Boris Johnson has tried delegating his job away to become some kind of front man but, as this report by the BBC’s Tim Donovan shows, this has led to personal embarrassments as he denied decisions taken in his name by staff with grandiose job titles.
He’s tried his ‘Have I Got News For You’ act and it left him red faced when he denied the existence of a “secret” document which had been on a Government website for months.
And he tried doing all of this while handing out impressive sounding vanity titles to give the appearance that his ‘deputies’ weren’t just salaried staff. Critics had accused Johnson of giving these vanity titles to his “mates” but after the events of yesterday it’s now clear he gave them to just anyone, irrespective of how little he knew of them.
As the media feast for a third day on the Ray Lewis story there surely can’t be anyone left who thinks blurring the lines between elected politicians and salaried staff by handing out ‘deputy mayor’ titles was a good idea.
The nuanced difference between the honourific title of ‘Deputy Mayor of London’ and ‘Deputy Mayor for Young People’ has clearly been lost on the wider public and media – why else would so many reports make reference to Boris’s “number two” when discussing anyone other than Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes?
There’s plenty of time for Boris to become the excellent Mayor Londoners deserve but to do that he needs to start showing he’s the one in charge. He should start by restoring the office of Deputy Mayor to the status it enjoys in law and ensure in future no-one can be confused about the identity of the office holder and the status of his personal staff.
The accusation the Tories often made against Ken Livingstone was that he failed to change his mind when wrong. There’s no escaping that Boris was wrong on the ‘deputy’ issue and it’s time for him to correct that.