Friday, 1 May 2009

Johnson @1: big promises, little done

Well, he's been there a year. How has the London Mayor fared? Murad Qureshi is scathing in his piece that appears in today's Tribune. He points out, fairly, that Mayor Johnson has talked a progressive game without delivering a progressive politics. Does this hint at what we can expect from a Cameron administration? It's been a consistent argument of this blog that Cameron's ends- progressive- can not be achieved by his means- conservative.

Qureshi lists the following as contradictions between Johnson's stated policy and his action:

- He said that he would "take action to make London the greenest city in the world." Yet he has scrapped the third phase of the Low Emissions Zone, scrapped the £25 charge on gas guzzling vehicles, and intends to half the size of the congestion charge zone. He has also cut funding for bike lanes.
- Mayor Johnson gushes praise for a multi-cultural London yet stripped the Rise festival of its anti-racism message in 2008 and this year has cut it altogether.
- He has dropped support for a number of infrastructure projects- Thames Gateway Bridge, the DLR extension to Barking and Dagenham, the Greenwich Waterfront Transit, and the Brixton to Camden tram. Funnily enough, these projects also happen to serve some of London's poorest communities.
- His plan to abolish 'bendy buses' (or 'free buses' as the kids call them!) will create more congestion as more buses will have to be on the roads to replace the capacity.
- He has scrapped the requirement for 50 per cent of new houses to be affordable and shifted the remainder away from socially rented accommodation.
- Despite expressing support for four rape crisis centres during the campaign, has not even provided enough cash for one to remain open.

Qureshi does applaud the Mayor for his support for the London Living Wage and an amnesty for 'irregular migrants.' But he also points out that Mayor Johnson's GLA precept freeze will save the average Londoner just £6 per year but will massively hit the capital's development, public services, and social equality. At the same time, belt bursting rises in public transport fares further hit the poorest disproportionately.

Not much of a record. Conservatives over at ConservativeHome are happy though. Just 1% of them support the Mayor's support for London's Living Wage which helps the working poor. 11% support the relatively minor measure of banning alcohol on the tube (a solution to a problem that barely existed.) 12% of them think that saving the average Londoner £6 a year on Council Tax is a more important measure than seeing London's poorest worker paid an extra £2.60 per hour over and above the national minimum wage. No wonder David Cameron and Boris Johnson always default right.

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