Thursday, 8 December 2011

The myth of the "Ken deficit" and "Ken bonus"

Lord Ashcroft of Belize has a new poll out suggesting that Labour are set for a stonking win in the Feltham and Heston byelection but that Boris and Ken are merely neck and neck in the constituency.

This, we are told, is yet further sign of the "Ken deficit" whereby Ken is running 'behind' his party's vote nationally.

This is opposed to the "Ken bonus" that he held in previous elections where he ran 'ahead' of his party's vote nationally.

Still with me?

Well there's two problems with this. First of all, Mayoral politics in London has almost nothing to do with party affiliation, as Frank Dobson found out when he came in third place at the height of Labour's popularity.

Mayoral politics is about individuals not  parties. Ken didn't win in 2000 and 2004 because he was more popular than Labour. He won because he was more popular than Steve Norris and Frank Dobson. 

Second of all, far from suggesting a significant drop in his support, Ashcroft's poll shows that Ken Livingstone's vote in Feltham and Heston has actually gone up since 2008.

In Feltham and Heston last time around Boris got 41% of the votes as opposed to Ken's 37% (Source: London Elects)

Today's figures put them neck and neck at 45% to 44% (weighted) or 37% to 37% (unweighted) so a modest swing towards Ken Livingstone.

However, the swing is only modest. If matched across London, Boris would still be on course to win next year, albeit by a smaller margin than last time.

So what does this tell us?

Well not very much. A poll taken at a similar stage in 2007 gave the incumbent a clear lead. A lead which he was to completely lose just a few months later.

And the few Mayoral polls we've seen this time around have suggested that Ken and Boris are either neck and neck or that Boris has a clear lead.

My own hunch is that we won't really get a clear picture of the state of the race until Londoners start to think properly about the campaign next year.

And when they do, the last thing they'll be considering is any mythical "bonus" or "deficit" held by Boris and Ken.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Why Boris Johnson isn't trusted on transport

The latest Mayoral poll while generally good news for Boris Johnson shows that when it comes to transport, most Londoners simply don't trust him.

The reason for this should be obvious. Just take a look at his manifesto from 2008:

"after eight years of a Labour Mayor, we too often spend our mornings and evenings in cramped, overcrowded carriages or sitting for hours in traffic, and we pay the highest fares in Europe."

And after almost four years of a Tory Mayor we still spend our mornings and evenings in cramped and overcrowded carriages, and now pay even higher fares than before.

"We have had to watch as vital reports and fresh ideas have been suppressed, while this Labour Mayor has pursued far-flung projects, completely out of touch with Londoners’ concerns."

Unlike Boris's totally in-touch airport in Kent and totally down-to-earth cable car over the Thames.

"I will also re-instate tidal flow in the Blackwall tunnel at the earliest opportunity."

"I will commission a trial of orbital express bus routes for outer London."

Trial commissioned. No new buses.

"I will vigorously oppose the Government’s plans to increase the Dartford crossing toll, and campaign for residents in neighbouring London boroughs to be given a discount"

No discount given.

"I want the Tube to open for one hour later on Friday and Saturday nights, so Londoners can get home safely late at night."

"I will also fight for the long-term investment that London needs, for projects such as a tram for Oxford Street"

"I will look to reduce the disruption caused by strikes on the Tube by negotiating a no- strike deal, in good faith, with the Tube unions."

A ludicrous promise which he hasn't even tried to implement.

"I will stop the planned ticket office closures"

"We will broker a deal with a private company to bring thousands of bikes to the capital at no cost to the taxpayer."

Total cost to taxpayer so far: £140 million and counting.

Is it any wonder that Boris isn't trusted on transport?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Boris Johnson refuses to reveal City Hall meetings with Lynton Crosby

Boris Johnson has refused to reveal how many meetings he has held with his campaign manager in City Hall, despite a Freedom of Information request from this blog.

Asked to list meetings between Boris, his staff and Lynton Crosby since May 2008 his office replied that:

I refer you to the Mayor's recent answer to a Mayor's Question from John Biggs:

Which states simply that Boris has met him "on a very few occasions."

