Friday, 28 December 2012

Political predictions for 2013

Mystic Bienkov takes a look at 2013: the year that was

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

George Osborne fails. We pay

New Post for MSN on the Autumn Statement

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leveson throws Nick Clegg a liferaft

Leveson gives Nick Clegg an unlikely liferaft

Friday, 16 November 2012

David Cameron continues to lead the Tories to defeat

New Post for MSN: Cameron is most to blame for the Tories' poll drubbing

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

At the Guardian: Boris Johnson's sneaky fare rises

Article for Comment is Free on Boris Johnson's sneaky fare rise.

Why Romney's loss is a warning for David Cameron

For Cameron Obama's win is a warning

Saturday, 20 October 2012

When David Cameron protested against the cuts

David Cameron today criticised Ed Miliband's decision to join the protest against the government's "crippling" cuts to public services.

This apparently shows that Miliband is not a serious politician.

However, Cameron seems to have forgotten his own days as an anti-austerity warrior.

Back in 2007, David Cameron launched a campaign against threats to close accident and emergency and maternity units across the UK.

He told the BBC that:

"people simply do not understand why maternity units and accident and emergency units are being shut down when accident and emergency admissions are up and births are up."

He promised that he would have a "bare-knuckle fight" with the government to save them.

The Tories even drew up a list of 29 units they would fight for.

So how has Cameron's bare-knuckle fight gone?

Well of the units on that list:


And it's not just those on Cameron's list. Elsewhere:


Oh and, here's a video of Conservative favourite Boris Johnson marching in 2008 alongside banners saying "Save Queen Mary's [A&E] or die" 

Queen Mary's A&E has of course now closed.

The Conservatives: one time anti-austerity warriors:

Friday, 19 October 2012

The press have made their mind up about David Cameron

Aura of incompetence deepens around David Cameron

Thursday, 11 October 2012

On BBC London 94.9


I was on BBC London radio this morning talking about David Cameron and the party conferences (see above clip). You can read more on this over at MSN.

See also my post at Snipe London on Boris chucking cabbies into the Thames.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Why the Tories are stuck with David Cameron

Despite Boris Johnson's sunshine David Cameron's gloom will prevail

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Ed Miliband still has a long way to go

Ed Miliband needs to throw away his script - for good

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The end of Nick Clegg

My latest post for MSN: No matter what Clegg says - or sings - nobody is listening anymore

Monday, 10 September 2012

Boris Johnson's own "ditherama" on airport expansion

Last week Boris Johnson accused David Cameron of "ditherama" after he decided to set up an independent inquiry into airport expansion.


"This means endless delay. It is ditherama. He [Mr Cameron] must level with the London public... It is a political decision, they can’t hide behind a committee of worthies."

But hang on. Is this the same Boris Johnson who has so far set up a grand total of FOUR* studies into airport expansion and who is now planning a FIFTH?

And is this the same Boris Johnson who has at some point backed new runways at Whitstable, The Isle of Grain, and even Stansted, but who now won't say which one he still supports?

I think we should be told.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Boris Johnson gives up Londoners for leadership bid

When Boris Johnson ran for re-election he promised that he could get a better deal for Londoners from government.

According to his manifesto:

"I have shown that, unlike my predecessor, I have been able to work with the government to get a better deal for London"

Yes unlike that tricksy Ken Livingstone, Boris would use his close relationship with government to ensure more jobs and investment for Londoners.

So how's that special relationship working out?


A furious David Cameron is planning revenge on Boris Johnson after the London mayor launched a series of attacks on the prime minister’s “fudge-arama” over the future of Heathrow airport...

"We will see what happens the next time he comes around with the begging bowl,” said one Downing Street official."

Not that well then:

"Mr Cameron could withhold government support for projects Mr Johnson regards as vital to the capital, unless the mayor tones down his attacks on the government. These include a new rail line from Chelsea to Hackney dubbed Crossrail II, and a tunnel under the Thames at Silvertown."

That would be same tunnel that Boris announced as a done deal just before the election. What else could be held back?

