Another Boris deputy jumps ship!

12:19 pm - August 19th 2008

by Adam Bienkov    

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Boris Johnson lost yet another top advisor today as his ‘First Deputy Mayor’ Tim Parker made a shock resignation.

Parker, who was appointed by Boris to be ‘Chief Executive of the GLA Group’ as well as Chair Transport for London had previously vigorously defended the extent of his powers.

But in a surprise move, he has now conceded that it is ‘not appropriate’ for him to undertake so much of the Mayor’s role.

“I have concluded…. that it would not be appropriate for an unelected official to chair a body which is responsible for most of the money and a large part of the brief of an elected Mayor. I also agree with the Mayor that my position as adviser does not justify my full time and exclusive commitment to the Greater London Authority, or the title of First Deputy Mayor. We have therefore decided to adjust the management structure and abolish that position.”

The position, which was only created by Boris three months ago, will now pass into the annuls of London Government history along with the positions of Deputy Mayor for Young People and Women’s Advisor.

Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Mike Tuffrey said earlier today:

“To lose one advisor is unfortunate, to lose two is careless but to lose three in four months shows the wheels are coming off this new administration. Why is Boris losing yet another advisor? Has Tim Parker discovered that running London isnโ€™t as easy as running private business?

In fact when Parker was appointed by Boris, there was some question about how long he would bother to stick around.

In what now appears an amazing piece of foresight, George Pitcher who was an old colleague of Parker, wrote in the Telegraph:

“Parker, in Boris’s mind, will be King Stooge. Boris doesn’t understand business. Far too boring for a man of vision such as himself. Also, it’s rather “trade” for a toff from Eton and the Bullingdon Club. So Parker will be his Managing Director, he thinks, and the one who can have all those tedious meetings about budgets while Boris gets photographed with Miss Bust-Conductor on a new Routemaster.

“The trouble with this plan is that, talented as he undoubtedly is, Parker is not essentially a runner of businesses. He’s a turner-round of businesses and a deal-maker. He’s a slash-and-burn man, laying waste to unproductive factories and under-performing people. He once told me that it’s best to fire people as soon as you arrive somewhere, before you’ve got to know them. That may be just what London needs โ€“ some cost-saving at the centre, to better serve the interests of Londoners, who Parker calls “shareholders”.”But unless Parker is allowed to float London on the Stock Exchange, or organise a management buy-out of Chelsea, or break up Westminster and sell the profitable bits, he will quickly grow bored. Once he’s made something pay, he wants out.

But with ‘King Stooge’ out of the building, and with planning powers now passed back into the Mayor’s hands, we are now faced with the very real prospect of Boris Johnson actually doing his own job. These are scary times people.

On Tory Troll:
Reaction from the Labour Assembly group
Reaction from Ken Livingstone
Reaction from Darren Johnson of the Greens

More on
BorisWatchParker Steps Down – Reaction

Now also on the Guardian website

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About the author
Adam Bienkov is a regular contributor and also blogs at Tory Troll, Guardian CIF, and New Statesman
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Local Government ,London Mayor

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Reader comments

There’s something odd about this, I wonder what the real reason for going is?

Everyone I’ve spoken to is completely taken aback by it. Best guesses seem to be that either:

He had a change of heart
There was a conflict of interest.

Either way though, it doesn’t explain why he has gone after just one month.

Change of heart seems a little far fetched, why would a businessman of his calibre not have done his homework on the role?

Conflict of interest sounds possible but again, what type that they chose to cover it up rather than make something of his honourable actions?

He was probably caught banging his secretary/aide on his desk by the cleaners…

It is like an edition of the Fast Show. One funny sketch after another

I’m not a Londoner, so this is little of my business. But this statement surprised me:

“I also agree with the Mayor that my position as adviser does not justify my full time and exclusive commitment to the Greater London Authority…”

Is Parker really saying that appointees should have a lesser role in managing London? That elected members and permanent officials are the best people to make decisions?

And does Boris agree?

This is really bizarre given that Boris spent a lot of time and effort playing up Tim Parker’s role. He was going to be the cost-cutting king and all sorts.

There are several ways in which there could be more to this:

1) Remember it took ages for Tim Parker’s registration of interests to be issued. I think there could be more to this, and Boris wanted him to play a lesser role in case that bit him on the butt later.

2) Tim Parker didn’t realise or appreciate the level of scrutiny he’s been under, which he’s not used to. Of course when I mean scrutiny I certainly don’t mean the likes of Andrew Gilligan or the Evening Boris newspapers ๐Ÿ™‚

3) They had a falling out over something.

Who knows. Either way, I’m glad to see the back of the Prince of Darkness, as Adam quite rightly branded him.

The structure of the GLA pretty much means the Mayor is the only elected official whose say actually matters, which is possibly a clue to what’s at the heart of this – if Parker ran TfL like a failing business needing turning round (i.e. slashing projects off the budget, outsourcing and sacking bureaucrats) Boris was going to get it in the neck politically without being able to do anything about it (it would also directly conflict with any of his transport plans he might actually want to implement, since they’re mostly money pits). It was (conjecture alert) possibly the realisation of this and Parker’s subsequent realisation that he wouldn’t be allowed to be top dog that is behind it. Whatever happened, it’s a major embarrassment and a realignment of the Mayoral priorities back to where the current structure implies they should be. You can’t fight the system, as Warder McKay would say.

Really, though, TfL is the last thing the Mayor should delegate, it’s the biggest item on the budget and the area of GLA responsibility that touches most people most often (I’m never likely to get an LDA grant, but I’m very likely to get a bus). Boris has never ‘got’ transport, but did campaign vigorously on crime, so ditching the TfL chair in favour of the MPA was probably obvious, even though with 78% of the Met’s money coming from central government, the Home Secretary being very much in charge of hiring and firing and there are no real levers of power he can pull beyond putting a bit of cash in for extra coppers here and there it was never going to be exactly a showpiece seat, which is why Livingstone never sat in it.

Boris does now face an extremely busy schedule with his five jobs, and his pick of TfL deputy will be interesting (currently it’s the Livingstone-appointed businessman Christopher Garnett, who’s at least an experienced safe pair of hands. Livingstone basically left TfL to Dave Wetzel, with everyone understanding that it was still Ken’s name over the door and Wetzel was very much His Master’s Voice, so if Boris reverts to this model it would call for an experienced close friend of Boris, like Steve Norris. That would, of course, be cronyism, but I’m coming round to the view that cronyism is built in).

Update now on my blog.

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