However, while unwilling to reveal the details of Boris's meetings with Mr Crosby they did reveal that:

"In terms of the Mayor's staff, the Mayor's Private Secretary met Lynton Crosby once to cover diary requests for the use of his time on 26 September 2011 at City Hall. Sir Edward Lister also attended this meeting, which lasted under 30 minutes. The Mayor's Private Secretary and Chief of Staff were both conducting this meeting in support of the office of Mayor. "

So why can they list meetings that the Mayor's staff have had with Mr Crosby but not meetings the Mayor himself has had with him?

And why is the Mayor's Chief of Staff, a politically restricted post, holding meetings with Boris's election campaign manager anyway?

Well unfortunately I can't tell you. According to their response:

"These meetings were not documented."

So that's a meeting inside City Hall between a senior non-political officer and the chief of Boris's political campaign, and nobody thought to take minutes?

The more they try to avoid answering these questions, the more it looks like they've got something to hide.

See also:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Boris welcomes George Osborne's "cynical" pre-election fares cap

Boris Johnson speaking about politicians "cynically" holding down fare increases before an election:
"What I will not do is play politics with fares. I will not go into an election promising to hold them down and then cynically whack them up, which is what you would expect from my predecessor"
"What we will not do is go for crazy artificial freezes in fares in the run-up to an election and then whack them up cynically thereafter"

Which is presumably why Boris today welcomed George Osborne's decision to er, cynically and artificially hold down his fare increases before the election.

And no doubt if fare rises go back to RPI + 2% post the election as planned, Boris will be the first to condemn himself for such a cynical move?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Boris Johnson's false crime claims exposed

Boris Johnson's claims to have drastically cut crime since becoming Mayor are based on figures from three years before he was elected, this blog can reveal.

The Mayor's campaign website and Twitter feed have repeatedly claimed that Boris has cut crime by a whopping 9% across London. 

However, analysis of the Metropolitan Police figures shows that there has been a much more modest fall of around 5% since 2007-8 (or just 3% since 2008-09)

Under the heading "Since I became Mayor in 2008" they claim that: 

"Robberies are down 18.5%." 

However, the most recent figures show that robbery has actually risen by 4.6% across London since the end of Ken Livingstone's term in 2007-8.

The campaign's borough level stats are also incorrect. On a recent visit to Tower Hamlets, Boris's campaign claimed that there had been a 14.2% fall in crime in the borough.

However, analysis of the figures shows that crime has fallen by just 5% since 2007 and has actually risen by 6% since 2008-09 

A spokesperson for Boris's campaign said the borough figures were based on comparing crime levels in May 2010 with crime levels in May 2006, two years before Boris became Mayor.

Their claim that crime has fallen by 9% under Boris was based on an even more historical figure, comparing crime levels in May 2011, with crime levels in May 2005.

In other words Boris is taking credit for falls in crime that took place three whole years before he walked through the door at City Hall.

Yesterday Boris hit out at the chair of the UK Statistics Authority who had criticised his previous misleading use of statistics.

Rather than admit his errors (deliberate or otherwise) Boris accused the Chair of the UKSA of being a "Labour stooge." This was also not true.

A spokesperson for Boris's campaign said yesterday that they had used crime figures from three years before Boris became mayor in order to get as accurate a picture as possible. 

They also said that they were in the process of updating their figures.

-Update- Boris's team have been in touch to make it clear that they were comparing crime between 2005-2008 with crime between 2008-2011, rather than comparing crime between 2005 with 2011 as I was told yesterday. So they were using a different set of wrong figures to the ones they told me originally.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Boris Johnson denies being "The Mayor" in security pass row

Lynton Crosby ID photo
Boris Johnson has denied requesting a City Hall security pass for his campaign manager Lynton Crosby despite an email from his aide, explicitly revealing his request.

The message from Boris's executive assistant Ann Sindall, released to this blog under Freedom of Information, states that:

"The Mayor would like Lynton Crosby to be issued with a security pass for 6 months, renewable. Do you need me to bring down the form too?"

However, the Mayor now claims that "The Mayor" referred to in this email was not himself, The Mayor, but his deceased former chief of staff Sir Simon Milton.

According to a statement by City Hall's monitoring officer:

"upon receiving a request from Sir Simon Milton, who, as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning, was, quite properly, deemed to be acting and speaking on behalf of the Mayor, the Executive Assistant to the Mayor then presented, in good faith, the request for the pass as being on behalf of the Mayor... I have been assured that the Mayor himself was never involved in discussions on this matter."