"The mayor also pledged in his election campaign this year to press the government to give responsibility for rail franchises to City Hall and in July established a commission to investigate whether London could retain more of the money it hands to the Treasury in tax."

Still at least Boris's own future job prospects are looking up.

Just don't hold your breath for that "better deal" we were all promised.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

David Cameron has acted out of weakness

New Post for MSN: A reshuffle shaped by weakness not strength

Monday, 13 August 2012

Dave's failed Olympic bounce and Boris's real Olympic record


Friday, 3 August 2012

What we didn't learn from the riots

My latest article for MSN UK is on how London has brushed last year's riots under the carpet. Read it here.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Media hype over Boris Johnson goes zoink

Following his barnstorming Hyde Park speech the papers are full of Olympic-sized hype about Boris at the moment.

The Independent are particularly vocal with it's columnist John Rentoul claiming that:

"Boris has the beginnings of a Churchillian stature about him. He now has the size of personality that is waiting for a crisis that will summon him to greatness."

Except Boris has already had several crises, none of which he has risen to.

Whether it be the scandal at the Met over phone hacking, which he dismissed as "codswallop" or the London riots, which he refused to return home to, Boris has a dreadful record on dealing with crisis.

And while Churchill is best known for saving the nation from foreign occupation, and defeating one of the most evil regimes in history, Boris is best known for setting up a bike hire scheme and painting some blue lines on the road.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of Rentoul's piece we learn that:

"Johnson [has] told aides that he intends to perform his mayoral duties on "an unofficial part-time basis after the Olympics"

An unofficial part-time basis? He's not exactly fighting them on the beaches is he?

The madness continues this morning in the Indy with the headline: "Boris favoured for Tory leader as Osborne tumbles."

Except if you actually read the whole piece you find that:

"49 per cent of members surveyed want the Prime Minister to lead them into the next general election. Mr Johnson is the second choice on 18 per cent."

Perhaps the headline should have read "Boris *not* favoured for leader" instead.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Olympic opening ceremony: a triumphant hotchpotch

I'm an old cynic, but last night's gloriously shambolic Olympic opening ceremony won me over. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

London's love-hate relationship with the Olympics

I've written an article for MSN News on Londoner's love-hate relationship with the Olympics. You can read it here.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Over at The Scoop

All the news and views from me over at The Scoop since the election:

  1. Thousands of free cable car tickets given away by TfL
  2. London police stations to be sold off admits Boris
  3. Transport for London slammed for "cluster bomb" ads
  4. Police stations to be closed to the public across London
  5. Boris Johnson faces £233 million hole in his police budget
  6. London Fire Brigade Museum saved and privatisation halted
  7. Boris Johnson to break promise not to cut fire engines
  8. Boris Johnson to break promise for 1000 more police 
  9. Revealed: How Boris's team threatened journalists and smeared critics
  10. Farewell Brian Coleman

See also my recent posts for the New Statesman if you've missed them. 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Boris Johnson: Mayor for the World

Earlier this year the Evening Standard revealed Ken Livingstone's scandalous plans to embark on a "world tour" if elected:

Labour's mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone today suggested one of his first jobs in office would be to take a “round the world” tour to drum up investment for London...

Bloody grandstanding socialist!

A spokesman for Boris Johnson’s re-election campaign said: "Londoners want a Mayor for London, not a Mayor for the world. Now Londoners can see what going back to Ken Livingstone would really mean."

Indeed. But hang on what's this in the Evening Standard just one month after the election (not available online for some reason)



A series of Prime Ministerial-style world trips? I thought "Londoners want a Mayor for London, not a Mayor for the world"?

And what's this in Boris's written answers to the London Assembly this month?

Stephen Knight: Can you confirm the foreign destinations you plan to visit over the coming months following press reports of “a series of prime ministerial-style foreign trips” to boost foreign direct investment in London?

Written response from the Mayor: Initially, I plan to visit India towards the end of 2012 and then in future years I am considering visits to the Middle East, Brazil and China, and quite possibly other locations. None of these are currently confirmed. I also plan to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos and possibly MIPIM in Cannes in future years.

And how is he going to pay for all this?

Funding will come from existing budgets, in addition to private sponsorship where possible and appropriate.

