Sunday, 18 October 2009

London Mayoralty - It Matters

I went to Mayor's Question Time on Monday - I thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for some political kickabout and a decent comedy show. Not necessarily convinced if you are looking for an effective instrument to be used to hold the Mayor of London to account. The two Green Party AMs were excellent (I would say that, wouldn't I - but it's true), including Darren Johnson who had to chair the whole thing. The other parties were...mixed. Val Shawcross for Labour was impressively forensic in her questioning, I thought, while John Biggs just came off as hectoring and pointlessly rude - as did Len Duvall. The Lib Dems seemed fairly nonexistent...and then...the Tories. Oh dear.

Some of my friends in the Labour Party (yes, I have some) often criticise me for seeming to lay into them more than the Conservatives. This is hardly surprising, I answer - after all, Labour run Hackney Council, have both MPs in Hackney, and run the country. However, there is no denying that the Tories remain an appallingly reactionary lot underneath the Cameronite gloss. First to speak up was Brian Coleman AM - yes, he of Brian Coleman Must Go fame - a man who has never seen an expense claim he didn't think fair and just. His question was, god help us, about the 'fact' that there were far too many diversity officers employed by the GLA. He was followed by a non-entity asking about why Traveller sites needed to be provided in the London Plan (he actually said 'Gypsy' in a particularly vitriolic fashion, but then realised his error and backtracked). And so on.

I left City Hall feeling less than charitable about London Conservatives - not helped by Boris' seemingly complete inability to answer a question in any detail. As I found out the next day, however, he was apparently saving the detail for his attempt to explain the significant fare rises he feels are necessary for London.

As BorisWatch and other blogs have explained, his plans have a disproportionately heavy effect on low earners - precisely the people, frankly, that Boris Johnson doesn't give a stuff about. The problem is that people do still see him as a joker, a buffoon, a bit of a card. Well, this buffoon is running our city, and he's doing it badly.

As Jenny Jones AM put it, very succinctly:

“The mayor is pricing people off public transport, whilst favouring motorists by going ahead with plans to cancel the western extension of the congestion charge. Part of his fares increase will pay for the gap left by losing around £55m of congestion charge income. The Mayor has today highlighted the pollution caused by old buses, but he was the one who dropped the £25 congestion charge on gas guzzling cars, which would have generated around £30m in its first year. Everything the mayor does shows a bias in favour of the motorist and against public transport users. Even the long delayed increase in raising the congestion charge will be after bus and tube passengers have already started paying their extra fares”.

Boris - favouring motorists over users of public transport, and favouring rich users of public transport over poor users of public transport. Welcome to Tory London.

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