Dave Hill, the Guardian’s London blogger, is starting to get it. Hooray!
In today’s blog he says:
Too few people watch his public performances at City Hall and far too few journalists report them. Were that to change, many opinions about “Good old Boris” might change too. For months, his conduct under scrutiny by the London Assembly’s elected members has been at best inadequate.
Why does he give so few straightforward answers to their questions? Is it that he won’t, or just that he can’t because he simply doesn’t know what they are? His comic monologues and, most recently, pre-election rhetoric are now routinely regarded and openly derided by all non-Tory AMs as time-wasting ploys. Far from providing an antidote to the evasiveness of mainstream politicians, Boris fobs Londoners off with an extreme example of the same thing, concealed by brighter packaging.
Now in my opinion Dave Hill has come painfully slowly to this most basic of facts. Boris Johnson at no point had any grasp on the issues facing Londoners. How could he? He has nothing in common, both in terms of experience or interest, with the vast majority of them. From day one of his mayoralty he exemplified the most lazy, uninterested approach to important but detailed policy matters for City Hall to deal with.
And there is something about the way Hill presents the long-eroding case for Boris Johnson that doesn’t sit right. In terms of the political tack of the Johnson administration, there is a now assumed consensus that it is basically Ken-light. The many proponents of this view in the media point to liberal proclamations concerning refugee rights.
But this is a highly problematic argument. The bulk of the progressive policies of the Livingstone era have now been removed or are in the process of being dismantled. The Women’s Unit in the Mayor’s office has gone. So too has Rise, the successful anti-racist festival, and funding for other events such as St Patrick’s Day has taken a severe beating. On transport, fare rises have been raised for poorer Londoners whilst services are being cut back and tube improvement works have been allowed to spiral into chaos. The pioneering climate change work that Livingstone led has been ditched in favour of posters telling us to cycle more and plant trees – in short, a disaster.
There is little truth in the much repeated assertion that Boris Johnson is a pragmatist steering a fluffy, liberal and harmless path through the choppy seas of London government. It’s actually a deeply ideological administration, serving the Tory base and no-one else – and as it happens doing so very incompetently. It is therefore completely inadequate for meeting the needs of Londoners. Johnson has only gotten away with this for as long as he has because the media stubbornly persists in giving him an incomprehensibly easy time.