After months of anxious waiting, MPs on the environmental audit committee yesterday finally got their forty five minute audience with Boris Johnson.
The Mayor originally declined to attend and offered instead to send his environment advisor Matthew Pencharz in this place.
Nice guy though he is, Matthew’s not as well known as Boris and by accepting his appearance no-one would have bothered to report yesterday’s session.
And as getting themselves on the telly seemed to be a big part of their desired outcome, that was never going to be good enough for the MPs who – it seems topical to point out – were unwilling to leave questioning the Mayor to those elected to job.
So the MPs pouted and pulled faces, their press officer whipped up a mini social media storm and eventually City Hall found a small gap in the Mayor’s busy diary and donated it to the good cause of raising the committee’s media profile.
So what did MPs get from their session? In truth, not a lot.
As I predicted back in July, Boris largely pushed his usual lines – the claimed cleanliness of his new buses, the role of cycling and age limits for taxis in cleaning up air quality – and batted away requests for hard detail (“I will be happy to write to you”).
He made sure there’d be insufficient time for any in-depth questioning by refusing to grant the committee more than their allotted 45 minutes.
Asked whether he still needed to leave at 3pm, Boris told Chair Joan Walley: “That is what I understood the Committee wished me to do and therefore I have made arrangements to do other things.”
Unlike the Assembly Members elected and paid to ask him questions, the MPs were poorly briefed and in naked competition with one another to be the one shown on telly speaking to the Mayor.
It was all reminiscent of Ed Miliband’s craven desire to be seen with Obama.
Most of what MPs heard during the session – such as the ‘revelation’ about the number of electric vehicle charging points – was already well known and could be found from a quick read of the City Hall website. Or this one.
And while Boris’s re-use of his painfully unfunny ‘Oil of ULEZ’ gag when talking about low emission zones simply earned him some puzzled looks, he did get away with a jibe at the MPs’ expense. Or maybe their expenses.
Answering a suggestion that he copy panel members and carry a personal air quality monitor around with him, Boris told the Chair:
“As far as I could make out the most alarming data you found were picked up in the back of taxis. Is that right? Since I am usually on my bike, I probably would not match the figures, the readings that you achieved”
So there you have it – a slightly softer version of Boris’s usual swipe at MPs and Minsters for jollying it up in the backs of cabs and limos courtesy of the taxpayer rather than using the public transport network.
Today Boris’s team seemed happy with his performance and some even expressed surprise at how unprepared the MPs were for him.
Still, like a fan pouncing on their favourite soap actor in the supermarket queue and making them scribble their name on the back of an old bus ticket, MPs now have an official record that one September afternoon they got to meet Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and will be able to say so in their eventual report which no-one will ever read.
If there was a point to yesterday’s session, it was little more than that.