8:37 am - July 4th 2008
[Editor’s note: It has barely been two full months and Boris Johnson has already been involved in a long list of gaffes and controversies. Below, we want to keep an updated list of of mis-steps so far and record his flip-flops because we can guarantee you certain newspapers won’t.]
This list will be updated regularly. (Last updated 19/8/08, 22.30.)
Help us build it up into a comprehensive Gaffopædia by submitting suggestions for additions and improvements in the comments below (or by e-mail).
Cronyism and other problems with his appointments
Deputy Mayor Ray Lewis forced to resign
After a range of allegations of financial and sexual misconduct were raised, the Deputy Mayor for Young People, Ray Lewis first came out fighting. When the story started falling apart he was forced to resign. The inquiry into the allegations has now been cancelled.
First Deputy Mayor, Chair of Transport for London and Chief Executive of the GLA Tim Parker resigns
Despite it being obvious all along that transport was one of only a few areas in which the Mayor can make the most difference and must therefore take lots of key decisions, Boris decided to delegate his responsibilities in this area to bob*-a-job [* well, pound] asset-stripper Tim Parker. Just five days after his appointment to the chair of TfL was confirmed in a news release, Parker unexpectedly resigned. The official reason given was that Boris had suddenly realised that the chair of TfL needed to take too many political decisions for him to delegate the role, although that doesn’t explain why Parker had to quit the Chief Executive job too.
Rumours of power struggles and personality clashes, particularly with Sir Simon Milton, abound. He was also extremely reluctant to release his register of interests, so another line of speculation is whether something was omitted when this was finally published, leading to conflict within the administration if this had been discovered. All speculation, of course – but what else are we to do when the official explanation is so incomplete and illogical?
‘Independent’ Forensic Audit Panel
The IFAP was to investigate how much money Ken Livingstone had wasted during his tenure. This panel of Tory axemen was headed by the ex-editor of the Sunday Telegraph, a woman most well known for censoring criticism of David Cameron in her paper.
Why didn’t they choose anyone with ‘forensic audit’ experience to be a part of that team? It produced an interim report only three pages long that found little wrong-doing, but the press statements spoke very differently. It wasn’t supposed to cost any money but has now been allocated £50,000.
Update: The final report was a damp squip too. The Tory Troll gave it the coverage it deserved.
Policy Exchange has not only played a huge part in pushing Boris, but also supplied him with staff once in power. Nick Boles and Munira Mirza, two of the most visible people in his team, are both strongly connected. Policy Exchange has not only been shown to produce research later exposed as dubious, but is led by the highly controversial Dean Godson.
Update: Boris’s new Director of Policy is also from Policy Exchange. Anthony Browne‘s writings are of the Melanie Philips School of Ill-Informed Ranting and it’s no surprise that the BNP recommend his book in their bookshop.
Transport for London board
As with so many of Boris’s appointments, the TfL board is full of Conservatives and Conservative-sympathetic businessmen. Controversially, there’s no political opposition representation on the board, unlike under Boris’s supposedly less inclusive predecessor.
Clement was a key cheerleader of Boris during the election campaign in Boris’s Bexley heartland, as the then leader of the council. He’s been appointed Deputy Mayor of Government Relations, responsible for liaising with the boroughs. We can only speculate as to which boroughs he might show bias towards, given his previous job.
Clement himself has recently come under scrutiny for his own brand of ‘value for money’ when leader of Bexley council, allegedly wasting over £10,000 on travel and office refurbishment for himself, while axing meals on wheels for vulnerable elderly borough residents.
Milton, of Dame Shirley Porter fame, was given the role of Director of Planning, a title and salary that he was soon to lose after it was pointed out that his continuing roles as head of Westminster Council and Chairman of the Local Government Association precluded him from the job. This law of politically restricted posts, established by Margaret Thatcher as an attempt to prevent conflicts of interest and corruption was dismissed as a minor edict by our new broom Boris Johnson under questioning from the assembly (see also Lack of respect for rules and procedures).
However, despite losing his salary and title, Simon Milton still retains his same position in City Hall. A position which remains in conflict with his continuing chairmanship of the local authorities’ chief lobbying group and his ongoing ‘pillow talk’ with the planning supremo at Westminster Council.
Update: Milton has now resigned his Council responsibilities in order to take the role under Boris properly. This certainly puts to bed any legal doubts (and suggests our concerns were very well founded) but doesn’t deal with the pillow talk issue, nor the fact that many of the planning decisions he’ll deal with will be Westminster-related.
