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Category Archives: Boris

New Olympic Park Named

From a parallel universe:

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has revealed the name of the new Olympic park. The Fidel Castro People’s Park will be at the heart of the Games’ site.

Thankfully, Londoners (and those of us in the outer boroughs) saw sense and gave Ken his P45 a couple of years’ back, so instead we have this welcome news:

The 2012 Olympics will be held at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The name was announced by Mayor Boris Johnson exclusively on LBC 97.3 on Thursday morning.

Quite right too, even if Boris did spoil things by then babbling on about “masterplanning” the area.

Tut tut. I am merely a product of a grammar school – so what do I know – but don’t they teach the difference between nouns and verbs at Eton?

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Labour Chooses … And It's Good News

Labour have chosen Ken Livingstone to be their candidate for London Mayor in 2012. This is excellent news. It gives Boris’ team the chance to showcase their sustainability credentials by reusing the old but still effective ammunition that was so well employed last time, such as:

London Elections 2008, City Hall. Ken Livingst...

Ken giving his loser's speech in 2008. So that's one aspect of his 2012 campaign sorted already.

Financial issues at the LDA

Bloated bureaucracy at City Hall

*cough* Lee Jasper *cough*

Doubling of Council Tax with little to show for it

*cough* Al-Qaradawi *cough*

That’s just for starters. Add in a few dinosaur references and mentions of how comfortable Ken must be in the (striking) transport unions’ pockets offices and with a little luck one may well find that Robert will be your father’s brother … and Boris will still be Mayor.

Yes, I suspect “cock-a-hoop” might be a good way of describing Team Boris’ reaction to the nomination.

Update: An upbeat view of Ken’s nomination seems to be pretty common among the right-wing blogosphere today, with the likes of Iain Dale, The Lakelander and Mark Wallace (who also looks forward to an Ed Labour leadership victory) to name but a few, and Dizzy suggests we should be spared Ken’s weekly skit on LBC.

You Couldn’t Make It Up (No. 42)

Like most people, I am not keen on wasting time sitting in traffic jams. Therefore I’ve decided that I must have a dedicated lane for myself, John Prescott style, between my home and the Civic Centre – paid for, of course, by the taxpayer. Since I can’t get it on expenses (ah yes, councillors’ expenses: not as exciting as you might think) I am going to have to develop a “psychological aversion” to waiting in traffic. That’ll work. Not.

However, that is the justification for the additional demand for more sites for travellers and gypsies, which feed into proposed new targets that could be incorporated into the London Plan. This is over and above existing demand arising from overcrowded sites, “unauthorised encampments” and the like. The definition of this additional demand for gypsy and traveller sites comes straight from government guidance which defines such need as – and I quote – “a psychological aversion to bricks and mortar housing”. Quite how such finicky tastes in architecture can carry such weight in the formulation of housing strategy is beyond me, since I suspect the preference isn’t likely to be for trendy glass and steel, wattle and daub or “green” methods of construction.

I’d like to think, in my innocence, that someone in the civil service has an ironic sense of humour, and put the definition into a draft document in a facetious vein. Sadly, however, the civil service doesn’t do humour, so it stayed in, and thus will probably generate a goodly amount of work for both the equalities and town planning industry for years to come.

The research that gave rise to the targets was commissioned via the pre-Boris Greater London Authority, and it may be too much to hope that any post-May 2008 purge has reached as far into the beast as to remove those Livingstone-ites responsible, so once again we in the Boroughs must man the barricades.

I’ve left the best ‘til last, though: there has been no public consultation on the proposed targets. Even the London Borough councils have not been invited to comment. Instead the targets and their questionable justification will be buried incorporated into the draft London Plan which will, of course, be consulted upon, along with the myriad of other issues that it throws up, such as green belt, housing densities, parking standards, and so on. It’s quite possible that the first time the ordinary resident becomes acquainted with the “psychological aversion to bricks and mortar housing” will be when a groups of sufferers set up on a previously green field near their home, and the planning inspector allows it to carry on, because targets have to be met.

Borissed Off

Give them credit, at least the Kentish Times are consistent. Consistently anti-Boris … though I appreciate that they are not under the same requirement for impartiality that the likes of the BBC pretend to abide by.

