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Archive for June, 2011

13
Jun

When socialism goes mad.

It’s pretty rare that I’m left speechless by something I stumble across on Twitter, but this is utterly incredible:

I actually agree with her that tax revenue should play a role in fighting global poverty – we’re rich enough, as a country, to afford 0.7% of our national income being spent on vaccinations in the poorest parts of the world. But to *dislike* voluntary philanthropy?! To actually *dislike* Bill Gates having donated $24billion of his own money to save the lives of millions of children?! Utter madness. Would she prefer that he hadn’t donated it? If she – as much as it seems unlikely – one day secured a decent job, would she refuse to donate any of her earnings to charity? Would she instead wave a massive red flag at the government and shout “Oi! Come and tax me, or this money ain’t going to Africa!” My word. I think I need a lie-down.

13
Jun

Left-wing support for Boris’ housing policy.

It’s rare for anything positive about Tory politicians to appear on the ‘Left Foot Forward’ blog. It’s one of those sites written by, about and for lefties. With that in mind, today’s guest-post praising Boris’ housing policy was particularly notable. The post was written by Vidhya Alakeson, Director of Research and Strategy at Resolution Foundation, a think-tank which focuses its research on improving outcomes for low and modest earners.

The post contrasts Ed Miliband’s argument that low income working people should be given priority for council housing with Boris’ desire for a massive expansion of private rented housing. Miliband’s policy, the post argues, would simply shift the housing problem from one group of vulnerable people to another group of even more vulnerable people. By contrast, Boris has identified that the key problem is an overall shortage of supply, rather than an issue of who lives where. As Alakeson states:

“Prioritising working people over those who are more vulnerable in the allocation of council housing may seem like a quick political win for a struggling leadership. But it’s hard to believe that Mr Miliband will have the stomach for the consequences of this policy as vulnerable families find themselves homeless. Social housing is an important part of the housing mix but it is not the answer to the housing needs of ordinary working families.

Boris Johnson is right to focus instead on securing private investment to build new homes for rent in the private sector.”

That seems a point on which most could agree – particularly given the inevitable cuts in government funding for social housing. Of course, Boris is on track to meet his pledge to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes in London by next year. That will be a record amount of new housing in one mayoral term, and all despite the chronic financial conditions of the last few years which led many independent experts to predict that he would be unable to meet the pledge. He should be seriously considering an even more ambitious pledge for his second term.

11
Jun

Boris’ Chief of Staff given knighthood.

Warm congratulations are due to Boris’ new Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff, Eddie Lister, who has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to local government. As I wrote earlier in the week, Lister has a superb record of keeping council tax down while delivering high-quality services. As leader of Wandsworth Council, he combined a four-star Audit Commission rating for excellence with the country’s lowest council tax bills and top resident satisfaction ratings. The knighthood is a recognition of both the council’s success and Lister’s highly distinguished career. It is a real boon for Boris to have a man with such huge and respected experience in local government working alongside him; his is an appointment which will benefit all Londoners.

Of course, the news of the knighthood makes Ken Livingstone’s comments last week – in which he branded Lister “the Ratko Mladic of local government” – seem even more ridiculous, desperate and beneath contempt.

10
Jun

Quote of the day: Prince Philip.

“The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop the tourism, we could stop the congestion.”

(Prince Philip, at the opening of City Hall in 2002. He today celebrates his 90th birthday.)

9
Jun

Quote of the day: Drug suspect, to Boris.

“What the f*** are you doing here?”

(A drug dealer, as Boris burst into the man’s house as part of a police raid.)


8
Jun

London Assembly condemns Ken Livingstone.

I wrote at the weekend about Ken Livingstone branding Boris’ Chief of Staff, Eddie Lister, “the Ratko Mladic of local government”. I suggested that the scale of the comment’s offensiveness and moronity meant that it was more than just yet another case of Ken being rude, and deserved to be highlighted. Nor was it, as some desperate Labour supporters have tried to suggest, a joke. Sure enough, as the excellent MayorWatch reports, the London Assembly today passed a motion condemning Ken’s remarks.

What’s even more interesting than Ken’s embarrassing rebuke is the actual wording of the motion (which I’ve stolen shamelessly from the MayorWatch article):

“That this Assembly notes the answers to the questions asked and welcomes the appointment of Edward Lister to the role of Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor, Planning. This Assembly believes his long and distinguished experience in local government will benefit all of London and calls on all Members of the Assembly to disassociate themselves from the disgusting personal attacks made by a member of the public comparing him to a mass murderer and war criminal.”

As well as disassociating itself from Ken’s ‘disgusting personal attacks’, the motion praises Eddie Lister’s ‘long and distinguished experience in local government’. That’s interesting because the motion was supported by the Lib Dem Assembly Members. Their willingness to give Ken a kicking whilst praising Boris’ Chief of Staff – albeit with some minor caveats – could have reasonable implications, given the second preferences of Lib Dem supporters could swing next year’s mayoral election if it’s a close race.

