this morning's meeting.

City Hall have officially referred the case to Scotland Yard. The Police will now decide whether it warrants an investigation.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Bexley Cllrs did not declare meals with Ian Clement

Only one of Ian Clement's Bexley Council colleagues declared their meals with the former Deputy Mayor and only then after the revelations of this past week.

Speaking on the BBC on Sunday, Bexley Cllr and London Assembly Member Gareth Bacon said that his meal with Clement was "within the boundaries of what is permissible" under GLA rules.

He also said that the meal was part of Clement's work as Deputy Mayor.

However, my search of Bexley Council's records this morning showed that Bacon did not declare his meal with Clement until yesterday, just one day after his grilling by Tim Donovan.

And none of the other four Bexley Councillors named in Clements GLA expenses registered their meals with Clement at all.

Neither Melvin Seymour, Joe Pollard, James Spencer, or Katie Perrior declared any hospitality from the former Deputy Mayor.

This throws serious doubts on Clement's claims that these meals were part of his work at City Hall.

It was also revealed today that at least three of the people Clement claimed to have met for 'business' meals were not even present at the restaurants concerned.

The Evening Standard claimed that on two of these occasions he was actually dining with his 23-year old lover Claire Dowson instead.

Dave Hill is also reporting on claims that Clement used his other corporate credit card at Bexley for party politcal purposes.

Any of these claims, if proven could lead to the former deputy Mayor being charged with fraud.

At least one formal complaint against Ian Clement has already been made to Scotland Yard.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ian Clement joins the long list of Boris resignations

Another day, another disposable deputy wheeled out of the spinning doors at City Hall.


You do have to wonder just what has been going on in Boris Johnson's administration.

The man walks in dishing out vanity titles to any local big-wig, financial whizz kid, or snake oil salesman who wants one, and then stands in amazement as they fall down around him.

And even after four of his other senior aides were forced out last year he’s still not learnt his lesson.

Last July when his then Chief of Staff (since resigned) appeared before the London Assembly he said that it would have been too “ball-breaking” for Boris to do the proper checks on Ray Lewis, before adding that:

“we all knew Ray and believed in him… It did not occur to us to doubt any of this stuff.”

The line from Boris’s spokespeople today was much the same. Clement was an elected councillor, who had been scutinised by his electorate, so why should Boris have doubted him?

But how difficult would it have been for them to have at least found this story about Ian Clement before giving him a corporate credit card? One “ball-breaking” Google search?


Or failing that, how difficult would it have been to have worked out what he was doing with that card in this past year? One quick look at his receipts?

In Boris’s statement today he said that:

“In the light of the further discrepancies in your expenses that have emerged this morning, it is clear to both of us that your position is untenable.”

But these “discrepancies” didn’t just emerge this morning. They emerged in the bulk of receipts that his own office and Bexley Council released last week. Receipts that were released only after Dave Hill started asking questions.

Did Boris even bother to read these receipts before offering Clement his backing?

What is he doing with his time up there in City Hall?


Reactions

Green AM Darren Johnson said today:

"The announcement is no surprise given the questions surrounding the use of his corporate credit card, but there are still lots of questions that need answering. Assembly Members will certainly want to know why it has taken so long for this to be dealt with and what checks are in place to prevent it happening again."

Chair of BMAC Committee Jennette Arnold AM said:

“Ian Clement’s repeated misuse of his City Hall credit card was clearly a serious breach of Greater London Authority rules for which he has answered with his job. However, Mr Clement’s resignation cannot be considered an end to the matter. Serious questions remain about how long the misuse of the card continued, apparently undetected, and the type of expenditure that was charged to the GLA without being repaid. These issues will be pursued by Assembly Members at Wednesday’s meeting of BMAC, where we will question the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Sir Simon Milton and GLA Executive Director of Resources Martin Clarke.”


Lib Dem leader Mike Tuffrey Am said:

“Today another senior Mayoral adviser bites the dust. In just one year the number of senior advisers to the Mayor who have been sacked, or forced to resign, could make a five aside football team.

“Ian Clement’s resignation was inevitable but three fundamental questions still need to be answered by the Mayor.