Next week Boris is visiting Bromley (in ‘Metropolitan Kent’) for his first People’s Question Time. The Bromley Times has been wound up by Bromley’s Labour Leader John Getgood and have found a few random comments on the BorisWatch site – itself hardly a Boris fan-zine. Apparently the blond one is only coming to Bromley for an easy ride….

Mr Johnson received the majority of the mayoral votes in Bromley and the evening will be chaired by Conservative London Assembly Member for Bromley and Bexley, James Cleverly.

Well, James is chairing it because it’s in his constituency – that’s the convention – and Boris also received the majority of Mayoral votes in most of the London boroughs. That’s why he won. Get over it.

Maybe Cllr Getgood and the Bromley Times think Boris should ignore the largest London borough? Fair enough, they got used to being ignored by the last Mayor, but if he has to restrict himself to the boroughs that came out for Ken then it’ll be a short tour.

Goodbye Mr. Blair (The Sequel)

So now the other Blair has gone, after failing to receive the support of Mayor Boris Johnson. Livingstone has decried the move as marking a politicisation of the Commissioner’s role …. like it’s a wholly bad thing. While the Mayor may not (yet) have the explicit power of appointment or dismissal of the commissioner, today has shown that the power and influence that comes with the directly elected Mayor’s position can still have much the same effect – at least, so far, as far as an effective dismissal is concerned. It has laid down an important marker that the person directly accountable to the people of Greater London can trump the delegated authority of the Home Secretary and, perhaps more importantly, the constant of the civil service that serves her.

I’ll leave the discussions of the merits or otherwise of Sir Ian Blair’s tenure to others. A positive and powerful precedent has been set, and a clear example of real devolution has emerged.

Now Now, Girls

Boris has just described Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a “monosyllabic Austrian cyborg”, Boris’ view of Arnie being somewhat coloured by the Governator’s reaction to Boris’ performance last year. This one could run and run.

Boris Talks Cobblers

I’ve been somewhat busy the last few days, so am only just catching up on the other stories around the blogosphere. Rather than bore you (even more) with outdated opinions on stuff that happened three days ago, I’ll just mention one perennial chestnut – the BBC licence fee.
Now I campaigned with and for Boris and will almost certainly do so next time, but on at least one non-London specific issue he is, as Iain Dale rightly says, talking utter codswallop.

Boris’ thoughts on the licence fee included this myth gem:

Take away the licence fee and you take away the Beeb’s ability to spend £6 million on the world’s greatest festival of classical music. [The Proms]

Boris, sadly, is thinking like a socialist. He doesn’t believe, it seems, that things can happen without the State underwriting them. He thinks that without the BBC extorting money from its customers, no-one would be interested in coming up with the readies, either in the form of sponsorship or otherwise, to keep the world’s greatest festival of classical music going.

I am not a friend of the licence fee. It is an anachronism that provided an efficient means of funding the BBC when it was the only broadcaster. Therefore, logically, it should have been given up in the early fifties when ITV came along.

It boils down to this basic question, which I have never yet heard a supporter of the licence fee answer (at least without resorting to vague meaningless concepts like “public service broadcasting”):

If the BBC is so good, then why does it have to threaten its customers with fines or imprisonment?

Actually, that question isn’t quite right, since to refer to licence fee payers as “customers of the BBC” is like calling any driver a “customer of the M1 motorway”. (Some of) your road taxes go to pay for it, whether you ever use it or not. To continue the car analogy, the licence fee is like buying a Toyota and finding that you also have to pay a fee to Daimler-Benz.

Frankly, I’d have abolished the licence fee years ago if I had the power, but as it happens, it need only be until 2012 that we have to endure this vestige of pre-war paternalism, as by then the digital TV roll out will have completed and the BBC can be funded by voluntary subscription using a scrambled signal and decoder cards just like many other channels seem to manage.

Now the Conservative Party policy is to share out some of the licence fee with other broadcasters. While it makes it a little less unfair on the other companies, it doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue. That, I guess, reflects the fact that there is a considerable difference of opinion in the party over the licence fee. Sadly, too many of my fellow Conservatives fall for the emotional scaremongering that Boris and others indulge in. It will take time, therefore, but I am convinced that the days of the licence fee are numbered.