There was a complete lack of the transparency we were promised during the election campaign over Boris’s so-called ‘transition team’.
For a start, there is to this day no clarity at all about what any of the 14 employees (some now no longer there) have been doing, leading some of us to question whether the ‘team’ really amounts to a way to provide a publicly funded cash bonus to those who helped Boris get elected (pretty much everyone in the ‘team’ was also in his campaign team). No job descriptions were ever published or advertised.
It also took repeated media enquiries before the amount being paid to these people was finally disclosed on the Mayor’s web site, despite his oft-repeated pledge in the campaign to publish details of every pound spent by the GLA “from day one” of Boris’s Mayoralty. (See also Wasting money.)
The Barclays investment banker was the only member of Boris’s Mayoral team (apart from Kate Hoey) unveiled before the election. He was trumpeted as proof that Boris would have big names queuing up to join his administration. But a month after Boris became Mayor, Diamond left the country (let alone London) and it sounds like something of a generous exaggeration to suggest he’ll still play a part in the Mayor’s Fund he was supposed to be leading.
Sidelining of women
Boris’s tenure at City Hall has seen the axing of countless jobs and funding related to and held by women. There are now no women at the top level of his administration, he has no adviser on women’s issues, and the future of the Capital Woman event is in serious doubt. Ken Livingstone has written for MayorWatch® on this subject.
Doubling bus fares for the poor
Because of Boris’s scrapping of the discounted Oyster scheme for Londoners on Income Support from August, anyone whose half-price card expires between August and January (which the card’s six-month duration and the law of averages suggest will be the vast majority of users) will definitely experience a doubling of bus fares at that point.
He has repeatedly tried to avoid confirming the doubling will be permanent by adding ever-expanding non-commitments to “look into” alternatives. This process has now been pushed back to the next fares settlement in January.
Rise Festival rebranding
Dave Hill first noticed that the explicit anti-racist branding for London’s long-running Rise Festival was dropped. This led to a hurried response from Boris Johnson’s team, including an article on CiF by cultural advisor Munira Mirza (debunked here).
Drinking on the tube
Banning drinking on the Tube: this was controversial but obviously not a u-turn or unexpected. It does however contradict Boris’s repeated claims to be a libertarian.
Ken took questions every week until the journalists had run out of questions to ask. Boris avoids as much questioning as possible and takes only one question per journalist with a strict half-hour cut-off time at his press conference, once a month. Likewise, he cut the State of London Debate from a day at a weekend to two hours on a weekday an evening.
Water for London
Giving the go-ahead for an energy-hungry desalination plant while allowing Thames Water to slow down their leak repair programme to appease motorists.
Cancelling the CO2 charge – but continuing with the cycling scheme it was to fund
As promised in his manifesto, Boris cancelled the planned £25 CO2 charge for cars with high emissions, thereby losing TfL a projected revenue stream of £30-60 million per year. Yet he claims he’ll still press ahead with the planned £500m, ten-year cycling programme that was to be funded from the CO2 charge revenue – how will this now be funded?
It eventually emerged that over half a million pounds had been set aside to pay this so-called team (see Cronyism and other problems with his appointments) for work already done by City Hall staff.
Abandonment of Venezuelan oil deal
As the world faces an oil price crisis, Boris cancelled a deal ensuring a large guaranteed discount on oil for TfL’s buses. He now needs either to throw more public money at oil, or to take the money from the poorest bus passengers by doubling their fares (see also Bad decisions). Tom at Boris Watch has been keeping a Venezuela cash watch to see how much money Boris has thrown away here: £17.2m at time of writing.
Following the dogmatic, counterproductive decision to drop the anti-racist message (see Bad decisions), various Trade Unions withdrew their funding for the event, meaning more money will need to be found from elsewhere, most likely the GLA’s own publicly funded budget.
Boris dropped Ken Livingstone’s planned £25 CO2 charge (see Bad decisions). Porsche were intending to challenge this in the courts if it had gone ahead, so you might think they’d’ve been delighted by this news and walked away delighted that their huge profits were safe. No, instead they insisted the GLA funded their legal costs of around £400,000 from public funds. Boris agreed to their request.