Anyway, that’s mere conjecture. What is fact is that Ken Livingstone can now add a rebuke from the London Assembly over these comments to the wide criticism he’s received for, amongst other things, working for Iranian state television, befriending Yusuf al-Qaradawi, campaigning for Lutfur Rahman, being best mates with the increasingly megalomaniacal Hugo Chavez, comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard, and calling Barack Obama a mobster for having Osama bin Laden killed. Every time the mask slips and Ken’s extremist views emerge, it becomes that bit harder to imagine him celebrating victory at the mayoral election next spring.

[NOTE: You can watch the questions to Lister, and the debate on the subsequent motion, here.]

5
Jun

Ken’s loose tongue could lose him the mayoral race.

If I wrote a new blog-post every time Ken Livingstone said something offensive or moronic, I’d have no time to do anything else. What’s more, Ken, rather than Boris, would become this blog’s primary focus, which was never the intention. That said, some of the things he says are so offensive or so moronic, that they really deserve to be highlighted. His comments on Eddie Lister, Boris’ Chief of Staff, fit both those categories.

Lister, you might remember, was appointed just recently, after the tragic early death of Sir Simon Milton. He has a proven track record in local government of keeping council tax down while delivering high-quality services. As leader of Wandsworth Council, he combined a four-star Audit Commission rating for excellence with the country’s lowest council tax bills and top resident satisfaction ratings. You get the idea – he’s brilliant at his job, and an excellent person for Boris to have on board at City Hall. He isn’t really the kind of person you’d typically compare to a perpetrator of genocide. Except that’s exactly what Ken Livingstone did earlier in the week.

When discussing the news that Lister’s former council might make a charge for the use of a playground, Ken called Lister “the Ratko Mladic of local government”. Mladic, lest we forget, was recently arrested after 16 years on the run – he is accused of genocide and, specifically, the massacre of at least 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. The comparison is as absurd as it is insensitive. Perhaps we should ask the relatives of those killed if they think the treatment their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers received was akin to being asked to pay a small fee to use a playground?

Anyway, in itself, Ken’s comment is utterly risible, and should really – as with most of the things he says – be ignored. But I wonder if we can draw a broader point from his latest bout of senselessness. I wonder if it is exactly this kind of comment – the insensitivity, the derangement, the coldness, the wild delusion, the out-of-touch views, the arrogant belief that anyone with a differing approach is comparable to a mass murderer, the thoughtless loose tongue – that will ultimately see Ken fail in his bid to regain the mayoralty.

5
Jun

Boris becomes stronger favourite in mayoral race.

Anyone interested in trying to predict the outcome of political events will know to rely far more on betting markets than on the results of opinion polls. As an example, when the AV opinion polls were showing the race to be broadly neck-and-neck, the betting markets were consistently (and, with hindsight, correctly) showing the ‘No’ camp to be favourites. The reason for this is that those responding to opinion polls are essentially saying how they would vote if the election/referendum was today, whereas those making bets on the outcome are making an objective forecast of how things will turn out.

With this in mind, I was pleased to read on the PoliticalBetting.com site that Boris has become an even stronger favourite in the mayoral race over the last couple of months:

Having had, towards the end of March, just a 47% chance of winning next year’s election, Boris now has a 62% chance of victory according to Betfair. Over the same period, Ken has dropped from 40% to 33%. This makes Boris now almost twice as likely as Ken to win next spring.

I actually still think that the contest will be really tight – and that Boris backers shouldn’t have any arrogance whatsoever – but these stats are hugely encouraging, and fly in the face of those Ken supporters who are prone to declaring “OMG, Boris is the worst person ever! Ken has so much support all over London! #GetagripBoris! LOL.” at an increasingly desperate frequency.

Mike Smithson on the Political Betting site reckons that “Ken has far too much history to be a credible candidate. Someone like John Cruddas would have given Boris a run for his money”. Whilst I agree that there were probably stronger candidates than Ken – I think Alan Johnson would have been an inspired choice – I still think Ken is more than capable of winning next year if conditions assist him. I’ve said again and again how unpopular I expect the Tories to be by next spring, meaning Boris will require one of the strongest campaigns in British political history in order to secure victory. Time will reveal all, but the betting markets suggest he’s certainly got a good chance.

1
Jun

Boris’ mailshot marks start of 2012 campaign.

In the most obvious sign yet that the BackBoris2012 campaign is now in full swing, Boris’ team have sent out promotional newspapers to nearly two million London households. The four-page papers are different for each borough (see the one for Barking & Dagenham below) and focus primarily on transport and crime. They cover some of Boris’ biggest achievements during the three years he’s spent in City Hall. It’s a great start to the campaign and will be a huge boon to those Boris backers who have already begun campaigning in earnest.

Ken Livingstone’s team have classily described the newspapers as “Pyongyang-style propaganda sheets”, which prompts two thoughts. Firstly, the newspapers are completely funded by private donations; not so much as a penny of taxpayers’ money has been spent on them. This is in stark contrast to the Londoner newspaper which Ken used for propaganda purposes when mayor yet forced taxpayers to pay £3 million a year for. My second thought is that, if Ken’s team want to make North Korean references in their criticism, Kim Jong-il is probably one of the only barbaric dictators in the world who Ken Livingstone hasn’t yet offered his support to.

[NOTE: The different newspapers for each of the London boroughs can be found here.]