Astonishing transcript of Boris evading questions


11:30 am - February 12th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday Dave Hill posted this astonishing transcript of a question-and-answer session between London’s occasional Mayor Boris Johnson and Assembly Members Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson.

It’s worth reading in full to get the extent to which Boris is trying to evade questions on his promises.


Jenny Jones: Mister Mayor, since we questioned you in January the final report of Smarter Travel Sutton has been published. And Kulveer Ranger…said at that time that the results were phenomenal, with a 75 percent increase in cycling and a 16 percent increase in people travelling on the bus.

And you yourself said to the TfL board on 3 February, “This is our vision for transport in Outer London, this is what we want to achieve.” And so I’m curious about why your budget only gives a minimum amount of funding to actually extend that scheme and if there is a possibility to roll that out too all twenty outer boroughs and really make a difference on cycling and lowering car use.

Boris Johnson: Well thank you, ah, Jenny and, you know, you and I have discussed this many times and I think it’s finally now common ground between us that we are spending record sums under this mayoralty on cycling. Unless my memory deludes me it’s eleven million, far more than any previous, ah, mayoralty.

And on the outer boroughs there’s, I think, we’re already starting to see the fruits of the activity that we’ve been pioneering. We now have twelve, no fewer than twelve, outer London boroughs who are interested in doing a big Skyride…

Jenny Jones: You haven’t given them the funding for it. You’ve only given funding for possibly two more boroughs.

Boris: I would remind you, Jenny, that the Skyride is brilliantly financed by Sky. Hence its name Skyride. And since I’m a frugal, cost-cutting Mayor…

Jenny Jones: He’s not answering the question, chair. He’s not answering the question. Smarter Travel in outer boroughs…

Darren Johnson: Can we have a response from the Mayor to that please?

Boris: Well, the answer is that I think we’re having fantastic success in promoting cycling. As I said before, we’re spending record sums…

Jenny Jones: Tell him to answer my question. Why haven’t you funded Smarter Travel for more outer boroughs? If it’s such a fantastic success, if this is what we want to achieve, why aren’t you actually putting your money where your mouth is?

Boris: As I say, we have no fewer than twelve Outer London boroughs who are interested…

Jenny Jones: Yes, but you haven’t put the funding there for those twelve! You’ve only put the funding there for two!

Boris: I think, I er, I ah, if you won’t listen to my answer there’s no point in my giving the answer.

Jenny Jones: But you’re not addressing the problem of the lack of money in your budget.

Boris: Well, ah, what I’m telling you Jenny is that we’re in very tight financial times. We’re spending record sums on cycling, and we have no fewer than twelve boroughs who are interested in the Skyride…

Jenny Jones: I’m sorry, this is repetition of the most horrendous kind. You are avoiding my question. I think that’s an offence to this Assembly, actually. Alright, let me move on. If you won’t do that [answer my question], um, in your final budget you dismissed my proposal to freeze bus fares, citing the loss of £76 million of income and your transport adviser Kulveer has dismissed my idea of raising charges on cars as lunacy.

Now, it seems to me lunacy to actually raise bus fares and drive people off the buses while at the same time actually benefiting car drivers who’ve had it fairly easy over the past few years. So you’re actually penalising bus passengers and not helping them in the outer boroughs where we could make the biggest gains.

Boris: Well, just a couple of things if I may through you, Chair. The reality is that bus ridership is now at an all time high, even though…

Jenny Jones: It’s no thanks to you, Mr Mayor! It’s thanks to the previous Mayor!

Boris: I, I. Would you like me to answer the question?

Jenny Jones: Yes, I would like you to answer the question! You’re not answering my questions!

Darren: If we could have a brief response to the question from the Mayor…

Boris: What was the question?

Jenny Jones: Is it sensible to put up bus fares when you’re trying to encourage people to use the buses?

Boris: Is it sensible to do what?

Jenny Jones: Put up the bus fares by twenty percent when you’re trying to encourage people to use the buses?

Boris: The bus fares have not gone up twenty percent. And the objective, as everybody understands in London, is to finance a huge black hole in TfL’s budget, left by the last Mayor, who cynically held down fares in the deluded hope of being re-elected. We have a recession which…

Jenny Jones: I want to put on record my dissatisfaction with the Mayor’s lack of answers to my questions. This is not being accountable to the London Assembly when you repeat yourself endlessly and don’t answer questions. That is not fair and it is not democratic.

Darren: Can we have a very quick response to that because the Green group are now out of time…


You can also watch the Webcast.

To summarise: Boris Johnson argued for extending a scheme that would encourage cycling and bus usage, but failed to offer the necessary funding for it.

Meanwhile he has dropped the idea of raising charges on cars, which he claims he wants to discourage use of, but increased fares on poorer people using London Transport.

Boris is also reducing police officers in London – in direct contradiction to promises – and has increased press officers – once again contradicting earlier promises.

Happy to stand up for rich bankers while penalising London’s poor.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


“The bus fares have not gone up twenty percent.”

