Having had his pledge to cut fares proven to be an unfunded sham, and having admitted that his pledge to enforce a rent cap is entirely unworkable, it seems Ken’s already running out of ideas. His big announcement today was that Boris writes a column for the Telegraph (I may have paraphrased a bit there, but not much). Boris, so Ken says, should not be writing this column, and the fact that he does is clear and obvious evidence, so Ken says, that Boris doesn’t care about London.
Let’s critique this argument. It seems to me that there can be three possible objections. Firstly, that the column is for the nasty Telegraph, which is read by nasty, evil Tories etc. Secondly, that Boris is paid £250,000 a year to write the column. Thirdly, the amount of time that Boris spends writing it.
I’m going to dismiss straightaway the Telegraph objection. Given Ken has proudly written for the Sun (only to subsequently insist he hates News International, when a convenient bandwagon approached) and presented for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iranian state television, I’m going to trust that even he wouldn’t be so hypocritical as to criticise Boris for his choice of media outlet.
So, is Ken’s objection that Boris is a respected journalist and is thus paid lots to write the column? Would Boris’ critics be less bothered if he was paid just £50,000 – or even £8,500 (the amount Ken earnt from his job on Press TV)? Would earning a smaller figure in some way enable him to do his job as mayor better? Clearly not. Any objection at that level is nothing but jealousy dressed up as inverted snobbery.
What’s more, friends of Boris have today confirmed that, unlike Ken ‘tax-avoider’ Livingstone, the current mayor pays income tax on all his earnings. A £250,000 payment for the column means £125,000 straight to the taxpayer.
So perhaps the objection is that Boris writes the column at all? There are a number of responses to that. Firstly, a short article each week would take a seasoned journalist like Boris less than an hour to scribble up. He writes it on his Sunday afternoon off. Even his most ardent critics wouldn’t deny him a few hours of his own time each week.
Secondly, there’s an obvious comparison to be made with Ken’s time as mayor. As we were reminded today, Ken also had a column – for the Independent – when mayor. Furthermore, unlike Boris, who quit his position as MP as soon as he became mayor, Ken doubled up both jobs for over a year in 2000-01. ‘Three-jobs Ken’, he should’ve been known as. Added to that is the amount of time Ken spent out of the country appeasing his socialist chums rather than getting on with his job – remember how he visited Havana more often than he visited Hillingdon during his eight years as mayor? Remember Ken visiting Bexley just once in eight years? Remember those stats back in the autumn which showed Boris had visited almost every borough in London more in three and a half years than Ken did in his eight years? Ken was the part-time mayor, not Boris.
And what of the future? Ken has grandly signed a pledge saying he’d take on no other job other than the mayoralty if he wins in May. Yet already, he’s standing for a position on Labour’s National Executive Committee – a position which, if he’s to perform it properly, would easily take up more time than Boris’s column does.
This latest attack is nothing but Kenpocrisy from someone who’s rapidly running out of ideas.
[UPDATE: I've just been reminded that Ken also wrote a column for the Morning Star. 'Three-jobs Ken' is actually 'Four-jobs Ken'. At one point, he was simultaneously Mayor of London, MP for Brent East, Independent columnist and Morning Star columnist.]