Last month, Mayor’s Question Time was political roadkill, as Labour Assembly Members came majorly unstuck when they tried to ambush the Mayor and failed. This time it was quite a different matter, as Boris, in front of a jam packed audience, used his considerable charm and tact to pour oil on troubled waters.
Individually last month, the Labour and Lib Dem Assembly Members were not so hot, so this time, they tried a joint assault. They all banded together in an attempt to hold the Mayor to account on any broken promises from his election manifesto. (Guardian report here). This worked a bit better than last time, but Boris resolutely refused to be rattled, giving sensible answers and lightening the atmosphere with a stream of witty jokes. His voice, as reassuring as warm honey, assured the Assembly that he was there to help.
Closure of London ticket offices. Although there will be necessary redundancies, Boris said there would be no closures of ticket offices.
A no strike deal has not yet been made with unions. Boris has also yet to meet RMT leader, Bob Crowe. (Damn good, Boris! Bob Crowe obviously has a massive ego and would like nothing better than to turn the whole thing into a battle of wills. Make sure you NEVER meet him, use an aide, that is the psychologically astute tactic).
The day to day running of the Met. has been handed over to Kit Malthouse. Boris pointed out that he had done the hard bit (removing Sir Ian Blair) and he believed in teamwork, not a dictatorship.
The London living wage. Boris has introduced this to City Hall, but Members urged him to insist that any contractors for the Olympics were made to pay the London living wage. Boris agreed to look into this as a feasible possibility, but he has introduced the London wage to City Hall, more than the last Mayor did.
The culture of cronyism at City Hall. Whoever raised this had some nerve! Boris has not employed Mrs. Johnson on a salary on £70K like the ex-Mayor did his partner, and did the Labour Assembly members ever kick off about Ken? We have been told that other female friends of Ken’s acquaintance were also employed at City Hall.
The new cycle hire scheme. Boris had hoped to introduce the cycle hire scheme at no cost to Londoners. However, he does not have the resource of being able to raise revenue in the way that they do in Paris, but any cost to Londoners will be kept to the minimum and all Assembly Members agreed the cycling scheme is a good idea.
The webcast of the meeting with fuller replies from the Mayor is here. We all know that Labour is launching Operation Stop Boris, so much do they fear the Mayor’s vast popularity, so this was probably the first sortie. A Tory member of the London Assembly however read out a list of Ken’s broken or forgotten promises, and since this was an awfully long list, any attack seemed to be a non-starter. Boris urged all Members to work with him for the good of Londoners and said soothingly that in spite of partisanship, he knew they were all mainly in agreement on the most important issues.
Crime is down, the housing programme is doing spectacularly well and council tax is frozen. Boris is way ahead in the betting on who will be the next Mayor, and nothing in this meeting is remotely likely to affect that.