“Firstly, over a period of nine months Ian Clement repeatedly broke City Hall rules about personal spending. Why did Boris Johnson allow this to take place?

“Secondly, is Boris Johnson still allowing his senior staff to bill taxpayers for taking each other out to lunch and dinner?

“Third, will Boris Johnson now agree to publish the full expense details of all of his senior staff? Only this step will allow the public to judge what type of regime the Mayor is really running at City Hall.”

James Cleverly (Conservative AM for Bexley and Bromley)

"it looks like Ian has been stupid and greedy at best. I'm angry and disappointed.

"I won't pretend that this won't add to the local anger caused by Derek Conway's behaviour but both these issues are personal failings of individuals both of which were dealt with decisively by the party."

Friday, 19 June 2009

Simon Stacpoole denies being paid for Boriswatch

There's been some hoo-hah around these parts about this story in the Evening Standard:

Boris put in claims for 'awesome' website - Paul Waugh

Boris Johnson was refused a £500 expense claim for a payment to a man who runs a pro-Boris website when he was MP for Henley-on-Thames and running for Mayor of London.

Commons officials refused to approve the bill for Simon Stacpoole, who runs the Boriswatch.com site - which describes Mr Johnson as "the mutt's nads" and praises him as "awesome"...

Mr Stacpoole was paid £1,000 in November 2007 to build a new website for the MP.

Now to me this story and headline appears to suggest that Boris paid or attempted to pay Simon Stacpoole to run Boriswatch.com.

If true, it would mean that Boris was secretly funding a pro-Boris campaign site with taxpayers' money.

Quite a serious story no? So why aren't the Standard leading with it?

Because it isn't true. Here's the reply I got from Simon

Adam,

Neither of the two claims were for Boriswatch.com. I am a web developer, and I developed the backend solution for boris-johnson.com. That is what Claim 2 (£1000) is for. Claim 1 (£500) was rejected, as far as I understand it, only because it was bundled into Claim 2.

There is no more to the story than that. Thanks for checking though - you are the only one who has! ;-)

Simon

It didn't take me too long to confirm Simon's involvement with the Mayor's official website, nor the fact that Waugh had not contacted Simon about these claims.

However there is still a question about whether and why the two claims were bundled together in Boris's expenses and I'm waiting for a response from the Mayor on that.

But regardless of this, the implication that Stacpoole was paid to run Boriswatch.com is clearly wrong.

-Update- I've just spoken to Paul Waugh. He told me that he did not intend to imply that Simon was paid for Boriswatch and says that the story will be amended to make this clear.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Andrew Gilligan on those nasty London bloggers

After a few weeks hiding from helicopters (or whatever else it is that he does with his time) Andrew Gilligan has come back whining:

In a long and rambling article (supposedly about Iran) he manages to squeeze in yet another swipe at those nasty London bloggers who said those nasty nasty things about him:

"In London, various blogs obsessively attack the Mayor.

After a year of their work, according to the polls, he was 10 points more popular than before they started"

Well I'm not sure that recent polling evidence entirely stands up to that, but never mind. What else?

Below the radar, powerful commercial interests and PR companies are creating fake “online communities”, tweets, blogs and commenters on blogs, to covertly push the corporate line.

Excuse me?

Wal-Mart was caught at it in America recently, and several bloggers here also have undeclared links to interest groups or individuals that they plug.

What, like your links to your former employer and good friend "Bozza" Johnson?


I mean seriously Andrew. Reading you complaining about unreliable sources is like reading Alastair Campbell complaining about unreliable journalists.

And just because Boris is still popular a year on, doesn't mean that his old friend is.

I mean what does it say about the one-time 'journalist of the year' that (until just now) his employers no longer even recognised him as one of their columnists
?

-Friday Update- Apparently Gilligan is now leaving the Evening Standard. The Guardian are reporting that he will become the Telegraph's London Editor. But they like bloggers there Andrew!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Boris Johnson under pressure to sack Ian Clement

Boris Johnson was coming under increasing pressure to fire his Deputy Mayor this morning after full details of his expenses were revealed.

The details revealed by the Guardian show that Ian Clement spent thousands on flight upgrades, groceries, a car repair, fine wines and dinners with fellow Tories.

