The news that Conservative Mayoral Candidate Steve Norris has been appointed as interim non-executive Chairman of Jarvis was widely trailed during the last few days.
His opponents will have had plenty of chance to sharpen their well worn criticisms of his links with the company.
MayorWatch wishes to distance itself from the more extreme aspects of such criticism but we do have a few reservations about this latest development. We saw nothing wrong with his position as a non-executive Director, it was perfectly possible to argue that this role gave him the opportunity to channel the concerns of shareholders and the public into the decision making process of the company.
During this time we were dismayed to see media and political opponents link his name with every error or accident the company was alleged to have been involved with. Even if Jarvis were responsible for any given accident (and there is no proof that they were), Mr Norris was not in a position to directly influence day to day matters like repairs or operational procedure and practice. Attempts therefore to link him personally with such incidents are insulting both to Mr Norris and the London electorate.
Mr Norris is a reputable man who has twice offered his service to Londoners. Last time he performed strongly, and came a very respectable second behind a candidate who was almost unbeatable.
With Mr Livingstone’s expected return to Labour’s ranks Norris has a much stronger chance of success this time round.
It is therefore surprising that Mr Norris would choose to place himself in a position where every report of his campaign will further link him to a company with such bad press. Mr Norris must know that in politics what matters more then the truth is what the media can sell as the truth. It is probable that Mayor Livingstone, hardly a fan of the new arrangements for the Tube, will see this as a great stick with which to beat him.
We echo in part the comment of Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat candidate, that this new job will make it harder for Mr Norris to speak freely on matters concerning the Tube. However the involvement of Mr Norris in a company which operates in the provision of public services makes it unlikely that he would ever have been unduly critical.
While Mr Norris remains a private citizen it is solely a matter for him where and how he earns his money. The electorate in London is more than capable of deciding if his connection with Jarvis rules him out of the capital’s top job.