Having mocked the ‘Mayor of Lond-ON’ logo a ridiculous number of times during the election campaign, one of the first decrees from Team Boris upon gaining power was that said logo should be turned 100% blue on everything from now on. No figure was released to indicate how much this change will ultimately cost.
Fourth Plinth on Trafalgar Square
Earlier this year Boris Johnson signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for a permanent statue of Sir Keith Park on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Once elected, he reneged on his promise.
Claiming a Thames Estuary airport was his big idea with one breath and assuring the Dartford Council leader of quite the opposite with another.
Air conditioned tube
Wriggling out of his ‘air-conditioned tube’ pledge, suddenly noticing once elected what we’d all been saying all along about this being impossible on deep lines.
Levelling the playing fields
Private Eye reports 8-21 August 2008 that Boris vehemently opposed the sale of state school playing fields in 2004 but has now approved the sale of the Holland Park Community school’s playing fields to build 72 residential units with parking.
What he actually said in 2004 in the Telegraph was: “The trouble we have – and it is one of the few things in politics which makes me almost wild with anger – is the sale of the playing fields, above all the sale of the playing fields in state schools”
Who really runs London?
Unaware of Olympic cost memorandum
In an interview on Radio 4, Boris said he did not know about a key document relating to the funding of the Olympics. He said he doubted it even existed. The document not only existed, but had been published online a year previously amid publicity, and added to the House of Commons library while Boris was an MP.
Unaware of important delegation
Boris delegated responsibility for planning matters to Ian Clement without knowing he’d done so, and despite the fact that this is one of the Mayor’s key personal strategic responsibilities. Planning was not even in Ian Clement’s job description: he is Deputy Mayor for Government Relations.
Unaware of Rise Festival rebranding decision
Despite the controversy (see Bad decisions) having already reached the national press, after two days’ press releases and online coverage, when Boris was approached by BBC London and asked about it, his reaction made it clear he had had nothing to do with taking the decision. He even explicitly said he couldn’t see a problem with continuing with the anti-racism message.
When questioned by Andrew Marr about the large amount of money being paid to his ‘transition team’ (see above), Boris wasn’t aware of the figure or any other information about their pay, despite this having been one of the media stories of the week about his Mayoralty, again suggesting he simply isn’t being briefed about what’s going on.
Rumour has it that Boris did not want to sack James McGrath (see above), but after a day or two’s hesitation Conservative Central Office overruled their ‘independent’ Mayor, who ‘is his own man’. Media coverage also suggests that it was central types who played a big role in both appointing and sacking Ray Lewis.
Lack of respect for rules, laws and procedures
Flouting the law on political appointments to local government
As mentioned above, Sir Simon Milton’s appointment as a planning advisor is highly controversial, because the law does not permit local politicians to serve in senior paid executive roles in local government. Rather than obeying the clear intention and spirit of this law, Boris is seeking to evade the legislation by employing Milton on an unpaid basis. He has also not asked Milton to sign up to the GLA’s code of ethics, or indeed to sign anything much (beyond some sort of basic confidentiality agreement), meaning there is very little legal accountability attached to Milton’s casual (non-)employment.
Lack of proper background checks against those being employed
Had the normal types of checks (e.g. Enhanced Criminal Records Bureau) been done when employing Ray Lewis in such a senior post (and one which was focused on young people), many of the allegations against him would have come to light at that point and his appointment and resignation need not ever have happened.
Breaking bike law
Being filmed breaking the law numerous times on his bike, then denying he ever does so under questioning from the London Assembly.
Boris alleged that “a goodly hoard” of “over a hundred bottles” of wine had been found, left behind by Ken Livingstone, adding to the as yet unsubstantiated rumours of the previous Mayor having some sort of drink problem. It eventually emerged that there were 39 bottles, kept for special occasions, none of which had exactly broken the bank.
Mayors for Peace
Quite why withdrawing from Mayors for Peace was a higher priority than launching his long-promised Routemaster design competition or doing any of the countless more important things involved in being Mayor, no-one knows.
With renowned Kyoto-sceptic Boris at the helm, London has been sidelined by the C40 Cities climate change organisation.
Parliament Square pedestrianisation abandonment
It’s clear whose side Boris is on in the battle of pedestrians and cyclists versus cars, from his decision to axe the plans to pedestrianise one side of Parliament Square. Why turn an inaccessible roundabout into a public open space celebrating democracy if it might result in someone’s 4×4 having to find a slightly different route past the area? Not going down well with a lot of people.
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