Bar the gates to parliament and don't let them out until they've sorted it!

I am very excited about Nick's reforms published in the Guardian today! Especially because they include a week by week plan of action - which is what change professional like me really get off on!

So, here's a challenge to the Tories - if you're so reformist, then why not join the calls for reform in 100 days, real reform, not just tinkering around the edges like Cameron's plans do?

More later, no doubt but I've got to dash now....

More Broken promises, Boris?

If you live in south east London and rely on the overland train to get into central London you won't need telling how annoying and expensive not being able to use the Oystercard system is.

One of Boris' major promises was to just sort it out. Sort it out within the year! That means by now. But if you live in south east London, can you use your oystercard on the Train? No - neither can I!

In true Boris style (i.e. the bit where he thinks he can just waive a magic wand to get things done) he has failed to deliver on that promise! Thanks to Bridget for pointing out Caroline's work to raise this.

This stinks - not being able to us the Oyster card is expensive - especially for the most disadvantaged who don't need or can't afford to go and get a weekly travelcard.

Now it looks like it's slipping until 2010 - this is no good, no good at all! Come on Boris, just because I think you will, doesn't make it obligatory to be a rubbish Mayor who over promises and under achieves!!!!!!

On Sky News on MPs Expenses

My second trip to the Sky studio's this week (the first can be seen here) and I'm on to talk about MPs expenses.

Clearly there has been lots of shenanigans and as someone who is self employed and has to not just fill in expenses but put together accounts I know there are lots of ways that I can pay more or less tax. as someone is relatively well paid I take the view that if I don't pay my fair share how can I expect anyone else to. so, no more cries of 'I was in the rules' from the MPs please! being within the rules does not equate to being morally right.

However, can I comment this article by Martin Kettle on CiF to you - because it has to be said, personal morality apart it has been the lack of political will to pay MPs a decent, transparent wage for the work they do. And the vast majority of them do work very hard, about 80 to 90 hours a week from what I can guess.

They are also the first generation where it is expected that they will live both in their constituencies as well as London - MPs from previous generations weren't expected to do that. I've worked away from home during the week, and I hate it, it's miserable to be away from your family - in my case, at the time, my dog; so, I have no problem for them being recompensed for that requirement.

However, they should not seek to profit from it and that's where some of them have let themselves down.

On a more critical note: Gosh! How indignant some of them are at getting caught out! My advice is not to try and defend the indefensible, to shut up and keep a low profile. Not a character trait necessarily in great supply in parliament!

Lads' Mags and Little Girls

I am glad to discover that I am not the only person increasingly disturbed by the gauntlet of magazines that little girls (& boys, for that matter) have to walk past just on a trip to the Newsagent.

A family friend over from Auckland took his two nieces to the local newsagents in Kent yesterday and swore never to use that particular newsagent again because he was appalled by the covers of the men’s magazines, at child height that could not be avoided on the way to the counter.

‘Well, Bro’ said his brother, “Looks like you won’t be going in any more newsagents then, because there’s no choice. It’s like that in every one.”

I spend more time than is usual in the company of Kiwi’s these days. But it’s cool, because New Zealanders whether in NZ or in the UK don’t consider feminism to be a dirty word and don’t see why those wanting to access porn in their local newsagents whether hard core or the soft (but uber-misogynistic) type pedaled by weekly lads’ mags can’t just reach up to the top shelf.

I was struck on visiting New Zealand for the first time earlier on this year and Auckland in particular how family friendly the place seemed. In London, particularly if you don’t have children, you can forget that children exist. It is not a child friendly city.

But I do think it’s more than that; I beginning to come to the conclusion that it’s not a particularly female friendly city either. I’ve lived in London for 15 years now, so really can’t speak for other places but my kiwi friends all agreed that the UK is not a female friendly place to live – when compared to New Zealand – of course, I’d prefer it every time over, say, Saudi Arabia or Iran – obviously! But just because London is relatively free and equal for women doesn’t mean to say that it is free enough!

Yes, I find I’m getting more and more oppressed by the increasing sexualisation of women and young girls. It feels like, in London if you’re not walking past a lap dancing club, your walking past a poster for one or running the gauntlet of pneumatic young women all over each other on lads mags.

It is not, as I’ve said many times before that I want to ban anything or spoil consenting adults fun. As a consenting adult, I’m no stranger to fun, but I dare sy you wouldn’t want to know the details and I’m not telling anyway.

