If you were wandering past City Hall this morning you might have imagined you could hear strains of the Pet Shop Boys hit ‘Yesterday, when I was mad’ leaking from the building.
In fact the sound was that of Assembly Members Kit Malthouse and Brian Coleman, respectively appointed by the Mayor as Chairs of the Police and Fire Authorities, engaging in some very public, mutual backslapping.
The pair used today’s meeting of the London Assembly, at which AMs quizzed them, Acting Met Commissioner Tim Godwin and Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, to proclaim their unending appreciation of each other’s efforts during the August riots.
Coleman was especially impressed at the way Malthouse filled “the political vacuum” created, though he didn’t quite say so, by their shared boss being on holiday during the biggest crisis of his Mayoralty.
For his part Malthouse thought Brian was lovely too, especially for the efforts he took to ensure the Fire Brigade was on hand when the police needed them and for co-operation on the ground between the services.
It was very peculiar to see two of the Assembly’s more ‘robust’ members engaging in such a public display of affection but it certainly reflected the day’s mood.
The Assembly was united in its praise for the bravery and courage of police officers, 255 of whom were injured while protecting Londoners, and firefighters who came under attack from rioters as they battled to put out fires.
Some of the looters were lucky “not to be facing murder charges” Coleman told colleagues who each later rose to speak about individual acts of bravery by both services in their corner of the capital.
But while Barnet’s most famous Councillor was largely in a cheery mood, lavishing praise on the brigade he oversees and Malthouse, he found time for a very deliberate criticism of the Mayor.
The London Fire Brigade operates a highly successful youth training scheme which teaches discipline and respect to youngsters previously unfamiliar with such concepts.
It’s one of the little gems of London’s public services which too few people know of and it’s a scheme the brigade and Coleman are rightly very proud of.
Its target market are the very youths Boris has so often talked about and campaigned on. When they’re not helped at an early stage they become the youngsters he and Malthouse tries to rehabilitate at the Heron unit.
Yet, according to Coleman, this year the Mayor has failed to provide any direct funding for the LIFE scheme which is instead being funded by the Fire Authority.
Why did Coleman reveal Boris’s stinginess?
Maybe it’s just part of his funding negotiations with the Mayor but is it just possible it was payback for Boris’s own past jibes at Coleman’s expense?