Boris Johnson: Not a National Treasure



Welcoming a new guest blogger: Georgia Lewis is a journalist, and a freelance moron-watcher on Twitter and via her own blog, The Rant Mistress.

“I love Boris Johnson, he’s great comedy value.”

Really? I live in London. If I want comedy, there are plenty of places I can go for that. There is no need to look to the mayor for rampant hilarity. Hell, why is he even considered to be so damn funny? The unkempt mop of blonde hair? The bumbling mannerisms? That time he got stuck on a zipwire? If that’s as good as British comedy gets these days, we may as well go back to watching re-runs of Dad’s Army.

“But he’s a national treasure!”

So is Sooty. But that doesn’t mean he should be the mayor.

All snarking aside, Boris Johnson does belong squarely on a blog dedicated to watching morons.

He has done an excellent job as coming across as the cool Tory, the Conservative who’s really quite progressive. He is so funky he even supports same-sex marriage, even though he publicly said he didn’t realise it wasn’t yet legalised here. But who needs a mayor who is aware of the laws of the land? Pish tosh!

Hell, with all his Boris bike antics, he has even managed to paint himself as the Tory who is ecologically friendly. Except he’s not.

Are you labouring under the misapprehension that he is the green Tory who cares about the people? This is the mayor who decided to give his mates in one of the most privileged parts of the capital a nice little tax break when he reversed Ken Livingstone’s decision to extend the Congestion Charge zone to the western part of central London. If someone has to drive into central London from a more deprived borough, it will cost them £10-£12 each time.

The latest stunt on the Congestion Charge is to remove the exemption for most hybrid cars and all cleaner diesel cars. Boris is expected to approve this plan so it comes into force in July. It’s not as if Central London is overrun with gridlocked Priuses and curiously, it will only add an estimated £1 million-£2 million to Transport For London’s coffers . Surely this could be achieved by, oh, I don’t know, extending the Congestion Charge to the west again.

I test-drove a Honda Jazz hybrid last year and for two days, I did the 16-mile round trip from my house in Zone 4 to my Congestion Charge zone office and back. Because this car operates in pure electric mode when driven at speeds of 20mph or less, and given the stop-start nature of driving in London, I spent most of my commute on both days emitting pretty much nothing. I used almost no petrol in two days. Forcing such cars to pay the Congestion Charge will do nothing to encourage people to buy more eco-friendly cars.

But why would he care about that? He has been busy spending £1.4 million of public money on an anti-pollution scheme that doesn’t work. In 2010, he heralded with much fanfare a trial of dust supressants on some of London’s dirtiest roads. The idea is that the pollution is literally glued to the road. Except that a study by non-morons at Kings College London showed that it was not working and that diesel was the main cause of pollution and that the attempts to glue pollution to the roads did nothing to reduce the grot in areas where the big problem is quite simply too much traffic.

Last week, Boris showed further signs of eco delusion when he announced grand-sounding plans for the Congestion Charge zones to be transformed into “Ultra Low Emission Zones.” Which sounds great on the surface. Except that trucks will be exempt from any restrictions. Oh, and this won’t come into effect until 2020. How useful.

His green credentials took a further nosedive in a ridiculous, science-denying column on climate change for The Telegraph last month. His incoherent rant featured reminiscences from his childhood, random observations from his bicycle, the admission that he was no expert, quotes from scientists that he didn’t know whether or not to believe, and the conclusion that all this chuffing snow means that climate change might be a big load of hooey.

And while Boris loves to tell the world that he has the best job in the world as mayor of London, it is indeed curious that he has taken time out of London this week to pop up to Eastleigh for a spot of Conservative campaigning.

The Eastleigh by-election, caused by the embarrassing downfall of Lib-Dem moron Chris Huhne, features the socially conservative Maria Hutchings as the Tory candidate. Despite being at odds with Hutchings on the issue of marriage equality, Boris felt that the best use of his time was a spot of campaigning miles away from the capital.

Tragically, the Tories believe that getting Boris out on the hustings for Hutchings will be a vote-winner. And, hey, who wouldn’t be swayed by his persuasive words, as quoted by Torcuil Crichton, The Daily Record’s Westminster editor: “It is our constitutional duty to kick the Lib Dems in the … well, do they have any?”

What a statesman.

Boris may say over and over again that he has no ambitions to be an MP again but he has a funny way of showing it. In 2011, David Cameron was quoted as saying his “number one priority” for 2012 was to ensure Boris remained mayor of London. Perhaps Cameron fears that a BoJo return to Westminster would be a threat to his leadership. Or Cameron has become so London-centric that he really doesn’t care about the rest of Britain, with the possible exception of Chipping Norton.

Either way, it would appear Cameron is happy to keep a faux eco warrior in charge of London. A faux eco warrior who put up bus and tube fares again with minimal protest.

But as long as people keep falling for his alleged charms and have no issue with voting for a man widely viewed as a lovable buffoon, there’ll be no breaking free of party politics at local government level any time soon. And the capital’s attempt at democracy will be more like an idiocracy. Boris voters of London, you have the mayor you deserve.