Boris Johnson normally gives a good impression of enjoying the monthly ritual of Mayor’s Question Time. Not the actual answering of the questions mind, but the opportunity it affords him to run down his predecessor’s term of office and regurgitate accusations of wrongdoing or slack procedures.
Today’s session was a little harder for the Mayor, with the Evening Standard and Guardian following up on the Guardian’s original story of key aide Ian Clement using his City Hall credit card for personal purchases (we’re required to point out that he always repaid the costs of the items and made no personal gains from the transactions).
Boris sought refuge behind his near namesake, London Assembly Chair Darren Johnson who helpfully pointed out that the Mayor couldn’t discuss the specifics of any disciplinary action taken against Clement.
He wouldn’t tell us if his ‘Deputy Mayor for Government and External Relations’ had offered to resign or why it took several months for the use of the card to be stopped, but he was at pains to tell us how angry he was about the whole thing and how “crass” he thought it was.
He was also very keen to answer every second question with an offer for his aide to appear before the Assembly. There was little in the way of support for the man who has clearly caused the Mayor deep embarrassment.
Usually when the Labour Assembly Members ask questions the Tory group tend to become quite noisy and, in some cases, a tad abusive. Today they sat quietly and rather glumly as Boris wobbled and hedged his way through the questions. Their faces grew longer as copies of the Standard’s front page were passed round the table.
Some clearly longed for those easy days when they could rattle off failings (perceived or real) of systems under the previous regime which the Wheatcroft panel so kindly collated for them in the early day’s of Boris’s administration.
Now Labour have their own accusations to lob around the chamber and with Clement still in post they have greater potential to damage Boris’s administration. The Mayor’s public display of anger is a sign of just how much he knows this.