The Thick of It


Monday, March 30, 2009

Dispatches on Boris

Tonight's Channel 4 Dispatches study of BJ's first year in charge of London passed a judgement of a mayor without a plan. I'm still unsure exactly what Boris Johnson is trying to achieve for London. I have not yet been able to establish what he wants to do, much like Simon Jenkins, quoted in tonight's programme.

BJ claims that he wants to make London greener, cleaner and safer.

How is he making London greener? Encouraging public transport use is one obvious means of doing so. Bendy buses were meant to have killed cyclists. This has been shown to be false, something the mayor has had to admit. Most people wanted to keep the bendy buses according to the public consultation. However, the mayor is getting rid of them anyway. Journeys will take longer and taxpayers money will be wasted on needlessly replacing them. As I blogged before the election, the replacement Routemasters will not hit the roads for several years in any case. Further, the much vaunted bicycle hire scheme was actually started by the previous mayor.

How is BJ making London cleaner? Scrapping the extension of the low emission zone and the extra congestion charges for gas guzzlers won't make London cleaner.

BJ promised to give Londoners more bang for their buck. While the (small) mayoral portion of council tax has not increased, keeping my bill down, my transport fares have increased by far more than he could ever save me on council tax. That doesn't feel like value for money.

Is the mayor making London safer? Causing Sir Ian Blair to quit as Metropolitan Police Commissioner, then being referred to the Standards Board over allegedly compromising confidential information about Damien Green's arrest was unfortunate. Creating turmoil in the Met should be avoided, not unnecessarily created.

BJ's London is not getting greener or cleaner. He is giving "pocket money" to improve local parks and is cancelling the improvements to Parliament Square and Highbury Corner. Further evidence that the rhetoric fails to match the reality. Evidence of muddled thinking.

Much criticism was levelled at the former mayor for running a programme of vanity projects. If BJ's ludicrous "idea" to build an airport in the Thames estuary is the very embodiment of a vanity project. To commit the billions it would cost to build would be total lunacy in the current climate. The environmental cost would be huge.

I'm continually drawn to a mayor with no coherent plan. Tonight's Dispatches presented the argument from one side. This evidence was compelling, that the mayor's programme doesn't match the rhetoric, is often contradictory and is failing London.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Are the Tories ready for government?

They would certainly say so. The polls suggests that they are likely to win the next election whether they are ready or not. The volume of seats Labour has to defend with minimal majorities suggests that they might. Andrew Rawnsley and Max Hastings both implied that the Tories are not ready, but are likely to be in power regardless. Will the Tories win? Are they ready?

The Tories are now in position to win. The Tories lead in the polls has remained, despite Labour action and Tory inaction on the economy. An election is little over a year away. The economy is likely to get worse rather than better in that time. As incumbents this will disadvantage Labour. To run an effective election machine costs money. Labour's finances are in a parlous state, the Tories are awash with Ashcrofts cash and paid staff in key seats. The election is the Tories to win.

Are they ready? The Tories might win the election but will find government very tough. Inexperience won't make it tough itself, Labour managed ably enough in 1997 without government experience. Government will be tough for the Tories because they haven't prepared for it. What do the Tories plan for the NHS? What do they plan to actually do to better the environment when in London Boris Johnson is cutting back on schemes to cut pollution?

The Tory plan for government isn't clear. If it exists it must be well hidden. Over the next 15 months the country has to make a serious choice. It isn't a fair choice when the choice is made without full knowledge of the consequences.

I fear the electorate won't be interested and that the Tories will be elected anyway. With parlous results for the country. Labour has to show why the Tories don't deserve to win. Labour has to pull the gaping holes in Tory policy open to the country. Labour needs to attack the Tories and ensure the election is the challenge the country deserves it to be when so much is at stake.

The Tories might win. They are not ready. Labour has to make sure this becomes an issue.

Friday, March 13, 2009

In the Loop trailer

Emire magazine have linked to the trailer for Armando Ianucci's upcoming political classic: In the Loop. I can't fucking wait.

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