There can be no doubt that many in the press pack don’t understand the real position occupied by most of London’s ‘deputy mayors’, a situation which has suited City Hall as Johnson shed more and more of his job to unelected employees.
It must have seemed like such a wheeze to hand out ‘deputy mayor’ job titles to salaried staff and City Hall officials wasted no time dismissing the protests of those of who us who knew the titles would cause widespread confusion.
Over the past few weeks it’s become increasingly clear that the resulting confusion was no side-effect of a hasty decision but a calculated tactic to make it look as if the people making visits and taking decisions had some form of electoral legitimacy.
But as ‘Deputy Mayor’ Ray Lewis finds himself embroiled in a series of hotly denied allegations the decision to award these “honourific” job titles looks markedly less clever.
As one City Hall press officer told me during the first few days of Boris Johnson’s administration: “we are where we are with the job titles”. Indeed we are, but it’s not quite where Team Johnson wanted to be.
A sloppy disregard for what went before and the legal definition of the role of Deputy Mayor are going to make the next few days much harder for Johnson and Mr Lewis than they needed to be. In his statement tonight Lewis says:
“Being Deputy Mayor of London is the greatest honour of my life and I will not allow that office – or Boris’ trust in me – to be tainted in any way.”
The best way he and Boris can protect the office of Deputy Mayor is to stop pretending anyone other than Richard Barnes occupies it.