Where possible and appropriate? All aboard Barclays Bank's private jet then...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

At the New Statesman: Boris's dozen duck sized horses


"The London Mayor's Twitter Q&A showed the perils of engaging with voters on digital platforms without really understanding them."

Thursday, 28 June 2012

At the New Statesman: Boris and Barclays

My latest New Statesman piece is on Boris and the Barclays Bank interest rate fixing scandal. You can read it over here.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Boris's tax dodger "crackdown" over before it begins

During the campaign Boris Johnson told the BBC that he wanted a "crackdown on tax dodgers and tax avoiders of all kinds" accusing Ken Livingstone of using a private company to avoid paying income tax.

So how goes Boris's "crackdown" on tax avoidance?

Well so far he's failed to extend it to his own employees.

Asked by Labour AM Len Duvall "how many individuals across the GLA family receive their salary through a private company or as a “sole trader” as opposed to as a GLA employee paying PAYE tax?" he replied today that:

"In TfL as of May 2012 there are 1345 individuals being paid through a private company or as a sole trader."

So much for that crackdown.

Monday, 21 May 2012

At the New Statesman: Guto Harri, Boris and the Murdochs

Read my latest piece for the New Statesman over here. If you haven't already you can also read my latest column for Snipe, on the end of Brian Coleman's reign over here.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Will Boris Johnson suddenly become a radical Tory Mayor?

I was on BBC London News last night talking about what we can expect from Boris Johnson's next four years. You can watch it here.

Andrew Gilligan was also on the show. Both Andrew and Dave Hill believe that the appointment of Stephen Greenhalgh and the new role given to Kit Malthouse demonstrates that Boris is going to be a far more radical right wing figure in the next four years.

I have no doubt that this is the message the appointments were meant to send, but I have serious doubts that after four years of doing almost nothing, Boris is suddenly going to turn into a radically transformative Conservative figure.

Boris has spent a lot of time portraying himself as a "real Conservative" in his Daily Telegraph columns and has made countless right-wing interventions on national issues such as the top rate of tax and banking reforms.

But when it comes to his actual policies it is difficult to find much red meat at all.

His regressive fare rises aside, Boris has done almost nothing to either seriously anger the left or excite the right. Ideologically he's been something of a non-event.

If Boris was going to launch a Conservative revolution in London then he would have started it by now. If he had any great vision for the future of London then there would have been some indication of it in his manifesto. There hasn't been.

At the beginning of Boris's last term he hired radical figures like Tim Parker and launched an investigation into making big cuts to London government. But despite all the rhetoric, nothing much happened.

My own feeling is that Boris will continue to make vocal interventions on national issues whilst doing very little to materially alter London one way or another. 

His recent comments on immigration and the economy indicate that he is now mostly concerned with manoeuvring into position to be the next leader of the Tory party. Any radical action in London, might help him in that aim, but it would also be very high risk. Boris has shown no indication that he is willing to take those risks.

He may yet prove me wrong, but I suspect that London after eight years of Boris is not going to be very different from London after four years of Boris. 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

At the New Statesman: Why Boris won and Ken lost

Read my analysis of the Mayoral election result over here.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

On BBC London

I was on BBC London radio this morning talking to Paul Ross about the Mayoral election campaign. You can listen to it here:

 

Monday, 30 April 2012

On the Today Programme

I was on the Today Programme this morning talking to Andrew Hosken about the benefits of having a Mayor in London, alongside Sonia Purnell, Tony Travers and Christian Wolmar.

I wrote more about the need to increase the Mayor's powers last year

For some of the obvious downsides to having a Mayor, head over to The Scoop.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Michael Portillo says he won't vote for Boris Johnson

I wrote recently about how the Conservative Party have been amazingly loyal to Boris Johnson despite his own repeated disloyalty to them, and despite holding many misgivings about him.

One notable exception to this rule, is the former Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Portillo. Last night he explained on the BBC why he won't be voting for his own party's candidate:



And here he is four years ago on why Boris Johnson is an "embarrassment" to his party:



Portillo is very rare in saying publicly what many other Conservatives will only say privately.

