This week, London has been without the familiar sight of its mayor perambulating the streets on a bike, phone clamped to ear and hair aflutter. On Sunday, Boris Johnson began a six-day tour of India to promote business links with London.
And cripes, has he been busy. In just a few short days he’s managed to upset the French, launch another attack on the government, this time on the subject of student visas, reject an EU referendum and wax lyrical on his favourite airport plans. Oh, and he’s urged his hosts to change their laws and allow larger businesses to open in India.
The global reputation of higher education in the UK is a hot topic at the moment in the wake of the UK Border Agency clampdown on student visas at London Metropolitan university, a clampdown which has led to a 50% reduction in British and EU applications. The mayor said the new visa restrictions sent out the ‘wrong signal’ to students and deterred them from studying in the UK.
Boris wants businesses in India to come to London and invest, boosting our economy and theirs. Dave Hill in the Guardian questioned the benefit to Londoners of Boris’s trip, saying that growth alone isn’t enough to make the city a better place to live. And since barely a week goes by without news of the rise of poverty and the ever-tightening squeeze on Londoners via jobs, housing and transport fares, you can kind of see his point.
The mayor used his Telegraph column in characteristic fashion to share his vision of a British-Indian economic partnership with us, citing the alliance between BP and Reliance and the opportunities for engineering firms involved in Crossrail to go and dig up India too. But the Guardian highlights the reality of trade between India and the UK being not quite as promising. But never fear, Boris has his eye on other targets too.
Should Londonist readers be interested, the Evening Standard (who else?) has a blow-by-blow account of the mayor’s activities in India over the last few days.
Photo by Matt from London in the Londonist Flickr pool.