Since London Mayor Boris Johnson announced he was running for Parliament everyone seems to agree he is the great hope for the Conservative right: a man with genuine executive experience who is unashamedly Thatcherite in his world view. But are they deceiving themselves by blindly believing he is their saviour?
Last night the previous Mayor of London Ken Livingstone appeared on a number of news channels to say that Boris had done little other than continue his legacy. Under close examination of City Hall, it’s hard to fault Ken on this analysis.
City Hall was established by Ken as the first Mayor of London in 2000. No one in the glass testicle (the nickname for City Hall) directly delivers services to the public; they are essentially all advisors to the Mayor. Yet when Boris took over there was no systematic clear out of the people employed under Ken.
There wasn’t even much of a reduction in numbers, even though the building was bursting at the seams with hundreds of paper-pushers.
Right at the top of City Hall there are a number of Mayoral advisors, appointed entirely at the discretion of the Mayor. The idea is that every new administration brings in new people from their own party. But this is not entirely what Boris did, in fact he reappointed one of Ken’s friends to work on Olympic legacy: one of the most important briefs in the building.
Neale Coleman has implacable socialist credentials, even boasting having a former Labour MP as a brother. He also has an impressive track record, but what genuine right-winger would want someone who believes in socialist economics regenerating London?
The story is the same at Transport for London, a secretive socialist monolith desperately in need of reform. But reform is not what has happened under Boris, in reality it has been business as usual. The same hobby-horse projects that Ken was so in love with, all delivered at enormous cost to the taxpayer.
Where is the greater use of the private sector? Nowhere to be seen, TfL remains a soviet command economy just like the ‘good old days’ under Ken.
The only significant private sector involvement in transport in London are the buses, and they were forced on London by Maggie. Ken’s TfL was allergic to the private sector and so is Boris’s.
On council tax the story is pretty similar, Ken put up council tax by whopping 152 percent in just 8 years. At every budget we hear Boris complaining about how disgraceful this was, but in response he plans to cut it back by just 10 percent over his own 8 year term – hardly the great conservative roll back.
If Boris was really opposed to Ken’s crazy increase, he’d have enacted an equally crazy cut. But he didn’t, and he increased the widely loathed congestion charge – a tax on driving in the capital. To make it worse this tax doesn’t pay for your bin collection, it goes on all those advisors he didn’t sack in City Hall.
The truth is that Greater London Authority, Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and the Fire Service are broadly continuing on the path Ken set for them. Boris’s successes have been projects started under Ken and his failings have been to accept that status quo.
In 1979 Thatcher threw off the shackles of the post-war consensus and fought to bring this country back from the brink. How can we expect Prime Minister Boris to bin the paternalism of David Cameron when he wasn’t even willing to challenge the hard-left freakery of a man we all call Red Ken.
No matter the charm, charisma and right-wing protestations Boris has allowed himself to become the Red Tsar of Keningrad. He may have defeated its founder, but the supreme soviet is still intact.
In an age when our institutions are being undermined, our taxes plundered and our traditions derided we need someone with both words and actions. If City Hall is anything to go by, we have not yet found our saviour.