Labour on the other hand seem to have no such misgivings, with Lord Sugar being the latest member to urge people not to vote for his own party's candidate.

The other diference between the two parties of course, is that whilst Alan Sugar's comments have been very widely reported, Portillo's comments almost certainly won't be.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

At the Guardian: Ken and Boris's reunion bus battle

You can read my latest Guardian piece on the Mayoral race over here.

Friday, 6 April 2012

At the Guardian: the state of the Mayoral race

I've written a comment piece at the Guardian about what the tax returns story says about the London elections and the state of British politics. Read it here.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Does anyone on Boris Johnson's campaign understand social media?

If they do, they should probably have a chat with their campaign chief Lynton Crosby.

Earlier this week Lynton's team launched a ham-fisted attempt to steal the Mayor of London's official twitter account.

This resulted in a full blown Twitter storm, official complaints and reports in those well known radical outlets The Daily Telegraphmajor tech websites and even the local press.

After accusing the mayor's followers on Twitter of "hysteria" they backed down and deleted all references to the campaign from the official feed.

Next, for reasons best known to himself, Lynton decided to launch an attack on the strictly impartial MayorWatch website.

MayorWatch's crime? To politely request that Boris's campaign send them some press releases.

Rather than contact Mayorwatch and apologise for failing to send the releases he'd requested, Crosby instead took to Twitter.


This jibe was apparently based on the fact that Guardian Journalist Dave Hill had earlier highlighted Mayorwatch's request on Twitter.

Mayorwatch, who has been covering City Hall for over a decade, has since received messages of support and disbelief about Crosby's response from right across the political spectrum.

If Lynton wanted to have a crack at one of Boris's critics then he chose completely the wrong person.

Instead of engaging with an impartial and influential news outlet, Crosby has instead chosen to alienate them. Bizarre.

As if that wasn't enough, Boris's campaign have since been highlighting "Londoners" who have come out to wave placards at Ken on one of his campaign visits.


They've even posted a video titled "Londoners confront Ken Livingstone in Croydon"



The thing is, if you want to pretend that something is coming from ordinary Londoners, it's probably best not to have the cameraman telling them to shout "louder."


It's probably also wise not to have previously posted pictures of these same ordinary Londoners wearing campaign t-shirts whilst sitting on a campaign bus:





Online campaigning has yet to be a major factor in winning UK elections. 

If Crosby's attempts this week are anything to go by then it's unlikely to be so in this Mayoral election either.

Boris Johnson's bus fare rises in full

Boris's record in office has been pretty meagre. So meagre in fact that he's taken to inventing achievements.

Recently he claimed to have saved London households £445 in council tax over four years, rather than the £3 he's actually saved us this year.


However, speaking on BBC 94.9 this morning Boris boasted that "bus fares are still lower in real terms than they were in 2000."

Now bus fares may well be lower in real terms than 2000 but they're significantly higher in real terms than they were in 2008, when Boris came in.

Here's the facts:

Single Oyster bus fare in 2008: 90p
Single Oyster bus fare in 2012: £1.35

Percentage increase: 50%

7 Day bus pass in 2008: £13
7 Day bus pass in 2012: £18.80

Percentage increase: 44.6%

Monthly bus pass in 2008: £50
Monthly bus pass in 2012: £72.20

Percentage increase: 44.4%

Annual bus pass in 2008: £520
Annual bus pass in 2012: £752

Percentage increase: 44.6%

Source: bus fares 2008, bus fares 2012

Even the cash fare (which TfL today told me that only 1.2% of bus users actually pay) has risen by 15% over the last four years.

So when Boris claims that bus fares are lower than 2000, what he's really saying is that bus fares went down by so much in Ken's time in office, that even his own 44%-50% rises haven't managed to cancel them out.

