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



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.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Ken Livingstone's dodgy knife crime claims

I've spent the past week trying and failing to get Ken Livingstone's team to prove their claims that "knife crime has risen every year" and that "Knife crime is up 13.6%" under Boris.

The only source they will point to is this page on the MPA website which does show that knife crime has risen by 13.6%.

However, this only refers to the period between November 2010 and October 2011. No previous years are listed.

The Metropolitan Police don't publish knife crime statistics on their crime figures website and so I've had to search through their annual reports.

For previous years I've found that:

  • In 2010/11 "Overall knife crime increased by 5.7%"
  • In 2009/10   "knife crime showed a slight increase of +2.2%"

So there does seem to be a significant rise in knife crime in recent years. However in Boris's first year as Mayor there is a very different picture:

  • In 2008/09 "Number of serious violent knife crimes per 1,000 population" went down 13.3%

So there was actually a big fall in Boris's first year, possibly related to the crackdown launched by the Met that year and also possibly due to a spike in knife crime the year before.

Therefore Ken's claim that "knife crime has risen every year under Boris" is not true.

And his claim that knife crime is up 13.6% under Boris is also misleading. Taken on aggregate the total rise in knife crime appears to only be somewhere around the 6% mark.

That's still a significant rise for a man who's campaign to be Mayor relied so heavily on tackling knife crime, but it's nothing like what Ken's team are claiming.

Boris Johnson meanwhile also continues to mislead the public, by claiming that "knife crime is down 8-9%" under his Mayoralty.

Where he's pulled this figure from I've no idea, although presumably it's using the same dodgy counting methods I exposed before.

However looking at the Met's own statistics it's clear that knife crime is up and significantly up under Boris. 

This is even more the case when you look at knife crime involving young people, as Dave Hill has reported.

These are powerful facts for an opposition candidate to throw at the Mayor.

However, rather than use those facts, Ken has oversold his case and missed what should be an easy hit for an opposition politician.

In order to win, Ken needs to beat or at least run Boris very close, on crime.

This is more than possible as I shall spell out later, but in order to do so Ken should stick to the facts. So far he hasn't.

More at The Scoop: Why Ken has won on transport but is losing on crime

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tory AM: Most Londoners don't use public transport

Most Londoners don't use public transport, a Tory London Assembly Member has claimed in defence of the Mayor's fare rises.

Speaking at a City Hall debate on Boris Johnson's budget, Tony Arbour claimed that:

"It is a fact is it not that relatively few Londoners use London transport in any way. Most people don't use London transport with any sense of regularity." 

He went on to tell the Mayor that it was a "principal of conservatism" that "those [people] who receive a service are those who should pay for it." 

Boris Johnson replied that he would "need to get the figures" Arbour was referring to.

Transport for London's statistics show that the majority of trips are made by private transport although the majority of "journey stages" are made by public transport (42% to 36%).

However, there seems to be little evidence beyond Tony Arbour's own peculiar personal experience that "few Londoners use London transport in any way."

Arbour is an outspoken and right wing member of the Conservative party and a councillor in Richmond upon Thames.

He previously caused controversy when he described council housing as "housing for the riff raff."

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

At the Guardian: Astroturfing: what is it and why does it matter?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Boris Johnson: taking over suburban trains is "not politically liveable"

Boris Johnson's plan to take over every rail service in London is "not politically liveable" according to er, Boris Johnson.

Asked a year ago whether he supported taking over suburban rail services he told the London Assembly:

I have to tell you, and I am going to be totally frank with you, in my conversations with Government and with the Department of Transport, I do not think I have yet received any kind of indication that they are anywhere near giving us control of all the railways, total control of all the railways, in London, because I am afraid there are implications for other passengers beyond London, and that is a difficult argument. I prefer to go down the route of saying that what we want is a stake in the franchising arrangements. For us now to say that we want  to take over every single railway in London and throughout the Greater London area is, I am afraid not politically liveable at the moment.

So what's changed in the past 12 months to make the unliveable now liveable?

Has the government suddenly decided that they want to give control of the suburban railways to Boris?

Well if they have, they're keeping it very quiet. So what else could it be?

Could it have anything to do with a certain election coming up that Boris is trailing in?

Surely Boris wouldn't risk making another load of wild transport promises before an election that he can't keep?

Monday, 6 February 2012

When Boris Johnson denounced Britain's wealth creators

"Britain won’t create a Facebook until we learn to praise success" roars the headline to Boris Johnson's latest (£250,000) Telegraph column:

"It is not as though we lack potential Zuckerbergs. Our universities are pullulating with brilliant young men in T-shirts who like playing Call of Duty and have slight difficulties with girls. We are fantastically fecund at coming up with new games and new apps. The very concept of the World Wide Web was devised by London-born Sir Tim Berners-Lee. So why isn’t there a British Facebook? Why aren’t these billions about to explode into the pockets of people in this country?"

Yes why haven't our "brilliant young men" yet reproduced the success of Facebook?

Why has our video game industry, the one area of the computer industry we excel in, not fulfilled it's potential?

Could it have anything to do with the total lack of support, and even condemnation it has received from the UK establishment?

The same establishment, one member of which has repeatedly told people to er, smash its products:

"It is time to garrotte the Game Boy and paralyse the PlayStation, and it is about time, as a society, that we admitted the catastrophic effect these blasted gizmos are having on the literacy and the prospects of young males... Summon up all your strength, all your courage. Steel yourself for the screams and yank out that plug. And if they still kick up a fuss, then get out the sledgehammer and strike a blow for literacy."

But surely Boris must have at least realised their wealth creating potential? 

"what we fail to grasp is that these possessions are not so much an index of wealth as a cause of ignorance and underachievement and, yes, poverty."

Perhaps not then. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Boris Johnson to save Londoners three whole pounds

In a truly momentous announcement, Boris Johnson today said that he would cut his share of the council tax by a whopping 1%.

Thousands of Londoners were set to storm City Hall in jubilation as they realised that Boris could save them an earth-shattering £3 for the entire year.

One commuter queueing up at one of London's lesser-spotted ticket offices told this blog:

"I was pretty angry about the hundreds of pounds Boris has cost me in fare increases, but now that he's offering me £3 back I think I can forgive him. I could almost afford a single tube ticket with that."

At almost one penny's worth of saving per household per day, Boris's precept cut is likely to transform the Mayoral race and possibly even the UK economy.

A spokesperson for Boris's campaign said:

"This shows that Boris Johnson is truly in touch with the pressures that ordinary Londoners face, unlike that Commie, North Korean, extremist, liar Ken Livingstone."

A source close to the Mayor denied that Boris will now also reverse his plan to raise fares by 2% above inflation every year for the foreseeable future.

"No of course we're still going ahead with that. What are we, made of money?"