Mayor’s Question Time: Censure Edition

Photo by unslugged, from the Londonist Flickr pool

Photo by unslugged, from the Londonist Flickr pool

The London Assembly passed an amendment refusing to accept Boris Johnson’s answers at yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time; Val Shawcross accused him of making things up, being rude and not having done his homework, saying

He can write whatever codswallop he likes in his journalistic career, but we want less of it here. He has to improve the standard of replies and the way he conducts himself in the chamber.

Ouch. The motion passed easily, since the Assembly Tories all walked out (perhaps realising that, with their numbers, they couldn’t hope to affect the outcome). Thing is, yesterday’s MQT seemed nothing out of the ordinary to us which a) indicates just how bad these sessions have got b) suggests the Assembly’s patience has grown thin c) perhaps implies the parties on the left have had this up their sleeve for a while.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the evidence for Boris’s bad behaviour (we should add that we were going to write these topics up anyway, even before the amendment was announced).

Jenny Jones asked Boris about a report from Tom Winsor, head of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, into how the Metropolitan Police has changed since his recommendations on undercover policing. Winsor’s original report was made in 2012, and he reviewed progress in June 2013 (both PDFs). This is a particularly hot topic at the moment, with revelations of spying on the Lawrence family and the Met Commissioner having recently apologised for officers using the identities of dead children.

Will Boris make sure the recommendations are implemented in full, asked Jenny? Well, there’s one problem with that: he doesn’t seem to know what they are or that the June review exists. Which is rather worrying, because he’s London’s Police and Crime Commissioner (although he’s delegated much of the work to Stephen Greenhalgh). The recommendations yet to be implemented include some important ones, like the officers in charge of undercover operations being fully trained, and having psychologists involved in devising exit plans for officers leaving undercover work. Boris did grudgingly promise to look at the report, but not before attacking Jenny’s integrity:

If you are right, Jenny, which I very much doubt… [she] peddles a load of nonsense.

You can watch the full exchange in this video.

Then we got onto the recent disclosure that the contract with Emirates for cable car sponsorship contained a clause banning TfL from entering into cable car-related business with anyone who doesn’t fit with United Arab Emirates foreign policy – Israel, basically. Andrew Dismore pointed out this is in breach of various UK and EU laws. “Oo! Oo!” responded the Mayor, “so you’re against the Emirates are you?” “I’m against contracts which discriminate against businesses unlawfully,” explained Andrew. The Mayor insisted Andrew’s complaints were “complete nonsense” then conceded that the contract is being rewritten, but only to avoid “misconstruction by suspicious and paranoid minds”.

It turns out that Boris only read the contract for the first time on Tuesday, despite having been closely associated with the cable car’s creation. Mayorwatch reports that he was apparently furious with TfL for having dumped City Hall in such a row so why he chose not to, for once, ignore party lines and agree with Andrew that a cock-up had been made, instead of accusing him of being “tendencious and ill informed” as well as paranoid, we don’t know. (OK, we do. Boris hates Andrew Dismore.)

We have many examples of Boris not being on the ball, the most infuriating coming last October when he was unaware of the status of police and fire reorganisations and representations on London A&E closures. As we said above, we’ve got no idea why today’s lack of knowledge was the Assembly’s final straw.

But Boris Johnson doesn’t have a monopoly on cantankerous sniping. Andrew Dismore spoiled a hard hitting point about the number of fire cuts by comparing the Mayor to Hermann Goering, thereby automatically invoking Godwin’s law. While we’re on the plans to reorganise London’s fire cover, Boris said that if the Fire Authority reject the new proposals Thursday afternoon – and they will – he’ll listen to all views. Though he did say he would only listen to “reasonable people” and not politicians only interested in “scaremongering and trying to make political capital”. We presume the 94% of Londoners who responded to the consultation against the plans aren’t all politicians and that some of them are reasonable.

Other things to come out of the session:

  • TfL’s funding gap is £238m and say it’s “severe but do-able”. The Assembly Tories pushed once again for more automation and Boris promised that not one more new Underground train would be purchased with a driver’s cab. He also wanted to know what Labour “magic” would keep fares low and not need to cut staff.
  • Boris is lobbying government to make sure women’s refuges are counted as ‘supported exempt accommodation’ under the benefits cap, to protect women escaping domestic violence.
  • TfL reports there was no near miss at Finchley Central.
  • A bizarre claim from the Mayor, during discussion of the Sutton tram project, that South Londoners often don’t want things like tube extensions because they feel “colonised” by London. Um, Boris? As a seven year resident of Lewisham, take this assurance that locals would crawl over broken glass for a Bakerloo line extension; and we’re fairly sure SW Londoners feel the same way.

You can watch the webcast of Mayor’s Question Time for yourself, or find out how to be there in person.

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  • http://www.chrisbeach.co.uk/ Chris Beach

    I feel so sorry for Boris, who’s lumbered with a partisan, leftie-heavy London assembly that cares more about unseating a Tory mayor than about London itself. Wouldn’t things run more smoothly if these people put their political agendas on hold and worked constructively with the man London elected as Mayor?

    • http://londonist.com/ Rachel Holdsworth

      Oh, the Assembly definitely isn’t packed with angels. But even in the previous Assembly, which had more Tories on it, he often turned up seeming unbriefed and often bored. If he doesn’t know the answer (quite often) he just starts shouting and insulting members. I recommend you watch the webcast and find the part where Dismore is talking about the Emirates contract. Boris goes off on a pointless tangent about the Emirates stadium and how Labour backed that, even though it’s the contract, not the sponsorship, that’s the issue. He just wanted to have a dig.

      • BethPH

        MQT IS incredibly frustrating to watch, even from our point of view. While I take your point, Chris, about people spending more time engaging in knee-jerk anti-Boris/anti-Tory behaviour, Boris does himself no favours by being so consistently unprepared for MQT. And as Rachel points out, the shouting and insults he engages in just reduces any credibility he might have.

    • Anthony

      Oh yeah poor Johnson – “lumbered” with accountability. You have to be kidding.

    • Phil Crofts

      What world are you living in? Boris is an egotistical idiot, he has wasted millions of pounds on vanity projects and as for people putting political agendas on hold, tell that to the extreme right wing bunch in Westminster!