When first asked how Lynton Crosby was given an access all areas City Hall pass, a spokesperson claimed that it had been "mistakenly" approved by an "admin officer" and was "swiftly" removed when senior officials were made aware of it.

However, FOI requests by this blog have revealed that the pass was actually personally requested by "the Mayor" and signed off by his chief of staff.

Faced with these facts, the Mayor is now denying that he is "The Mayor" and has instead sought to blame a man who can no longer answer these questions himself.

Simon Milton was a close and respected aide to Boris Johnson, known for his competency and professionalism.

Ann Sindall meanwhile has been Boris Johnson's personal assistant and gatekeeper since his time at The Spectator and is so valued by Boris that he has apparently nicknamed her his "be-all and Sindall".

The idea that both Sindall or Milton would have gained a staff pass for Lynton Crosby without any discussion with, or request from, their boss does not stand up to scrutiny.

See also: How Boris Johnson covered up City Hall meetings with campaign chief

-Update- The Independent today carries the following:

Monday, 24 October 2011

Will Boris Johnson break his ticket offices promise?

Asked last year about his plans to close a number of ticket offices across London, Boris Johnson's spokesperson told me that:

"This Mayor takes his promises to Londoners extremely seriously. Every station that has a ticket office will continue to have one.”

The Mayor himself went even further telling the London Assembly that:

"The first and most important point to make is that no ticket offices will be closed, alright? They're not going to be closed... 

Pushed on this point he went on to say that:

"The answer to the number of ticket office closures is: nil."

However it turns out that the real answer to the number of ticket office closures could be: all of them.

According to detailed London Underground plans seen by this blog, all ticket offices could be closed by 2016 with "up to 30" of them being being converted to "Travel Information Centres."

1500 members of staff will also be let go with all tube trains being made driverless by the 2020s.

Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, said today:

“This document tells us everything we need to know about the operational strategy of London Underground - massive increase in fares alongside an unprecedented attack on jobs and safety. Every single ticket office would be closed, stations left unstaffed and drivers would be thrown out of their cabs without a single thought for passenger safety."

In Boris Johnson's 2008 transport manifesto he pledged to: "defend local ticket offices" and "stop the planned ticket office closures" adding that "there is little financial, strategic or common sense in these closures."

Today TfL insisted that the document had merely been prepared to "stimulate fresh thinking" and that nothing had yet been agreed by the Mayor.

However, the lack of any denials from City Hall, and the sheer detail of the plans, suggests that Boris's "extremely serious" promises to Londoners, may not have been quite so serious after all.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

How Boris Johnson covered up City Hall meetings with campaign chief

Lynton Crosby ID photo
Boris Johnson has been accused of a cover up after it emerged that he obtained an access all areas City Hall pass for his re-election campaign manager.

Freedom of Information requests by this blog reveal that the Mayor personally requested a security pass for Lynton Crosby in February that gave him unfettered access to the building.

Under GLA rules, staff passes should only be given to City Hall employees and tenants.

Local government rules also forbid the use of public resources for party political activity.

Asked about the existence of the pass earlier this year a spokesperson for the Mayor claimed that:

"An admin officer mistakenly approved a security pass, which was swiftly withdrawn when senior officials were alerted."

However my Freedom of Information requests reveal that the pass was requested by none other than Boris himself for a six month period, renewable.

And rather than being mistakingly authorised by an "admin officer," the pass was personally authorised by his then chief of staff, the late Sir Simon Milton.

And rather than being "swiftly withdrawn" Mr. Crosby retained the pass for almost five months.

London Assembly Labour group leader, Len Duvall, said today: 

"We were given completely misleading information about how and why this pass was issued. It says a lot about the mayor and his senior staff that they don't think they need to play by the same rules as everyone else and are happy to give out totally false information to cover things up when they've been found out. It's astounding they thought it was ok to give this Tory campaign organiser full access to the seat of London government."

A spokesperson for the Mayor denied a cover up, saying that:

"We stand by the original statement because the security pass was requested by an admin officer. We sought very hard to find out who had given authorisation for the pass and checked with every director and mayoral advisor but none were aware it, Following a more detailed trawl, prompted by your FOI, it was discovered that the late Sir Simon Milton has authorised the pass. The current Chief of Staff withdrew the pass when he was informed of its existence."