However, whilst Clement repaid the so-called 'personal items' on the credit card bill, he has not repaid the claims for flight upgrades and dinners with his former colleagues at Bexley Council.

And despite being the Deputy Mayor for Government relations, Clement did not claim for a single meeting with a minister.

Instead the former leader of Bexley Council's dining companions included:

  • Brian Coleman (Tory London Assembly Member)
  • Gareth Bacon (Tory London Assembly Member)
  • Kulveer Ranger (Boris's Transport Director)
  • Theresa Villiers (Tory Shadow Transport Spokesperson)
  • Cllr Mike Freer (Tory Leader of Barnet Council)
  • Justine Greening (Tory MP)
  • David Ruffley (Tory MP for Bury St Edmunds)
  • Cllr Michael Rye (Tory leader of Enfield Council)
  • James Brokenshire (Tory MP and PPC for Bexley and Sidcup)
  • Melvin Seymour (Tory Councillor from Bexley)
  • Joe Pollard (Tory Councillor from Bexley)
  • Katie Perrior (Tory Councillor from Bexley)
  • Jane Richardson (another former colleague from Bexley)

Speaking at today's Mayor's Question Time, Boris said that Clement's actions had been 'crass' and 'inappropriate', but insisted that there had been no dishonesty.

He could not say what disciplinary action had been taken but insisted that his Deputy would appear before the Assembly.

Asked whether Clement had offered to resign, Boris said that he had 'no intention' of discussing that.

If he were to go than he would be the fifth senior member of Boris's team to be forced out of office.

Clement is expected to make a statement later today. Watch Ian Clement's statement here



-Update- A user called GLAcityhall is requesting the 'speedy deletion' of Ian Clement's Wikipedia page. Why?


They are the sole creator and editor of that page...

-Update 2- The deletion notice has now been removed by another user (Hat tip to Alex J Thomas). Keep an eye on it here.



-Update 3- Questions are now being asked about a corporate credit card Ian Clement had whilst at Bexley Council.

His old opponents at Bexley want those receipts released as well according to the News Shopper.

And with good reason.

Tim Donovan also reported tonight that most Tory AMs and even one fellow Deputy are now calling for Clement to be sacked.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Boris Johnson's electric car scheme short circuits

Boris Johnson's "electric car revolution" may be defeated if he fails to convince sceptical London boroughs about the scheme, according to a new report.

Some councils are refusing to provide charging points amid worries that it will increase congestion, and dangers to other road users.

The London Councils report raises concerns about:

  • The extra congestion caused by the scheme
  • The dangers of allowing 'silent' vehicles into bus lanes
  • The dangers of trailing electric cables on the street
  • The costs of installation and maintenance
  • The principle of subsidising car use
  • The risk that the technology will become obsolete

The plans to provide discount parking for electric cars may also cause the boroughs some problems.

Last year the City of London abandoned their own scheme to allow free parking for electric cars because it:

"encouraged car use instead of the use of public transport, walking and cycling"

Some London boroughs remian worried about this planned £60 million subsidy for drivers.

According to the report:

"It is questionable whether it is appropriate or equitable to offer public subsidies to support the purchase of electric vehicles. Electric vehicles would be most accessible to business users and to households with access to off-street parking (for overnight charging), and the resources to purchase a vehicle in order to benefit from heavily subsidized private travel, thus giving the impression that significant public subsidy is being made available to those who may in fact need it least."

London Councils have called on the Mayor to delay the scheme until these concerns are acknowledged and met.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Police Officers steal millions from Met credit cards

Hundreds of Metropolitan Police Officers have been investigated for fraud after widespread abuse of corporate credit card abuse was revealed.

According to the Observer:

"Auditors who have examined the American Express accounts of 3,500 officers involved in countering terrorism and organised crime have reported almost one in 11 detectives to the Metropolitan Police's internal investigators.

A senior officer appears to have spent £40,000 on his Amex card in one year, without authorisation. Items bought by others without permission include suits, women's clothing and fishing rods..."

"Sources have told the Observer that some detectives had fallen into the habit of withdrawing hundreds of pounds at a time from cashpoints. Other officers appear to have filled in blank receipts from restaurants to account for cash payments."