As TfL themselves put it:

"Over the last decade bus fares in London have reduced in real terms although the trend over more recent years has been upwards"

Upwards by as much as 50% in fact.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

At the Guardian on London's cable car

The Guardian asked me to write a short piece on a local landmark, building, or piece of infrastructure  that had seen changes under either Boris or Ken. I chose the new cable car at Greenwich



You can also read some of my recent contributions on London politics to The Scoop blog and Snipe Magazine over here.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Camerawoman confronts Guido Fawkes bloggers

A female journalist this morning confronted bloggers Paul Staines and Harry Cole of the Guido Fawkes blog after they rushed into a crowd at a mayoral campaign event causing her to be knocked over.

The camerawoman for ITV was kneeling down to sort out her equipment when a man dressed in a chicken suit accompanied by Cole and Staines barged into them.

She later told me that she was "shocked" by what had happened and had received a bash to her leg as they rushed in.

I managed to get some footage of her confronting Cole and Staines telling them that they "nearly broke my neck."

They didn't seem majorly concerned as you can see below.


(I've had some difficulty embedding this so you may need to click through to Youtube on some browsers.)

The footage also shows Paul Staines shouting "c***" at a Labour staffer. 

For some reason Cole's and Staines' own footage of their stunt doesn't include any of this. I wonder why?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Did Boris Johnson sign off a tax dodge?

Dan Ritterband (pictured right)
It's good to see Boris Johnson campaigning against tax avoidance all of a sudden.

Not least because he has spent the past few years campaigning to avoid more tax himself.

Still let's not underestimate the zeal of the convert. On Sunday Boris was on fine form telling the Andrew Marr show that:

"I want a crackdown on tax dodgers and tax avoiders of all kinds."

Perhaps he could start his crackdown at City Hall where some cad named Boris Johnson signed off a payment of £22,912.50 to a limited company called "DJR PR" in 2008.


Could this be the same DJR PR whose sole director is Daniel James Ritterband, Boris's former campaign chief and current Marketing Director?

Oh yes so it is:


The 'transition' here refers to the first two months of Boris's term when we paid a team of consultants and former campaign workers over half a million pounds to help get him started.

Some of this team, including Ritterband, subsequently went on to become full time GLA employees.

I emailed Daniel asking him whether he had paid full income tax on all of the £22,912.50 that taxpayers paid him to transition Boris (and himself) into his new job.

Shortly afterwards I was contacted by a spokesperson for the GLA who told me that:

"DJR PR has not conducted any business since June 2008. All applicable taxes have been paid on fees paid to the company."

"Applicable taxes" rather than income taxes.

The spokesperson also confirmed that the £22k consultancy fee was paid solely for the services of Ritterband. 

However, despite apparently doing no business since 2008, Ritterband's company continued to accrue considerable assets. I've uploaded the company's accounts here. See what you think.

So what's going on here? Can Ritterband be labeled a "tax dodger" who set up a company in order to pay less taxes out of the money taxpayers gave him?

Or did he just legally do what many thousands of other people who are self-employed, freelancers or consultants currently do?

Under Boris's logic the answer is pretty clear. Time for another crackdown I think.


Friday, 2 March 2012

At Channel 4 News

Channel 4 News interviewed me about Boris Johnson's record as part of their introduction to the Mayoral race. Read all about it.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Boris Johnson's imaginary council tax savings


Boris Johnson's claim to have saved the average household £445 in council tax, is based on comparing his record to what he imagines Ken Livingstone would have done instead.

In an email to supporters, Boris's campaign chief Lynton Crosby claims that Boris is:
"Cutting council tax, having frozen it for the last three years saving the average household £445"
They repeat this claim on their campaign website [and in Boris's 9 point plan for London]

However, Boris campaign today told me that this is based on how much they assume Ken Livingstone would have raised the GLA precept by, had he won in 2008.

They say they have calculated the average rise under Ken's previous time in office and applied it to Boris's time in office.

According to one Conservative Party website the 'saving' is calculated by:

"the cumulative impact on a band D household of the average increase under Ken Livingstone of 12.58% had it been applied between 08/09 and 12/13, including taking account of this year's cut."

So they are assuming that Ken would have raised the GLA precept by a total of 60% between 2008 and now.

However, in Ken's last four years he only raised it by less than half of that.

  • GLA precept on Band D 2004 - £241.33
  • GLA precept on Band D 2008 - £309.82 (total rise 28%)

They're also ignoring the fact that Boris's precept freeze has been substantially paid for by a central government grant which went to all local authorities that implemented a freeze.