Boris has repeatedly refused to reveal exactly how many meetings he has had with Crosby in City Hall during what should be strictly work hours.

In response to my Freedom of Information request, the Mayor's office claimed that the log detailing exactly when and how often Crosby used his pass was deleted "automatically" after he returned it.

Friday, 7 October 2011

"Money is no object" for Boris's vanity projects say aides

Bank Note image by Beau Bo D'or
Boris Johnson is willing to spend hundreds of millions of public money in order to secure a personal legacy his senior aides have claimed.

According to the fascinating new biography Just Boris:

As he entered the fourth year of his mayoralty, City Hall staff noticed he was devoting a 'huge' proportion of his time trying to extract funds from private donors, often bankers and, yes, sometimes his friends at News International, but also little-known overseas companies for a range of increasingly bizarre even panicky 'legacy' projects. 'Subjects such as crime and transport are now much further down the agenda,' says one despairing aide... 'Money is no object when it comes to making these prestige projects happen,' observes one senior City Hall official. Despite the excitable puffs from City Hall, these are not free gifts to the metropolis as many assume. In fact, the total bill for all the Mayor's 'vanity projects' (as they are nicknamed privately, even by his staff) could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Boris's "increasingly bizarre" vanity projects have included a 'living bridge' (now forgotten) a Thames walkway (now in doubt) an Olympic erection (going up) and of course the cable car.

Sponsorship for what we must now call the "Emirates Air Line" was announced today. 

At £36 million the sponsorship will still leave Londoners with a bill of around £24 million. That's £24 million for a project that Boris promised would come "at no cost to taxpayers."

Now that's small change compared to the £140 million Boris has thrown at his cycle hire scheme (also promised at "no cost to taxpayers") or the as yet unknown cost of his new fleet of vanity 'Routemasters.'

But at least we can be grateful that the estimated £40 billion Boris wanted to spend on a new island airport will now definitely not be spent.

-Update- It looks like the Evening Standard got it wrong. Boris Johnson still wants his £40 billion airport.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Boris Johnson on giving money to charity: "I've been raped!"

He told bankers to "palliate their guilt" by donating to his Mayor's Fund, but it turns out that Boris Johnson is far less keen on giving to charity himself.

"Strongarmed" by his then aide Nick Boles to give up a fifth of his £250,000 Daily Telegraph earnings to charity Boris is said to have exclaimed:

"It's outrageous! I've been raped! I've been raped!"

Boris apparently bitterly resents what he calls this "Boles Tax" and has so far only donated a fraction of the sums he publicly committed to.

According to a new biography written by his former Telegraph colleague Sonia Purnell, Boris has:

"donated only a total of £20,000 over three years  (compared to the £75,000 pledged) to fund six bursaries for a sports journalism course at the College of Communications, with another final sum of £10,000 expected. He has also not given 'nearly as much' as £75,000 to a new charity set up by Friends of Classics to support Latin and Greek teaching in state schools"

Boris has also apparently made no commitment to continue these donations if re-elected.

You can read more about this and other embarrassing claims in Just Boris: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity which can be ordered from Amazon over here.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Boris Johnson has his "cones hotline" moment

Boris Johnson has pledged to renew his "war on roadworks" by er, setting up a new version of the cones hotline. 

According to the Evening Standard:

"Under the Reportit scheme, signs are being put on roads encouraging people to identify utility companies they think are defying a new code of practice... A City Hall source added: "It's the ultimate in guerrilla tactics."

Yep it's the ultimate in guerilla tactics as practiced by that well known guerilla fighter John Major.

Major's Cones Hotline was labeled "the most ridiculed policy ever" after it emerged that just five of 17,000 calls made to it resulted in any cones being removed.

Boris's latest website will be hoping for a slightly better hit rate than that.

But if his other website-based schemes are anything to go by then Boris's new "war on roadworks" is likely to go the same way as John Major's.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Boris Johnson's "electric revolution" has more charge points than members

Boris Johnson's plan to "rapidly accelerate" the use of electric vehicles in London appears to have ground to a halt, after figures revealed the scheme has more charge points than members.

Launched by the Mayor last year, "Source London" now has 207 electric charging points but just 205 registered members.

The tiny level of interest in the scheme was revealed by the London Assembly following a question by Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon.

