Living with Boris

Well, thankfully not literally but having had a very harrowing last few weeks, it has come to my notice that Boris really did get in.

And it’s like this: I was really against Boris getting in, not so much because he was a Tory as I don’t much like non nuLabour Ken but that I didn’t think he was really up to the job. However clever he is (and I do believe he’s clever) he lacks the experience to run an £11bn budget and my lovely city. And I’m not convinced by the idea that he will gather a group of knowledgeable people around him; he lacks the experience to know and recognise when someone is mucking it up.

Still, he’s in and I find my desire to make London the best city that it possibly can be, is greater than my distaste for this man. So, I’m not sitting back to watch him fail, with glee in my eyes. I am hoping that he doesn’t fail; I am hoping that he brings in good policies and improves this city. Because if I’m honest, I love this city more than I love party politics.

So, how is he doing?

The Drinking Ban: pointless and illiberal. It’s not people with open alcohol containers that create the problem, it’s people disturbing the peace and being violent. I don’t think that alcohol containers being open of not makes the slightest bit of difference. This is nuLabour gesture politics. I dislike it’s illiberalness but apart from that, I don’t think it’ll harm London, it just won’t help London. A wasted opportunity. The ‘riot’ will be neither here nor there in a few months.

The break up with Chavez: This I actually applaud. I haven’t given much thought to why Boris has done it; I suspect it has more to do with not subsidising bus fares than an ethical foreign policy for London (it’ll be easier to cut the subsidy later, without a fanfare). After all, the Tory just lurve the Saudi’s, don’t they? So, I’d be surprised if Boris was put off by the whiff of corruption that follows Chavez around. Still, I’m happy about it, because I don’t like having a deal with London giving Chavez, the man who shuts down TV stations that don’t agree with him, any airs of respectability.

The big bill for the transitions team: My eyebrow is only half raised. It is expensive, especially when you compare it to the permanent staff pay packet. But, but, if you look at the private sector incomes for these kind of people, especially if they’re working on a fee basis rather than salary, whilst it’s still pricey, it’s not so far removed from the market rate. It is, however, I fear down to the lack of experience that Boris Johnson has in actually running anything that he’s paying private sector market rate type prices. It’s all very well having an attitude of paying to get the best, when you yourself earn £250k for the part time job of penning a newspaper column, but there just isn’t the sort of money in the public sector when you can’t justify high costs with high profits. If he had more experience, he would know this. Instead he will just run out of money sooner and then have to run the place on a skeleton staff which will be no fun for them and no fun for us. Budget control, the lack of which Ken was rightly castigated for, was never going to be Boris’ strong point. I’m just trying to work out what is.

Routemaster Buses only an aspiration: Hahaha! Of course they are and they should not be his number one priority!

So, the verdict?

To be honest, he’s not had much time to ruin it yet and, veering back into party politics for a moment, my fears about the impact on a Tory revival have been realised. I wonder what those Lib Dems going around telling us how Boris was going to be the more liberal are feeling now, when the first thing he does is ban something?

Still, when my partner and I were walking across Trafalgar Square the other Sunday morning we looked at the Africa Day stage being set up and thought about how funding for cultural events such as this would be quietly dropped, just like funding for environmental schemes in the capital will no doubt be reduced. No big press conference, fanfare there. No doubt to pay the bills of his super duper transition team. It will be a decidedly different London. In fairness, I have castigated Ken Livingstone on live TV for being just a Trafalgar Square Mayor, but that was more for his focus on inner London boroughs at the expense of the suburbs, but I did enjoy the events that took place at Trafalgar Square.

One of my big interests in London though, is policing. And I am a big, big fan of community policing. I went to the commendation ceremony of my Safer Neighbourhood team the other day and wondered, along with a senior policeman whether funding for community policing would continue. We both hoped so. But whilst the number of police and PCSOs is important, as is parents and the wider communities responsibility for the behaviour of our children, one key factor in dealing with young people’s crime and unsafe streets is something for young people to do. My experience of living in a Tory borough is that whilst, they have done very well in clearing up graffiti, they seem to have made it their life’s work to reduce funding for young people’s facilities and activities. The link between bored and disillusioned young people and crime is clear; can Boris be the first Conservative, with the help of his Deputy Mayor Ray Lewis, to realise that it is better prevent young people from committing crime than just punish them when it’s all too late?


Jonny Wright said...
5 Jun 2008, 17:03:00

I know you're not convinced, but I think he really will have a crack team around him. If he messes up badly, it's just too big a gamble for Cameron. He needs Boris to be a success.

Do you reckon breaking the link with Chavez might be more to do with the symbolism? Surely it only happened in the first place because Ken wanted a connection with a socialist country with a populist left-wing leader.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
6 Jun 2008, 14:00:00

Jonny, I wish I had you faith in the Tories managerial abilities.

Does Cameron need Boris to suceed; he'd better hope not! Borne I'd by far the more powerful man now, if not in the Tory party, then in the country as a whole. He has a big mandate, he can tell Cameron where to go, when it do we to it.

Any muck up will take longer they two years to evidence itself and until then can be blamed on Labour. Brown's honeymoon eas cut short because labour had been in power for 11 years - brown couldnt blame anyone else.

Boris got in because he was Boris and cameron will use that brand distinction to distance himself if things go pear shaped.

The Chavez thing; well sure, he enjoyed the symbolism. All I was saying was that I doubted it was on an ethical basis that he made the decision. Plus, far easier to pull fare subsidies when the source of funding has already gone, later on when nobody's looking!

a very public sociologist said...
14 Jun 2008, 20:53:00

Re: Venezuela, it's not really a case of Chavez shutting down stations "because they disagree with him". They were denied their licence simply because they openly backed the coup that attempted to oust him. In equivalent terms, it would be like you defending the BBC if they cheered on the IRA's attempts to eject the UK from Northern Ireland.

It's also worth noting that in this "authoritarian" state of Venezuela, it was announced this week that a programme of domestic industrial development was launched ... under the democratic control of the workers employed in the programme. A step toward proper political and economic liberty don't you think?

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