In the past few days various newspapers and journalists have been approaching me for views on Boris’s first year as Mayor, some just looking for background information, others for quotable comment.
Generally I’m happy to do my bit, it’s flattering to be asked and it’s always good to get the site’s name out to a wider audience. That said, and at the risk of not being asked to take part in any more, I’m not sure any of these articles will be especially illuminating.
The questions tend to follow a set pattern – what’s been Boris’s biggest mistake, his best decision, is he a better/worse Mayor than Ken, does he have a vision for London, is he serious enough or too much of a clown?
Frustratingly, the questioners don’t really have room (or time) for nuanced answers and, as someone who covers City Hall daily, I don’t share the media fascination with 100 day or one year anniversaries. They’re arbitrary dates picked for the roundness of their number, not because of any real political or historic importance. Next year marks the first decade of the restoration of London Government, a far more worthy date for the diary.
To the question of whether Boris has been a good Mayor, my too long and unhelpful answer is we’ll know when his term of office is up, not before and anyone saying otherwise is rushing to judgement. Those asking tend to want a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Likewise, comparisons with Ken Livingstone just a year into Johnson’s administration are at best premature. Livingstone had past experience and a clearly defined job to do in putting government in the capital back together after 4 years. In some ways Johnson has the harder job, unknown for any prior interest in London politics he has to define what the role of Mayor of London is in the post restoration age.
There was talk at one stage of the BBC wanting to follow Boris around for a ‘typical’ day in preparation for a TV news feature. City Hall figures claimed to be cool to the idea, hopefully they stood firm and the guy has been allowed to get on with his job without having to conjure up an unconvincingly exciting day for the benefit of the camera team.
In case all that sounds too miserly I sincerely hope Boris has had a great first year as Mayor and enjoys whatever way he chooses to mark the day, but even with the helpful list of “key achievements after 12 months” City Hall has been mailing out this week, I won’t be joining the rush to mark him out of ten.