Under the scheme, members pay an annual fee of £100 to use the Mayor's network of charge points. 

However, today's figures suggest that less than 1% of electric or hybrid owners in London have signed up so far.

Boris had originally intended to oversee the installation of 7500 new charging points in London but scaled back his ambitions to just 1300 new points following local opposition and cuts to the budget.

However, the public indifference to the scheme revealed today, suggests that even this modest aim may have been reaching too far.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Boris Johnson comes out against his own police cuts

Boris Johnson is hitting the headlines this morning for attacking the govenment's planned police cuts. 

“If you ask me whether I think there is a case for cutting police budgets in the light of these event, then my answer to that would be no. I think that case was always pretty frail, and it has been substantially weakened… This is not a time to think about making substantial cuts in police numbers."

Except it isn't the government that sets the police budget in London. It's Boris. And Boris isn't increasing the number of police officers in London. He's cutting them:

That's a 4% reduction in police officers and PCSOs in the past year alone.

He's also implementing cuts to safer neighbourhood teams and police station front desks.

If Boris wants to stop these things then he doesn't need to lobby David Cameron on the Today Programme.

He just needs to stop the very cuts that he himself is implementing.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Why we shouldn't dismiss Anders Breivik as a "lone wolf"

Right-wing pundits are now very keen to tell us that the Norwegian terror attacks were not caused by right-wing anti-multicultural ideology.

The fact that Anders Breivik quoted Daily Mail articles in his manifesto and forged links with the same anti-immigration groups lauded by our tabloid press is apparently neither here nor there. 

He was just a lone nutter okay? And besides, if it wasn't for multiculturalism, then there wouldn't have been a problem there in the first place.

Boris Johnson takes a similar tack today, telling his Telegraph readers that:

"It wasn’t about immigration, or Eurabia, or the hadith, or the Eurocrats’ plot against the people. It wasn’t really about ideology or religion. It was all about him... There is an important lesson in the case of Anders Breivik. He killed in the name of Christianity – and yet of course we don’t blame Christians or “Christendom”. Nor, by the same token, should we blame “Islam” for all acts of terror committed by young Muslim males."

We shouldn't blame right-wing politics for right-wing terrorism, says Boris, just as we shouldn't blame Islam for Islamic terrorism.

Right-wing politics isn't the problem. Islam isn't the problem.

Except that Boris used to say that Islam very much *was* the problem.

Here he is in The Spectator shortly after the 7/7 bombings:

"That means disposing of the first taboo, and accepting that the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem. To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers... What is going on in these mosques and madrasas? When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s mediaeval ass?"

Back then Islam definitely was the problem for Boris, just as he thinks that the right-wing fear-mongering pushed by the likes of his colleagues and friends definitely isn't the problem now.

The difference between the two cases is not one of principle but of politics.

Boris did not feel implicated by those who blamed Islam for the 7/7 attacks but he does feel implicated by those blaming right-wing politics for the Breivik attacks.

When Islam was in the dock, Boris wanted it detained without charge, but now that right-wing ideology is in the dock, he wants it released, no questions asked.

It's a sly trick, but it's one that he shouldn't be allowed to get away with. 

Islamic ideology had questions to answer after 7/7 and the hard-right ideology pushed by certain pundits in the press has questions to answer now.

The Anders Breivik of this world do not emerge from nowhere, just as the English Defence Leagues of this world do not emerge from nowhere. 

They are fostered by an ideology legitimised by screaming tabloid headlines and the fear-mongering of politicians who really should know better.

And unfortunately whilst Breivik's actions were the actions of a nutter, he is not the only nutter out there.

Three years ago 54 explosive devices and 12 firearms were found at the home of BNP member Terence Gavan.

Like Breivik, Gavan saw himself as defending his country from Muslim immigration, and like Breivik he was dismissed as a "lone wolf" whose ideology we didn't need to worry about.

And yet from lone wolves, larger packs are formed.

So whilst we shouldn't entirely blame right-wing ideologues for helping form those packs, we shouldn't entirely absolve them from their responsibilities either.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Conservative London Assembly Members storm out of meeting

The London Assembly descended into almost Ukranian style disorder yesterday when three senior Conservatives stormed out, slamming desks and hurling abuse as they went.

The statutory Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes, Deputy Mayor for Policing Kit Malthouse and the Chair of the London Fire Authority Brian Coleman all clashed with the two elected Chairs of the Assembly.

