‘The Mayor of London yesterday made a calculated, headline-grabbing interjection on a matter of national Government policy, putting him at odds with his own party leadership.’
No great surprise there, Mayoral observers have been writing about such incidents for the past decade – both Boris Johnson and predecessor Ken Livingstone are smart enough to know that slavish devotion to the national party is a hinderance when asking Londoners for their vote.
Yesterday Boris delighted headline writers by describing the coalition’s plans to limit housing benefit payments as a form of social cleansing.
As I’ve remarked before, our incumbent Mayor is on a mission to distance himself from the coalition’s ‘cuts agenda’, keenly aware that it’s electoral poison to him. Yesterday’s comments were no accident, Boris knew exactly what he was saying and the effect his words would have.
All of which adds to the disappointment felt by those of us partial to outspoken Mayors in the wake of Boris’s subsequent statement attacking the journalists and media outlets he knew would cover his pre-planned remarks.
Did Boris lose his nerve or did someone around him mistakenly think people would swallow the ‘taken out of context’ line, allowing him to look like a wronged innocent?
Either way, promises of a “Stalingrad-like defence” of the capital today look like empty rhetoric after fairly mild ministerial criticism of Boris’s dissidence resulted in such hasty backtracking.
Someone at City Hall needs get their spine looked at before they fatally damage Boris’s credibility with the electorate.