Of the more than 300 cases referred, only two officers have so far been prosecuted.

Anti-terror detective Richard de Cadenet was sentenced to ten months in prison after spending £73,000 on holidays, and a box at a premiership football club.

Another officer John Gallagher escaped conviction after using his Met credit card to pay off a bar tab.

As much as £3 million is thought to have been lost due to the abuse.

The investigation has taken over two years and specialist fraud investigators have been appointed to deal with the huge volumes of suspected abuse.

As many as forty cases are still currently under criminal investigation.

Director of the MPA audit Peter Tickner said today that some of the cases were "bordering on theft"


Reactions and links

Lib Dem MPA member Caroline Pidgeon said today:

"As a relatively new member of the Metropolitan Police Authority I have been concerned to learn about the serious credit card issues that had occurred in the Metropolitan Police over a number of years. This is public money and Londoners will want to be assured that systems are in place to ensure this can not happen again, and that robust action has taken place against those involved."
More reactions as they come in.

Friday, 12 June 2009

BNP Deputy Simon Darby suspended from City Hall

The Deputy Leader of the BNP has been suspended from his post at City Hall after saying that the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York deserved to be attacked.

The row began after Archbishop urged people not to vote for the BNP.

Speaking in response, Simon Darby said:

"If I went to Uganda and I went to a Ugandan village and said that the people there were genetic mongrels and that they had no right to their Ugandan identity, I would be picking out spears for days. And rightly so. I wouldn’t say that but if I did, I would be attacked and I would deserve to be attacked. I certainly wouldn’t need a return ticket.”

Defending his comments Darby insisted that:

"If I went there and preached down to those indigenous people in the same way that Sentamu does to us then I’d be attacked. If I was derogatory, condescending and arrogant - because that’s what John Sentamu is - I would be attacked. And rightly so."

Darby has been suspended with full pay by the GLA, pending a final hearing.

His boss Richard Barnbrook AM, is also facing suspension after admitting to making false claims about murders in his borough.

Barnbrook now admits that he knew his claims were false but insists that "it makes little difference" whether the murders took place.

His case will be decided by a joint hearing of the GLA and Barking and Dagenham Standards Committees.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

James Cleverly on bloggers and the Boris Effect

James Cleverly AM speaking about the absence of City Hall bloggers from today's debate on Boris's first year.

"Vision. I've heard [that word] bandied about now quite a bit this morning. I want you to use your vision and look around you. Do you see the BBC up there in the gallery? Do you see the Guardian? See Dave Hill? Tory Troll? Mayor Watch? None of them are listening. None of them are here.

"Because they know that this meeting was an opportunity [for the Labour group] to bleat about how you would have liked to have seen it done. Well the simple truth of the matter is that Londoners did not want to see how you would have done it. they wanted to see how Boris would do it. And he has been doing it...

"And when he is here the gallery is full."

Well as it happens I was listening to the meeting, albeit from the safety of the webcast. I have also belatedly tweeted the whole thing.

But still, the chamber did look rather empty, not least because of the four Tory Assembly members who couldn't be bothered to turn up.

The Boris Effect?

But James is right. If it wasn't for the presence of Boris Johnson then people wouldn't be as interested in London politics.

In fact if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't even have started covering London politics at all.

But the price of that personal appeal, is that Boris has got away with doing very little since he came to power.

Pushed on what Boris had actually done for the capital since lat year, the best Tory AMs could come up with today was Boris's vote for a park scheme from last year.

Now I've got nothing against that scheme such as it was, but it hardly amounts to a triumphant year in power.

And as Political Animal points out today, the Conservatives have not received the sort of boost from a year of Boris (just +0.6% since 2004) in London that you might have expected.

And in some areas like Greenwich, the Tory vote has gone significantly down since last year.

So while voters are deserting the Labour government in their droves, in London the Mayor;s position is not as secure as it might seem.

And as the 'Boris Effect' begins to wear off, the Tories might just find that a little bit of that vision would be rather useful.

Strike Day: Boris Johnson's cycle revolution begins

For all the masterful spin that comes out of City Hall, the Mayor's communication operation during these strike days has been surprisingly hit and miss.

