Just weeks before the 2008 Mayoral election Boris Johnson accused then incumbent Ken Livingstone of “using every branch of City Hall to push his electoral agenda.”
The remark came in the midst of a row over publication of a Transport for London report into allowing motorcycles into bus lanes.
He went on to say: “Londoners know that they can’t trust what Ken Livingstone says in the run up to an election.”
Both parts of that statement are starting to look unhelpful as Boris prepares to defend his own record.
Shortly after it launched Boris’s campaign site republished City Hall press releases almost verbatim, leaving in quotes from HCA officials, a practice they later dropped. Then today the Back Boris 2012 campaign sent out a newsletter containing a link to the official Mayor of London YouTube channel.
Neither incident is worth getting too excited about but Boris’s own past rhetoric means it’s fair to note them and see what happens as the campaign unfolds – will Londoners be able to easily tell whether their local high street is being visited by Mayor Boris or Candidate Boris?
Last week’s rebuke for Boris by Sir Michael Scholar, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, is a little more damaging.
While Boris may be able to brush off criticisms from other politicians, the impartial Sir Michael’s accusation that his use of statistics was “poor practice, and was damaging to public trust” may be harder to deflect.
The rebuke was seized on by opposition politicians who are questioning the Mayor’s use of statistics over police numbers and fare dodging as well as his re-announcement of certain policies as if they were new.
The protests of his supporters aren’t helped by claims such as:
“After years of inaction under the previous Mayor, I’ve started to build Crossrail AND ensured it will be delivered in full.”
In reality Crossrail is a project which dates back well before Boris’s tenure at City Hall. As far back as 2002 Tory Assembly Members were welcoming the revival of the scheme.
The previous Government first gave the go-ahead for the project in July 2004 and the Parliamentary bill to enable the scheme was introduced in February 2005, finally being passed by Parliament in July 2008.
During the bill’s long passage major funding powers and agreements were reached before Boris became Mayor.
Boris of course knows Crossrail pre-dates his administration because he welcomed an October 2007 announcement re-confirming it would go-ahead. He might even recall Labour’s claim that he “could not even be bothered to turn up and vote for it in Parliament”
Given the depth of Government spending cuts it’s easy to imagine some Ministers wanted to trim the Crossrail budget, but if Boris wants Londoners to believe he single-handedly saved the scheme from savage cuts it’d help if he refrained from making boasts which are easily debunked by 5 minutes on Google.
However a press release issued by Wandsworth Council last month shows Transport for London is providing just 300,000 of the £1.9m bill.
According to the release, funding is being provided by:
Department for Transport – £700k
South West Trains £600k
Wandsworth Council – £300k
Transport for London £300k
Would voters reading his boasts guess that he’s actually the joint smallest funder of the scheme?