Skulking about in the corridors after today’s BMAC meeting, it was clear that Boris Johnson’s City Hall is a very angry place in the wake of Ian Clement’s misuse of his corporate credit card.
There’s good cause to be angry, a meeting which would normally go unattended by any media or members of the public was instead held under the intense scrutiny of City Hall’s own version of the Westminster press pack.
Wanting to clarify some of the answers given the Committee, Sir Simon Milton (deputy mayor for Planning and Policy) made it clear how annoyed he was with Clement.
I’m told by one opposition Assembly Member that Kit Malthouse (deputy mayor for Policing) is “fuming” because he feels the fallout will taint all senior advisers. Malthouse is said to have never claimed expenses when he was a councillor, a practice he’s apparently continued since entering City Hall.
Malthouse is one of the good guys, genuinely talented, generous with his time and mindful of his obligations to Londoners. In any sane reckoning he’s surely the next Conservative Mayor of London.
Meanwhile Richard Barnes, the normally genial and actual Deputy Mayor of London, watched today’s meeting from the public gallery, displaying a look of uncharacteristic fury. Mind, given his wrongly appropriated job title is once again making headlines for all the wrong reasons, it’s not hard to see why he might be a bit miffed.
Politicians, senior advisors, press officers, all wanted to ensure anyone prepared to listen, and especially those of us who share out thoughts on such things, understood how furious Boris is at the latest turn of events. He even looked pretty cross as he strolled through the City Hall cafe with his cycling helmet still on as he read through a bundle of papers. Such was Boris’s obvious bad mood that I wondered if anyone would be brave enough to tell him he still had his helmet on, he’s probably still wearing it now.
Amid the anger, and for what it’s worth it’s real anger, it seems common sense has broken out. Ian Clement isn’t going to be replaced by a ‘deputy mayor’ and no more are likely to be created.
Handing out the title to just about anyone was always a mistake, I said so when Ray Lewis was announced as ‘deputy mayor for young people’ and those who thought it clever to confuse a London electorate about the true status of the Mayor’s advisors have been shown to be wrong.
We’re now left with three deputy mayors, one really is, two really aren’t but at least unlike some of those bestowed with the title they’re clever enough to know they’re not. It’s still two too many, the Greater London Authority and the office of Mayor of London are too new and, too poorly understood and (sadly) too irrelevant to most people’s lives try and import the multiple deputy model employed elsewhere.
So much of the PR surrounding the departures of Lewis and Clement was due to the media’s own lack of knowledge of their real status. A talk with one ‘senior administration figure’ tells me they know this now, the lesson’s been learnt but it’s taken longer than it should have.
Some readers might want to look away now…
On the issue of the media and knowledge of London, I was pleased to hear Andrew Gilligan is to become London editor of the Telegraph.
The Guardian has the excellent Dave Hill and Hélène Mulholland heading up their coverage of the capital’s political scene but plurality is always a good thing and it’s great to see a second national title reflecting the importance of London and City Hall.