There's been some welcome moves (extra river services and no suspension of the congestion charge) but others have been pointless or self-defeating.

Boris's shared taxi scheme sounds like a good idea, but not when the roads are filled to bursting with extra buses and cars.

Similarly the extra cycle parking sounds quite clever, but as the above photo shows, people will park where they want to, not where Boris tells them to.

-Update- Looks like the same story at Waterloo

And while nobody will have much sympathy for Bob Crow is Boris's talk of 'demented' pay demands really so clever when his own pay has increased so much.

My own suspicion, is that Boris's decisions have been based on 30% good policy and 70% PR.

But as the mythical 'no strike deal' drifts away, is there much else the Mayor can do?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Boris Johnson goes Pyongyang style in City Hall

Boris Johnson's team encouraged a GLA investigation into the Labour group at City Hall after they dared to publish a critical report on his first year in power.

The report set out where Boris has failed to meet manifesto promises and where they believe his agenda for London is wrong.

The Mayor's office have also published their own report on why Boris has succeeded in his first year and why they believe his agenda for London is right.

Yet for some reason, the Mayor's office accuse the Labour group of "mis-using resources" for daring to publish their own version of events.

They complain that this political group should not have produced this political account and that their press officers should not have distributed this press briefing to the press!

Others have had their email accounts trawled through and been warned not to pass unflattering photographs to the press.

Pyongyang Style

The City Hall monitoring officer has since decided in favour of the Mayor's office, although no official sanctions have yet been taken.

For this reason I am unable to show you this highly seditious and traitorous document.

However, if you dare to consider whether our Dear Leader has done anything wrong in the past year, then feel free to have a look through the archives on this blog.

I will not censor your comments, nor will I launch the might of London's legal profession against you.

However if you question my supreme jurisdiction in any way then I may have to take further undisclosed action against you. Be warned mine subjects.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Boris Johnson's Deputy caught in credit card row

One of Boris Johnson's Deputy Mayors has had his GLA credit card confiscated after it was found that he had used it to buy "groceries, meals and a car CD player"

According to a statement issued to Dave Hill,

"The investigation established that there were items on the bills that were not related to GLA business. The card had been used on a limited number of occasions to purchase personal items. On every occasion the expenditure had been repaid at the earliest opportunity and it was firmly established that there was no personal gain on any occasion."

However analysis of GLA audit reports, shows that Clement claimed more in 'other expenses' than any other senior member of staff.

Between last July and January of this year Clement claimed £3785 on top of separate claims for foreign and domestic travel.

As leader of Bexley Council, Clement was  heavily criticised for charging a £7000 junket to the taxpayer.

Earlier this week Boris himself was criticised for being the joint biggest claimant of the additional claims allowance, as an MP.

In a statement today the Mayor said that:

"Openess, transparency and taxpayer value are at the heart of my administration. I take very seriously indeed any behaviour that could potentially raise questions about that firm commitment."

Which makes you wonder why he has decided to reappoint Brian Coleman? What kind of commitment to taxpayer value was that?

The Collapse of Metronet cost us up to £410 million

On any other day, the government losing up to £410 million of our money would be big news, but not today.

The National Audit Office report on the collapse of Metronet traces the long history of Gordon Brown's failed public-private financing of the Underground.

The report, say the Liberal Democrats, is "a simply devastating" indictment of the Prime Minister, or at least it would have been if anyone was paying attention.

Among it's findings are that:

  • There were "few formal levers" set up to manage risks to the taxpayer
  • Metronet London Underground and the DfT were hampered by "a lack of good information"
  • Of the £1.7 billion cost of repaying Metronet debts, up to £410 million is an outright loss to the taxpayer.

The private-public partnership was forced through by Gordon Brown against the wishes of the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

This deal has not only lead to stupendous losses, but also to severe delays to the much needed modernisation of the Tube.

BBC London are leading on the story but for some reason the Evening Standard have only given it a cursory mention.

But as all eyes fix on the resignations of "a narrow clique of hard right-wingers" within the Labour cabinet, it's worth remembering what the real failures of this government have been.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

And the moral of the story is...

