Thursday, 15 July 2010

Could anyone rid cronyism from City Hall?

The Mirror are leading on a story about "Bonking Boris" and his relationship with somebody called Helen Macintyre.

They don't quite come out and accuse them of an affair, but the implication is pretty clear to anyone picking up a copy.

My first thought upon seeing this was 'who cares?' Londoners knew that Boris Johnson was a cheat and a liar when they elected him. Why should it matter now?

But buried within the story is the claim that Boris gave Helen a job connected to the Olympics which she used to extract a donation from her husband.

Now I don't know exactly what Helen did for London because there was never any announcement of her appointment nor is there any mention of her on the website.

So how many other friends of Boris, paid or unpaid has he given jobs to since he was elected? Is anyone keeping a record?

And what exactly is the recruitment process these days at City Hall?

The subject of cronyism came up at yesterday's Mayor's Question Time where Boris was pressed once again on the re-appointment of his friend Ray Lewis.

Why had Boris given Ray another job, after he resigned in disgrace and after he was reported to have made a series of homophobic, sexist and racist comments?

Boris had little new to say on this, other than to repeat that Ray is a decent guy and besides those comments were reported in the Guardian, and who trusts them anyway? Etc, etc.

After Mayor's Question Time, the City Hall press pack retired to the corridor outside to question Oona King about her own pledge to rid City Hall of cronyism.

Remember that one Boris supporters?

As part of her pitch Oona announced the donors to her campaign as being Simon Schama, Peter Kellner, and Lord Waheed Alli. No cronies there then.

Oona said that if she was elected she would reinstate Mayoral press conferences and set up an "entirely independent" panel to scrutinise and veto Mayoral appointments.

So who would appoint people to this entirely independent panel asked Martin from Mayorwatch?

Well that would be the Mayor replied Oona. Ah...

Cronyism and City Hall

Anyone who followed the last Mayoral elections would have seen the series of stories about Ken Livingstone and his close friends and associates working in City Hall.

Boris came in promising to "sweep cronyism out of City Hall", but so far he has proven himself to be just as subject to it as his predecessor if not more so.

As the only fresh face in the contest Oona King is trying to resurrect it as an issue, but the truth is that whoever is elected, friends and associates of that person will end up with jobs inside City Hall.

Ditto Downing Street, ditto every Town Hall in the country.

Promises to rid cronyism from politics are as trustworthy as the "end to the era of spin" pledges that every spin doctor spins out upon entering office.

Politics is not a meritocracy. Politicians help and rely upon their friends.

It's not right and we should always seek to scrutinise and expose them for it, but it's a fact of life. It's a given.

All we can hope for is that they make life better for the rest of us while they're at it.

Has Boris? Has Ken? Would Oona?


Helen said...

Boris Johnson either appoints people he's met at drinkies parties or employs massively expensive headhunters to appoint exactly the same sort of people one would meet at drinkies parties...or he just gets Policy Exchange to do it for him.

Martin said...

Spot on Adam, cronyism exists at all levels of politics and it happens in part because people making important and sensitive decisions want to be surrounded by people they can trust not to leak or brief media and opponents.

Oona is right that some more scrutiny is needed over Mayoral appointments but I could't get my head round her refusal to accept that this scrutiny should come from the elected Assembly rather than an unaccountable panel.

AdamB said...

I'm also all for more powers for the Assembly but ultimately it's down to the Mayor who they appoint and I'm not sure any panel, whoever they're made up of should have a blanket veto.

I think it would be a good idea to have a statutory public register for all senior paid and unpaid appointments at City Hall. The mayor shouldn't just be able to just hire anyone he's met at a party on a whim and then keep it secret.