No doubt Boris means that the basic cash fare has stayed at £2. The Oyster fare went up 20%, though. What proportion of bus journeys use Oyster cards? I’m guessing more than pay cash.

So, Jenny Jones’s question is: “why your budget only gives a minimum amount of funding to actually extend that scheme and if there is a possibility to roll that out too all twenty outer boroughs and really make a difference on cycling and lowering car use.”

She then interrupts Boris every second sentence, ignoring the fact that her actual question (why does your budget only give a minimum amount of financing?) is answered (“we’re in very tight financial times…”) and an alternative method of financing is described (“the Skyride is brilliantly financed by Sky. Hence its name Skyride”).

Having ignored the answer she got to that question, she proceeds to not ask a question (“it seems to me lunacy to actually raise bus fares and drive people off the buses”). This is met by the response that “bus ridership is now at an all time high”, which would seem neatly to rebut the charge of driving people off the buses.

She then says “I want to put on record my dissatisfaction with the Mayor’s lack of answers to my questions. This is not being accountable to the London Assembly when you repeat yourself endlessly and don’t answer questions” even though she got an answer to her first question, and didn’t ask a second question.

Overall, in the course of complaining how Boris isn’t responding to her, she talks far, far more than Boris does. Christ, standards are low in the Assembly aren’t they?

So he scraps the western congestion zone extention, commits millions reinventing the bus….scraps the bendy buses in favour of a more expensive contract of smaller buses…and then puts up the fares……..its a wonder he can either tie his own shoelaces to be honest.

“Boris is also reducing police officers in London – in direct contradiction to promises – and has increased press officers – once again contradicting earlier promises.”

What I keep reading in Cameron’s presidential election campaign, is that he says that the Tories will be “accountable”, but nowhere in their policies do I see how they intend to do that. (For example, read Osborne’s Eight Benchmarks and try to find how he will be “accountable” and what penalties there will be if he misses the “benchmark” – the accountability is totally missing.) So why doesn’t call-me-Dave show that he is serious about accountability and get Boris to implement his promises or resign?

Is it just me or is this not very astonishing at all? Boris as a straight talker is a myth, he always has plenty of ducking to do.

Is this any worse than this from Wednesday’s PMQs?

“Q: Why, uniquely among the advanced economies, does the UK have an inflation rate well above target and rising very sharply, when our output is so very flat?

A: If we took the right hon. Gentleman’s advice there would be massive cuts in public expenditure. He is the one who says that there should be even more cuts than are being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. We would lose jobs and businesses, and our economy would go deep into recession again. That is not a policy that the people of this country want. The Conservatives have dozens of policies on this, and the right hon. Gentleman’s is the most extreme-but we will follow none of their advice.”

I wonder why she didn’t want to hear what the Mayor had to say about the 12 boroughs interested in Skyride. She interrupted him three times on that point, which is odd because surely the point is about getting people on bikes, not who pays for it.

Once again we see the idiot trolls defending their tory masters. There is nothing they can say that won’t garner a grovelling support from the tory trolls.

“What proportion of bus journeys use Oyster cards? ”

Have to be a bit careful here, since many bus journeys use bus passes or travelcards on Oyster. Latest (December) figures I have here are:

1.5% cash
20.0% Oyster PAYG

The rest will be concessions and travelcards.

“an alternative method of financing is described (”the Skyride is brilliantly financed by Sky. Hence its name Skyride”).”

Skyride and STS are completely different things though, one’s a single day cycling specific event where you can sell lots of places to put the brandname, the second is a multi-year multi-strand project across an entire Borough designed to change people’s behaviour from instinctively getting in the car to considering cycling, walking or public transport. Given that it’s clear that Boris is changing the subject and ducking the question.

“bus ridership is now at an all time high”

It isn’t, though, Boris is doing what he normally does, assert things and hope no one contradicts what he’s saying until it’s too late. Part of the justification for raising the fares is that ridership has *fallen* due to the recession (in actual fact the most recent TfL report states *at the top* that ridership has fallen 0.4% compared to the same quarter the previous year). In any case Boris’s business plan is fairly explicit about cutting the mileage done by buses, cutting the subsidy and whacking the fares up, all of which is going to continue to reduce ridership. Jenny’s right, in other words, Boris is driving people off the buses with fare rises while ridership is reducing due to recession.

Smarter Travel is a difficult one for Boris for four reasons:
a) it’s a Lib Dem council working with a Labour Mayor spending public money
b) it shows that Ken was actually perfectly capable of working with the boroughs and didn’t always ignore outer London
c) it’ll be terribly hard to get any of the Tory outer boroughs interested in it, since they’re still car-crazy and averse to spending public money on Ken’s ideas and
d) it worked, thus giving an unpleasant comparator to his own pathetic efforts in the field. One of the startling results was the increase in health from people driving less.

Politician evades answering a question that will make him look bad and instead trots out and repeats a prepared answer that makes him look less bad.

Astonishing.

“You can also watch the Webcast.” …..
*
*
“The page you requested was not found”
*
*
LOL – I wonder, yes I wonder, who took that down from London.gov.uk ??


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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