The end of City Hall’s summer break was formalised today with the first Mayor’s Question Time session since July when would-be Mayoral candidate Oona King made what records suggest was her first visit to the event.
Oona didn’t grace us with her presence this month – she was talking to the London Chamber of Commerce instead – but rival Ken Livingstone did stop by for what will go down in the history books as the final MQT before the 2012 Mayoral contest gets underway.
With Boris Johnson now committed to seeking re-election and Labour naming their candidate next Friday, subsequent sessions will inevitably be more about political point scoring than scrutiny on behalf of Londoners. London Assembly Chair Dee Doocey will have her work cut out.
Before he popped inside the building, Livingstone had been talking up the threat of cuts in Government spending and repeating recent attempts to portray Boris as one with Ministers in seeking to hack away at public spending levels.
Being far cleverer than many of his critics give him credit for, Boris has of course spotted the danger coalition cuts pose to his own interests and embarked on a series of carefully planned interventions.
This inevitably leaves him open to the charge of being at odds with his own party leadership but our ever resourceful Mayor has a solution to such claims.
Boris this morning told AMs that his friends in Whitehall would love to do more to help the capital but nasty old Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and, helpfully for Boris, a LibDem MP, wanted to take all the money London currently got and spend it on motorways to connect LibDem heartlands.
As a line of defence it’s pretty good. It’s also exactly the one I suggested he’d take back in May when I wrote:
“The coalition arrangement gives him a handy fig leaf of cover from charges of being disloyal. Whenever asked about divisions between him and Cameron, Boris will be able to say he understands that Dave would have liked to do things differently but compromises are necessary in any coalition, while day to day noisily protesting against Westminster cuts which threaten his ability to retain his job in the face of Labour’s inevitable 2012 ‘get Boris’ onslaught.”
Of course, there’s always someone around to be unhelpful and this morning fellow Tory Tony Arbour was on hand to suggest that, unlike Ken and the now defunct Labour Government, Boris has a constructive and helpful relationship with Ministers.
This really isn’t the message Boris wants people to hear as I suspect someone will be explaining to certain Tory AMs very soon.