The new term at City Hall got underway properly today when the London Assembly subjected Boris Johnson to another bout of Mayor’s Question Time, or as fellow London commentator Dave Hill says: “‘MQT’ to we hipsters”.
Before the summer break Boris seemed a little out of his depth at these events, often poorly briefed and clearly uncomfortable before an audience who often understood the issues better than he. Something’s changed during the holiday, maybe it was the departure of so many advisors and deputy mayors but along with Boris’s apparent realisation that he can’t delegate his entire job has come a newfound sense of direction and purpose.
The not-quite capacity audience were treated to the first public airing of Boris’s new social liberal persona, talking up difficulties faced by lower income families the and something tells me that not every one who voted for him is going to be happy with the direction New Boris travels in.
Proceedings got underway with an impressive, confidently delivered statement on budget reductions at City Hall, aware of being portrayed as a fully signed-up member of the ‘slash and burn’ brigade, Boris was at pains to talk of redeploying staff, and not diluting service delivery.
When he came under heavy fire from Liberal Democrat Dee Doocey in her attempt to have him review London Development Agency funding for the London Fashion Week over a row over ‘size zero’ models, Johnson was sufficiently briefed to defend his position but promised he was open to being persuaded.
He won a few new supporters in the audience by voicing a heartfelt tribute to the role of London’s street markets which he described as a “wonderful part of London life” but there were glimpses of the old, non-serious Boris when he said protecting the markets was both an “aspiration and a commitment” – before the Summer break the Mayor seemed to make half a dozen uncosted commitments every MQT session.
The already traditional sparring match between Johnson and Labour’s John Biggs, the closest this event gets to Prime Minister’s Questions, was probably a points win for the Mayor – a result which seemed impossible just a few short months ago.