"All you Olympic sceptics will be Olympic maniacs by 2013."
"No we won't!"
"Oh, I am confident you will."
Such was the lively, almost pantomime atmosphere at the 9th State of London debate, which took place at the QEII conference centre on Saturday. Hundreds of Londoners packed into the hall to quiz the mayor about his first year, and the untold joys his continuing tenure will no doubt bring. We won't go into the ins and outs of the debate; the full discussion is available to download from LBC. Instead, here's the briefest of sketches to give you a flavour.
Boris played an absolute blinder. Pivoting around a steaming cup of tea, the mayor delivered a 45 minute stand-up routine that encompassed transport, the economy, Olympics, crime, housing and ping pong. Between each of these key issues, we were treated to learned monologues on the chemical makeup of chewing gum and the sorry state of rugby in London's schools (a 'dearth of elliptical balls').
The economy was a central theme of his opening remarks. The mayor believes that the capital is flourishing despite the recession. "Those who said London would be worst hit six months ago have been proved wrong. The opposite is the case," he claimed. When asked to back this up, he offered that "The Big Mac is better value in London than anywhere else in the world. Including Ukraine and Brazil."
Both Boris and the audience were keen to talk transport, not least because all Tube lines into Westminster were closed on the day of the conference. The Mayor re-emphasised the need for both Crossrail and the Tube upgrades, to much applause. Unsurprisingly, cycle provision was also high on the agenda. And we learned that if money was no object, BJ would extend the DLR to Dagenham, build extensions to the Croyden tramlink, add a third bore to the Blackwall tunnel, make streetscape improvements to the whole length of Oxford Street and extend the Northern Line to Battersea. He also promised to 'actively block' a third runway at Heathrow, but we're not sure he has the personal bulk to pull that one off.
Unfortunately, or entertainingly, depending how seriously you take these things, the self-righteous c*nt brigade were in attendance in large numbers. One chap was ejected and several booed into silence for shouting out inane or misplaced comments repeatedly. But Boris knows his public. He's jeered and cheered every morning on his cycle to work (where once the commonest cry was 'You Tory tosser', he now more regularly hears 'Giz a job'). He handled a sometimes hostile audience well, and seemed to have the support of most in the room. It's still too early in his mayoralty for serious backlash or majority disgruntlement. Perhaps in two years this debate will have more meat and fewer gags.