Brian Coleman's microphone was cut as he began one tirade and the camera quickly panned away as the leader of the Conservative group James Cleverly unsuccessfully tried to calm him down.

He was later seen jabbing his finger and remonstrating with City Hall lawyers off screen about the dispute.

After a second clash between Barnes and Jennette Arnold, all three men left the chamber with Coleman turning to accuse Deputy Chair Dee Doocey of "never being in this building" since accepting a peerage.

Doocey described this as a "complete and absolute lie" and is believed to be considering a complaint against him.

This is the second time that the un-ennobled Coleman has clashed with the newly ennobled Baroness Doocey. He has also regularly clashed with other members during meetings.

Last year a complaint was submitted against Coleman after he was accused of reducing a member of the canteen staff at Fire Brigade headquarters to tears.

The woman concerned later decided not to pursue the issue.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

What Boris Johnson really thinks about phone hacking

Boris Johnson is terribly concerned about wrongdoing at News of the World and takes the whole scandal "extremely seriously."

This evening he described the allegations as "blatant intrusion," "callousness," "corruption" and said that:
"Even if only a small number of people were implicated, these allegations have to be taken extremely seriously and investigated ruthlessly and openly."
Yes Boris takes it all extremely seriously. In fact so seriously that just three months ago he joked that celebrities actually wanted their phones hacked.

And so seriously that last year he told the London Assembly the phone hacking saga was...
  • "a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party" which was
  • "patently politically motivated" and
  • "a politically motivated put up job" and
  • "completely spurious and political" and
  • "a song and dance about nothing" which had been
  • "whipped up by the Guardian and the Labour Party."
No doubt he'll instruct the Metropolitan Police to take their investigations extremely seriously indeed.

-Update 08 July- BBC London report on this from last night:

Friday, 20 May 2011

Why Obama will not be paying Boris's congestion charge bill

Boris Johnson will confront Barack Obama about unpaid congestion charges when he arrives in London, reports the BBC.

Now this is very strange considering that Boris has repeatedly surrendered London's only argument for making the US embassy pay the charge, ie that it is a *charge* and not a tax.

If it is a charge then embassies have to pay it under international law. If it is a tax then they do not.

I have asked Transport for London to begin the legal process to remove [the Western Congestion Charge] with all convenient speed...

we can lift this tax within fourteen months at the absolute outside and hopefully earlier than that.

Now I'm all in favour of a genuine attempt to get the Americans to pay the charge, but all the evidence so far suggests that he has no real interest in doing so.

What he does have an interest in doing is stoking a controversy in order to grab some headlines, whilst doing nothing to actually solve the problem.

As he conceded in his interview this morning:

"The only way we could do this is if the foreign office gets a grip on the situation and actually takes the American government to court and gets this adjudicated in the international court."

Except the very first piece of evidence the Americans would use, would be the words of Boris Johnson himself.

-Update- I was on LBC earlier today debating this with Julia Hartley-Brewer and Charlie Wolf. You can listen to the show here.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Boris Johnson: Why Bin Laden shouldn't have been assassinated

The big problem for Boris Johnson and his surrogates is that almost all of their criticisms of Ken Livingstone could just as easily be directed at Boris as well.

Take their outrage over Ken's "extreme" comments on Bin Laden in which he accused Barack Obama of acting like a mobster:

"Today, Ken Livingstone joined a very select company – the Taliban and the leader of Hamas – in condemning the killing of Osama bin Laden." - Andrew Gilligan

"Calling President Obama a mobster is yet another example of Ken Livingstone’s extreme views which threaten to damage London. What American business will want to invest in our city if it is run by a man who repeatedly attacks their leader?" - Tory MP Greg Hands

"This is the latest in a string of highly controversial accusations aimed at America." - Boris's campaign website

Now this would all be well and good if Boris hadn't himself made a "string of controversial comments" about former US president George Bush.

Or indeed if Boris hadn't made almost exactly the same points as Ken about killing Bin Laden ten years ago:

"Bin Laden should be put on trial... in the place where he organised the biggest and most terrible of his massacres, New York. He should be put on trial, because a trial would be the profoundest and most eloquent statement of the difference between our values and his. He wanted to kill as many innocent people as he could. We want justice." - Boris Johnson

Read the whole thing for an excellent argument against state-sanctioned assassinations and for Boris's description of a possible Bin Laden assassination as him being "whacked" (you know, almost as if by a mobster).

