It beggars belief that at a time of high unemployment, crippling transport fares and a chronic housing shortage across the capital and beyond, that the Mayor of London can find time to write a new book about wartime hero Winston Churchill.
As reported in today’s Guardian, Boris Johnson has been commissioned by Hodder & Stoughton (with whom I had some fun contact recently regarding `A Street Cat Named Bob’). I’m not surprised at Hodder’s plan. Boris is a hugely popular figure – even among some traditional Labour supporters. His natural charm, wit and personality contrasts sharply with the majority of robotic, beige politicians who are now all-to-common in Westminster.
I admit that Boris has put a smile on my face on more occasions than I care to remember. But for those of us who are keen political observers, we see another side. An obsession with easy press photo opportunities that could be considered at the expense of answering tricky questions at regular press conferences – the total opposite to Red Ken who made himself available to journalists on a weekly basis, even if they weren’t interested.
And despite Boris’ raw intelligence such as his love of Classics, this hasn’t filtered down to having an effective vision for London.
Boris has dreamed up a patchwork of mini ideas for London, from a bit of blue paint in the gutter to improve cycle safety, to a `lesser spotted’ new Routemaster bus that hardly any Londoners will see, let alone ever use.
Where’s the practical joined up vision of how to solve London’s chronic transport problems? He has wasted millions on a half-empty cable car scheme crossing the River Thames. I’ve been on it a few times. With so few people using it, it’s like having a personal tourist transporter, but `strategic’ it is NOT. You have to walk through a windswept car park from North Greenwich tube station to get to it. It does not feel very `joined up’.
The new Routemaster bus looks good, but has a huge price tag compared to off-the-shelf or bendy buses. The bus companies in London have refused to purchase them, so now Londoners will have to fork out to extend his vanity project. Currently only one bus route has them. Another will follow soon for the nice people of Hamsptead, but again, it’ll have little impact on most Londoners.
Philandering: Zip up or slip up?
After a recent Appeal Court ruling that the public have a right to know about Boris Johnson’s lovechild, some commentators expressed outrage insisting this episode shows how unfit he is for high office.
I’m not shocked or surprised that a senior politician has been shaking it about. History is littered with such infidelity. Maybe, and this is not an excuse, but maybe the stress of the job leads to a higher rate of extra marital affairs. These people are highly driven, so that’ll also filter down to the bedroom (or cupboard in Clinton’s case). But those who say this is a red line issue and that Boris has crossed that line miss the point. We don’t live in Iran. We don’t look up to religious leaders to guide us. We elect politicians who have the best solutions to the current issues affecting us. And that’s where Boris has largely failed.
Legacy or legover?
When I hear others criticising Boris over his alleged affair/s, I think there are more valid reasons for criticism. From my home in outer south London, there’s no tram or tube extensions, there’s no cycle super highway, there’s no cycle hire scheme to take advantage of for short journeys, there’s not even plans for the Boris bus.
On his visit to Croydon last year to address business leaders at the Fairfield Halls in the wake of the riots, he kept them waiting hours after wrongly getting the train from London Bridge to East Dulwich, instead of East Croydon. This doesn’t reflect well on the Mayor’s knowledge of the Greater London which he is suppose to represent. London goes north of Islington and south of Clapham and Dulwich. Ignore that at your peril.
So my question to Boris would be: how can you afford the time to run one of the largest cities in the world with its host of transport/pollution/housing/employment problems, keep your Sunday Telegraph column that pays a `chickenfeed’ of reportedly £250k a year and now embark on authoring a major historical book about Winston Churchill?
It’s all about the detail Boris, and there’s only 24 hours in a day.
Focus less on photocalls, novels and philandering and you might have time to `get’ the details of the job in hand. That way, Boris Johnson is more likely to achieve a lasting legacy, rather than being remembered merely for an embarrassing leg over.
- Five things in more need of Boris Johnson’s attention than Churchill | Adam Bienkov (guardian.co.uk)
- Boris Johnson to write book about Winston Churchill (telegraph.co.uk)
- Has Boris got the Churchill Factor? London Mayor to write a book on wartime PM to show how ‘one man can make a difference’ (dailymail.co.uk)