As a result of this grant every local authority in England froze their council tax last year and most are expected to do so again this year.

Ken could also have benefited from such a grant had he won.

Of course it's possible to imagine that Ken could have instead raised his precept by 60%. 

But Boris's claim that he has 'saved Londoners £445' is just that: imaginary.


-Update- The £445 claim is now point two in Boris's "9 point plan for London"

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Boris Johnson's 'cycling revolution' visualised



Friday, 17 February 2012

The Metro newspaper wants you to work for free

An exciting offer arrives by email from the Metro newspaper:

Hi Adam,

Metro are searching for writers and bloggers that have got something to say about the Olympics to contribute to our 2012 coverage. With the biggest sporting event to be held in London on the horizon we want to share your opinions and insights with Metro’s large audience.

Having looked high and low, reviewing blogs and searching out sport professionals, we found your website and would love it if you would like to get involved. Whilst you will not be paid for your posts, you will be set up with a profile page linking to your blog or website and your social media accounts - with the potential to reach thousands of readers under the Metro brand, the opportunity to grow your own following is there.

If you would like to be considered for this opportunity please reply to this email expressing your interest and we will get back to you with further details. If you know anyone else that might be suitable please let us know too.

Kind Regards

Emma

EMMA MILLS   METRO.CO.UK

To which I replied:

Dear Emma,
Thank you for your kind offer to work for the Metro for free. Sadly, in Britain we have this thing called the national minimum wage act, that requires employers to actually pay the people who work for them. You may find the following information useful:
If the Metro is willing to comply with the law and pay at least the minimum wage, then I will of course reconsider your offer.
Yours sincerely,
Adam Bienkov

The Metro is a highly successful and profitable newspaper that can easily afford to pay its contributors.

If it wants "writers, bloggers and sports professionals" to cover the Olympics for them, then maybe it should consider employing some.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Boris Johnson to save households 15p a week


Boris Johnson has dramatically upped the stakes in his bid for re-election by offering London households a whopping 64p off their council tax every month.

According to the Evening Standard:
"Savings of £150 million could potentially translate into a cut of around 10 per cent [off the GLA precept] over four years, though City Hall sources said some of that money could be spent elsewhere."

Boris Johnson's previous offer of 26p saving a month has so far failed to excite many voters, but the extra 38p could make all the difference.

A man queuing up to buy some peanuts told this blog:

"To be honest I thought Boris's offer of £3 a year for me to vote for him was pretty derisory, but now that he's offering me £7 a year to vote for him I think I might. 

Boris's plans to raise public transport fares by 2% above inflation every year for the forseeable future are expected to remain.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Boris Johnson has bet all his money on a loser

So the results are in. After spending an entire month campaigning on a cut to his council tax precept, Boris Johnson now knows what Londoners think of it.

According to YouGov:


So Boris's "game-changing" £3 giveaway is the least appealing of all the major policies proposed so far. Even Brian Paddick's 'early bird' fares policy is ranked higher.

Meanwhile Ken Livingstone's proposal to cut fares (which Boris described as "the last thing that Londoners want or deserve") is ranked as the most appealing.

Asked whether they support or oppose a cut to bus fares, 68% of Londoners give it their backing with just 16% saying they're against it.

It would seem that  Tony Arbour's claim that fare rises don't matter because most Londoners don't use public transport was slightly off the mark.

And while Boris's campaign have made much of Ken being untrustworthy, the poll shows that even more people mistrust Boris Johnson to fulfil his promises than Ken Livingstone:



The character questions are also bad for Boris with just 13% believing that he is "in touch with the concerns of ordinary people." A disastrous score.

However, there is one area in the poll where Boris is still massively ahead of Ken and that is "charisma."

In a personality-based contest like the Mayoral election this is incredibly important, and does more to explain Boris's headline lead than anything else.

On policies, Boris has put all of his money on a loser. The only thing that's keeping him in the race is his personality versus Ken's.

If Ken's campaign can turn that around then they can win the election. If they can't then they won't.