Oh, and then read Boris backpedal during an election campaign and make the exact opposite argument almost ten years later.

What an extremist eh? What will American businesses in London think?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Top columnist spreads "voter confusion" over AV

City Hall's election managers have written to journalists asking them to stop making the false claim that the Mayor of London is elected under the Alternative Vote system.


We have noticed that there have been some inaccuracies recently regarding the election of the Mayor of London.  For any editorial stories you are writing, I wanted to clarify the voting system used in London to ensure there is no voter confusion ahead of the 2012 Mayoral elections.

The Mayor of London is elected by supplementary vote, not alternative vote.

Quite how this terrible misconception could have arisen in the minds of the British press is beyond me, although it may have something to do with statements like this one in the Daily Telegraph:

It is the system, I may as well admit, that is used in London mayoral elections. [AV] may be just about tolerable there; but I can see no case whatever for introducing it across the country.

An incredibly misleading and factually inaccurate statement written by er, the current Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Perhaps City Hall's election managers could start by copying him in.

Ken Livingstone confirms Lee Jasper will not return

Ken Livingstone has confirmed that he will not re-appoint his disgraced former aide Lee Jasper if re-elected next year.

A spokesperson for Livingstone said today:

"No. Ken has made it clear that if he wins the Mayoral election next year there will be a new team at City Hall. Lee Jasper has moved on, he isn’t working for Ken and won’t be part of his team at City Hall."

The comments follow a rather hopeful blog post from Andrew Gilligan claiming that "the signs have been growing that Ken, if re-elected, is preparing to do what he promised in 2008 – and bring Jasper back."

Quite what these "signs" are and where they have been growing isn't exactly made clear, especially as Gilligan's former paper reported that Jasper will not return three months ago.

Even more mysteriously, Team Ken tell me that Gilligan did not even bother to ask them whether Jasper would be returning before posting his story.

Disgraced Mayoral aide returns

Meanwhile, another disgraced Mayoral aide accused of financial and sexual misconduct, falsifying a CV and using homophobic, sexist and racist language did actually return to City Hall last year.

The "signs" of Ray Lewis's return were fairly easy to spot on the websites of the BBC, Evening Standard and elsewhere but for some reason Andrew Gilligan failed to pick them up.

Now I wonder why that could be?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The difference between Boris Johnson and Winston Churchill

Conservative Home today make a bold attempt to compare Boris Johnson to Winston Churchill.

Now while I'll admit that there is a a slight similarity in Boris and Winston's use of language, there is one other fairly significant difference between the two.

You see Winston Churchill is best known for leading an embattled people through the toughest war in our history.

Boris Johnson is known for painting some blue strips on the road.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Boris Johnson: an apology

In recent years I Boris Johnson may have inadvertently given the impression that I was totally against "Kosovo-style" cuts to London and was ready to fight a "Stalingrad like defence" of my budget.

Headlines such as "London cuts are madness, Boris tells PM" and "Boris urges Cameron to shelter London from the cuts" may have suggested to many that I was against cutting spending.

I now realise that these same cuts are absolutely essential and that speaking out against them is the work of a clueless opportunist, which of course I most certainly am not.

I would like to take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding and to apologise for any confusion caused.

Yours steadfastly,


The rise and fall of a Lib Dem candidate for Mayor

Dominic Carman: Why I want to be Mayor of London (23/03/11)

"London needs someone with muscular liberalism. I believe I have the right combination of political commitment... This makes me determined to fight to win the Lib Dem nomination...

"In May 1982, a Labour candidate stood in a by-election. The Labour Party was then in opposition, not in government. The candidate saw his vote collapse and he lost his deposit. But the party believed in him and his abilities. A year later, he was given a safe Labour seat, which he won comfortably at the 1983 general election. I knew the candidate, and talked with him about the campaign, before and after his by-election defeat. It taught me never to be deterred by defeat, but to use the experience to advantage – to fight on and win. The candidate’s name? Tony Blair."

Dominic Carman: Why I don't want to be Mayor of London (28/03/11)

Given other commitments, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot financially afford to run an effective campaign as the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor...

So it turns out Dominic's liberalism is not quite as muscular as he made out. 