Wow. A whole post about the BBC and not one mention of bias!

Don't Crow Too Soon

Guido is making much of the timing of Tim Parker’s departure from City Hall earlier this week, given the fact that the following day, Boris apparently accepted the tube unions’ demands for a rather generous pay rise. Boris has “caved in” to Bob Crow and his comrades, they say. The Lefties are crowing (sorry) reckoning that their predictions/wishes for Boris to screw up are coming true, though how accepting a deal made by an arch lefty like Crow counts as screwing up, from another Lefty’s viewpoint, is not clear.

Yet the same was no doubt said about Mrs Thatcher (are we still supposed to talk about her?) in 1981, when she “gave in” to the miners unions, knowing that the time was not right and a good general, whenever possible, chooses his battles.

And we all know how Arthur Scargill ended up four years’ later.

There is a significant proportion of Londoners, including many who voted Conservative for the first time in voting for Boris, who would not appreciate those who forced them into the midst of a Tube strike, whichever side those protagonists were on. Boris knows this and I suspect feels that there are more pressing priorities in the first couple of years of the administration (and before a General Election).

As for Mr Parker? A shame that he has stood down, but in four years time I doubt anyone will remember this minor episode. Already, you would be hard pushed to find someone, outside the SE1 bubble, who remembers the names of James McGrath or Ray Lewis. In 2012, as the Olympics loom people will be judging Boris by what he has achieved, not how frequently the plastic name plates outside some offices in City Hall might have changed around this summer.

Like a Bad Smell

Comment has already been made elsewhere (including at Biased BBC) about Ken Livingstone’s too-regular appearances in the media of late. Really, anyone would think he was gearing up for a book launch or something.

The last week or so has seen the newt fancier commenting on China and the athletics meeting that’s going on there, trotting out his standard line of “we have no reason to criticise China’s action in Tibet after what we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan”. Well, we probably did some pretty unpleasant things during our Imperial days but that shouldn’t have stopped us having a go at Hitler. (Warning – Godwin’s Law approaching).

This morning it was the treat of listeners to Nick Ferrari on LBC, though to be fair to Nick, Livingstone has never been a stranger to that London station, where he is now finding regular genuine employment.

Ken’s real vitriol was turned on Boris because the Mayor didn’t head off on a junket to the opening ceremony of the Games in Bejing. Yet who cares? Ken’s Communist mate the Mayor of Bejing invited him over, but Boris doesn’t need to be there except at the end to receive the torch. Boris, it seems, has this old fashioned notion that the Mayor for London should spend his time in London.

Livingstone was earlier asked to give his pearls of wisdom on Boris’ first 100 days in office. “Too early to say”, said Ken, almost sounding reasonable when he welcomed the extra PCSOs on the transport network, but then thought it wrong that Boris should be appointing people from the Right to his team (as opposed, presumably, to the – ahem – broad political church that Livingstone gathered around him).

“Boris’ administration was actually more right wing than appointments like Rosie Boycott might make it appear”, he warned ominously.

I should blooming well hope so.

Ray Lewis’ Hard Lesson in Politics

So Ray Lewis has resigned. His resignation statement spoke of the “drip drip” of “unfounded allegations”. Sorry Ray, that’s politics. However, I genuinely hope he is able to continue his good work with young people outside the Mayor’s Office.

No doubt the Labour opposition at City Hall are crowing, but they should be aware that they are still in the early days of opposition, where it is easy to assume that such “victories” might seem to herald the beginning of the end, and that a contrite electorate will shuffle back to the fold thoroughly ashamed of themselves for having doubted you.

They should remember, though, that the Bernie Ecclestone affair barely put a dent in Tony Blair’s fortunes so early in his premiership, and so it is with Boris (not that one could compare the substance of the two episodes). Interesting though it is that Labour should be attacking Boris for opting for a cabinet style of government in London, the Mayor should take a lesson from this episode, including that of carrying out proper vetting of potential team members, and come out of it stronger. As it is, Boris was decisive but fair in his reaction to the first “drips” of allegations – it seems he had already learnt from the James McGrath affair, where many thought he had over-reacted.

In four years time, what will the electorate remember: the Ray Lewis episode, or the eight years of Livingstone that Boris has spent four years’ putting right?