The mayoral campaign trail found its way to Borough at the weekend in one of two tightly-scheduled visits to popular markets. Having received an invitation to pop along and view the mayor shaking hands and kissing babies while promoting his Nine Point Plan, Londonist took the opportunity to arrive early and mill about photographing fish to while away the time.
A sunny Saturday in spring is clearly all the encouragement that Londoners need to spend an afternoon looking at vegetables and cheese — the place was chock-full and when Boris Johnson and his team descended for a pre-election visit, greater crowds quickly formed. We introduced ourselves to the mayor and asked if we could fire a few questions at him whereupon he deployed his famous evasion skills, saying "Ah! I know Londonist!" before slipping away though not before handing us a Vote Boris leaflet.
Accompanied by his wife, Marina, and a phalanx of PR people, Boris wasted no time whisking around the market, shaking hands with everyone who crossed his path and displaying the customary charm and showmanship for which he has become known. He even cracked a smile when someone shouted 'Ken Livingstone for mayor!' at him. In the manner of a visiting pop legend, he was besieged by excited shoppers brandishing mobile phones to have their picture taken with him before running off squealing that they'd just touched the mayor of London (though one tourist bemusedly asked Londonist who this untidy man was).
The mayor made a point of pausing to chat to stallholders and almost overwhelmingly, the response he received from both them and the shopping crowd was positive — though one man tried to give Boris his leaflet back, saying that he wasn't going to vote for him so he should give the leaflet to someone else. Boris wasn't having any of that and pushed the leaflet back, cheerily telling the man to keep it anyway. People flocked to shake hands with him, smile at him and wish him luck in the coming elections. If London has wavered in its support of the Tory candidate in the past, we saw little sign of it yesterday. The Guardian recently reported that Boris Johnson is, in fact, maintaining his lead.
We did ask the PR if we could have a minute or two to ask some questions but were told that unfortunately there was no time. Lack of question-taking seems to be a recurring theme in Boris's campaign — his biographer Sonia Purnell bumped into him in Romford during his other market visit of the day and found her attempts to question the mayor stymied by minders while Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter (albeit obviously biased) attacked him for similar refusals during a recent visit to Shepherds Bush. At the request of his PR, we have emailed our questions and will update readers if and when we receive answers.
We looked at the mayor's Nine Point Plan when it was launched in March and the Romford and Borough market visits were a forum for reminding Londoners what he plans to do for them if re-elected. In a statement, Boris Johnson said:
“This election is about trust and in tough times we must be honest with Londoners about where the money is coming from. That is why we have a fully costed, fully funded 9 point plan to continue taking out billions in unnecessary expense. Cutting my share of council tax by 10 per cent and putting the money where it is really needed."
The last we saw of Boris Johnson as he sped across Borough High Street, flanked by PR, was the famous blond mop being frenetically ruffled while dodging traffic.
Update: we've received answers to our questions from the BackBoris team which will be posted on Monday.