And a few more hours in the office.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Brian Coleman to chair LFEPA for another year

Boris Johnson is to re-appoint his disgraced fire chief Brian Coleman for another year, it was revealed today.

Coleman, whose expense claims long pre-date the current Westminster scandal, will be re-appointed without any further Assembly hearings. 

In a letter to its chairman the Mayor wrote that he is:

"confident in Brian's ability and commitment in delivering strategic priorities for LFEPA over the coming year."

Assembly Chairman Darren Johnson replied that:

"Following discussion with Assembly party Groups, I have agreed that there is no need, on this occasion, to hold a further hearing with Brian Coleman regarding his reappointment as there are no new issues which Assembly Members wish to explore."

Brian Coleman's leadership style was described as "too confrontational" by a recent audit report and  is currently the subject of a Standards investigation into his conduct. 

He was recently caught lying to the press about this investigation, and has threatened legal action to anyone daring to report it.

And whilst his party leader preaches 'austerity' he has hosted a series of lavish lunches for his colleagues and associates at our expense.

And despite taking over £100k in allowances last year, he has pushed ahead with plans to allow even greater allowances for AMs.

At the very least the Assembly should have insisted on questioning him before he was given another year as chairman of the fire authority.

But for Boris to place his full confidence in him, shows just what little interest he continues to show in the London Assembly and the work of the GLA.

Monday, 1 June 2009

BNP candidate warns of 'punishments' to the media

The BNP's main London candidate in the Euro elections has warned that the press will face 'the severest of punishments' if they 'fail to exercise impartiality.'

Councillor Robert Bailey made the comments in a series of long and rambling emails to party members.

In one email sent from 'Bob' at london@bnp.org.uk he writes:

"It is my hope that British nationalists will keep a record of [the media's] war crimes and that the BNP will reign-in the media's power and make it clear to all news corporations that if they fail to exercise impartiality and especially if they advance the cause of Islamic jihad by distorting events and committing war crimes, then they will face the severest of punishments not solely confined to emptying their over-flowing coffers.

The media are usurping the democratic process; they are destroying nations; they are maintaining the conflict in the Middle East and they are collaborating with jihadists, shilling for Islamic jihad in Great Britain and the west, an act of treason which simply must not go unpunished."

Bailey was forced to apologise last year after his own attempt to 'tame' and 'punish' his local newspaper went wrong.

After failing to get any sympathetic coverage in the Barking and Dagenham Recorder he phoned up it's News Editor to let off steam.

After a lengthy and sweary tirade got him nowhere, he turned up at their offices with a gang of BNP members and shouted abuse through a megaphone instead.

According to the Recorder's editor:

"Councillor Robert Bailey rang our news desk and spoke to our news editor Sally Lowe and issued a tirade of abuse at her with regards to our coverage of the London Assembly elections.

He called her a Nazi and peppered it with four letter words, was completely abusive. It was a remarkable phone call as far as I'm concerned.

Not content with harassing Sally on the telephone he then turned up at the office with some party members and he than also took it upon himself to harass some more of my staff.

I'm shocked to be honest with you that somebody who has been elected to represent the people of Barking and Dagenham and who purports to be a serious politician could behave in thius way.

In the twelve years I've been editor I've never been confronted with such disgraceful behaviour from an elected politician."

Luckily Bailey, who is several points short of a Swastika has little chance of gaining enough votes to get into the European Parliament.

But with turnout expected by some to be low on Thursday, we can't allow any risk of this particular thug being elected to represent our city.



-BREAKING NEWS-


Within the past hour it has been revealed that Bob Bailey has been charged with "failing to provide a specimen and using a vehicle with no insurance or MoT test certificate."

According to the Press Association:

"Robert Bailey, 43, of Romford, east London, has been bailed to appear before Havering magistrates on Friday after being charged with failing to provide a specimen and using a vehicle with no insurance and no test certificate, Scotland Yard said.

A spokeswoman said Bailey, who is leader of the BNP group on Barking and Dagenham Council and is top of the BNP list for London in the Euro elections, was stopped by police at 11.20pm last Thursday in London Road, Romford.

A spokesman for the BNP indicated that Bailey would plead not guilty to both charges.

He said: "Bob vehemently denies any wrong doing."

Well, well, well...