And I agreed with the Lib Dem stance on extreme pornography and believe that lap dancing clubs have a right to exist (although I think they need to be regulated more and the women working in them could do with proper employment protection). It may not be to my taste, but matters of taste are neither here nor there when it comes to banning things or censorship.

I do believe that the sexual objectification of women is harmful to both boys and girls (Caron has a great argument about this, in this post here); it encourages and rewards women for acting in an overly sexual way.

I think it harms the ability of young people to form, healthy relationships where they can be themselves and don’t feel pressure to act in just one way. And I accept it is currently difficult to prove the link.

But I do get to say how it makes me feel.

Sex and our sexuality is a vital part of our beings and humanity but it isn’t everything.

Increasingly, Londoners are getting duped into thinking that if we object to the pornographic norm, which only reflects one rather misogynistic view of human sexuality, spread all over our public spaces, then we are being somehow oppressive and impacting on freedom of expression.

But right now, I feel that it’s women and girls that are being oppressed and I don’t see why, just because the likes of John Grey or Peter Stringfellow want to maximize their profits, we should shut up and attempt to free up women from low paid jobs, and domestic violence and horrific rape conviction rates, whilst working around it.

The reaction of the Uncle to these two little girls from Auckland tells me that it’s not just me, and it’s not just women who can see the harm and that there is a different way.

You just wouldn’t have to put up with these things in New Zealand, a country where prostitution is legal and it so could be argued is more liberal than the UK. But in New Zealand, accessing pornography whether hardcore or soft is a choice and a place where if you want to be surrounded by sexualised images of women you can be but you can pop out to buy a Sunday newspaper with your nieces in tow without having to.

Boris one year on...

‘It is a year since Boris Johnson was elected Mayor’ said the man on the phone from LBC.

‘Last year, in the run up to the Mayoral election you wrote a post titled ‘Why Boris Johnson is a really, really bad idea’, do you still hold the same opinion?’

‘Oh yes!!’ said I!

And so I’m going to be on Ken Livingstone’s LBC show on Saturday morning to discuss Boris’ first year. Also on is Dave Hill from the Guardian (v excited about meeting him, I love his blog) and I think Iain Dale, but maybe not, maybe another Conservative blogger.

Just the other day I was musing to myself, as I was digging out the couch grass from what will be strawberry bed on the allotment, that with any luck we are 25% of the way through Boris’ tenure as London Mayor.

I reckon, that means we’re about a year away from beginning to uncover some of the big mistakes he will have made in the last year.

Yes, I’m sorry to still be so down on someone, whom undoubtedly I’d be delighted to sit next to at dinner, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of executive competence.

Has it all been awful? Well no, I suppose in retrospect the illiberal banning of alcohol on the tube and buses has led to an improvement (although, I’m too old and too much of an early bird to go on night buses nowadays) and I was wrong about that.

Boris’ inexperience in running teams showed up early in the multi resignations that took place over the summer. He has shown a crass lack of judgment in warning his Tory colleagues of police activity in the Damien Green affair – or is it that he thinks the rules don’t apply to him?

There’s two other problematic signs in this first year of his Mayoralty.

Firstly, it seems to me that he’s not the Mayor for all Londoners; he’s the Mayor for affluent Londoners. Most of the cuts he made affect those living in less affluent areas of London but would make a great difference to their regeneration, such as the cross river tram which would link Peckham to Camden, the extention of the DLR to Dagenham and the Croydon tram link extension to the lovely, wonderful Crystal Palace.

But Kensington & Chelsea get the congestion charge removed. For sure, I was never a fan of the K&C charge as it seemed to me it was a largely residential area but you get the drift – if you come from a Tory voting borough then Boris is definitely your man!

The second is this dislike of scrutiny that he has. Dave Hill has done a great blog on this but it’s obvious to anyone who saw this behaviour at the Transport select committee will see that he thinks he is above criticism.

It is the behaviour of a petulant child and I have mucho empathy for his mother who must have had the patience of a saint throughout his childhood.

As Dave Hill says, we don’t have free ranging press conference any more but themed announcements meaning that Boris and his hench men (for they are largely men) get to control what is talked about.

But the thing about our London Mayoral system is that he has all the power and all we have, those of us who are not Boris Johnson, is the ability to scrutinise. And Boris won’t let us scrutinise him and that’s just undemocratic.

Still, with any luck only another three years to go...

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