Still at least we'll be spared the ordeal of watching Dominic blame Londoners for his defeat, in the same way that he blamed Barnsley residents for his sixth place position earlier this month.

Dominic and others are now backing London Assembly Member Mike Tuffrey instead as the only viable Stop Lembit candidate for 2012.

This seems like a sensible choice. Unlike Lembit, Mike is expert on both Ken and Boris's time in office and will be able to hold his own at the hustings.

Where Tuffrey will struggle is in gaining any substantial media coverage in a race that will inevitably be dominated by the Ken-Boris rematch.

Lembit would be able to get some of that coverage, but unfortunately it would not be the kind of coverage that the Lib Dems really want or need. 

Because of this many Lib Dem members are deeply uneasy about a Lembit candidacy for reasons which Mark Pack has outlined today.

If current polling trends continue the party are likely to struggle with whoever they choose, but at least with Tuffrey they would not be embarrassed.

Lembit, Mike and the Orange bookers.

Tuffrey is now said to be mulling over whether to stand, as is at least one other candidate and the selection process is not due to start until after the May elections.

Of course if those elections go as badly as some are predicting then there will be far bigger questions for the party to decide than who to pick in London.

The biggest of those is the future direction of the party and as part of their pitches, both Carman and Lembit positioned themselves as unhappy about the increasing closeness between Cameron and Clegg.

Tuffrey on the other hand is not known to have voiced similar concerns and he is widely thought to be far closer to the Orange Book wing of the party than Lembit.

For this reason Tuffrey may well be favoured by the party leader, although as we've seen from his non-apperance in Barnsley, an endorsement from Clegg is not quite the fillip to a Lib Dem campaign that it once was.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Boris Johnson finds "magic money" for Croydon Tramlink

Bank Note image by Beau Bo D'or
Shortly after getting elected Boris Johnson scrapped Ken Livingstone's plans to extend the Croydon Tramlink saying that:

"What we want to do is stop pretending the tooth fairy will come. Some of the plans we just don't have the money for and the others were never very good ideas anyway."

A spokesperson told the Evening Standard that implementing such vanity projects would:

"mean finding more than £3billion of "magic money".

So fast forward to the start of Boris's re-election campaign, and what do you know, the tooth fairy has come for Outer London after all:

"The Mayor of London has vowed to push through the stalled tram extension to Crystal Palace, despite no concrete plans on how to pay for it."

Magic money for all!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Ferrier Estate: destruction or regeneration?

Ferrier Estate podcast: destruction or regeneration?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Ken Livingstone and a reality deficit

Watching the Conservatives attack Ken Livingstone for saying he'll only reveal his plans *after* the election is a bit like watching Press TV man Andrew Gilligan attack Ken for er... appearing on Press TV.

It's an amusing but ultimately pointless exercise in irony

However, if Ken is to avoid the perception that he's all out of ideas then he will need a much more coherent message than the one he delivers in this Mayorwatch interview.

Just pledging to fight against the cuts is not going to be enough to win re-election and Ken needs to spell out his plans in a far clearer way than the Conservatives dared to before the General Election.

I've written more about the reality deficit facing both Ken and Boris over at The Scoop.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Boris Johnson's time warp attack website

I've written about the launch of Boris Johnson's new attack website over at The New Statesman.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Boris Johnson spends £20k moving redundant official

Boris Johnson spent almost £20,000 on new offices and furniture for a man whose job isn't even now required at City Hall.

Leo Boland who is set for a £300k pay off, moved offices twice, costing almost £10,000 in furniture and over £9,000 in labour.

According to a breakdown provided to the Labour group on the London Assembly:

  • £9,698 was spent on new furniture
  • £7,000 on mechanical and electrical works   
  • £2,035 on contract labour
  • £325 on fixtures and fittings

Total: £19,058

Costs included the conversion of a fifth floor photocopying room and "substantial works to redirect the air extraction unit."

No explanation is given for the inadequacy of the room and furniture used by Boland's predecessor Antony Mayer.

Explaining his decision to delete Boland's job at City Hall, Boris Johnson told staff that:

We need to ensure that we put every penny we can into making this great city even greater, and that means taking decisive action where we can to reduce unnecessary costs.

Perhaps you should have taken that "decisive action" a little sooner eh Boris?