Confessions of a Political Animal

June 29, 2009

Revolving doors at City Hall: Who’s next?

Ian Clement

Ian Clement

As the dust settles – for now – over the unhappy saga of Mr Ian Clement, Boris Johnson’s erstwhile Deputy Mayor for External Relations, there can be little doubting that the spate of high profile departures in the Mayor’s first fourteen months in office is now adding up to a pattern rather than just a series of unfortunate coincidences.

Plenty has been written elsewhere on what all this says about the Mayor’s style of ‘leadership’ – delegated, detached and slightly deranged would be my summary. But with departures from City Hall now almost as frequent as those from my local railway station (four an hour, since you ask), thoughts must inevitably turn to who goes next. I’m pleased to announce that Honest Animal (bookmakers to the gentry) is able to offer the odds detailed below on what remains of Boris Johnson’s top team not surviving to the 2012 election. And I’d also like to assure readers that this site has not suddenly become Political Betting Mark 2 (the one without the server problems). 

 Richard Barnes Deputy Mayor 10-1

The sole genuine article amongst Boris’ Deputy Mayor’s, Barnes holds the statutory Deputy Mayoral position, whilst also overseeing some of the touchy-feely stuff that would no doubt be frowned upon by some of the more hard nosed members of the administration: social inclusion, equalities, etc. None of this portfolio provides a likely trip-up and Barnes is an experienced politician, probably without too many skeletons from his time in local government. His generous odds reflect the possibility that the real Deputy Mayoralty will be rotated around the Conservative Group by Boris Johnson (I can think of one well-fed Assembly Member who’d love the title) to keep the various factions sweet, especially if Barnes has his eye on retirement in 2012.

Kit Malthouse Deputy Mayor, Policing 4-1

One of the two remaining ‘made-up’ Deputy Mayors, Malthouse has a high-risk portfolio – and if it wasn’t for the fact that Johnson has taken the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and therefore provides a bit of political cover for Malthouse, he’d be even more competitively priced. On the other hand, Johnson’s ability to opportunely disappear when the proverbial hits the air conditioning unit means that Malthouse’s survival can’t be taken for granted. Serious questions ought to have been asked about his involvement in the questionable ‘sacking’ of Ian Blair and questions ought to be asked now about who in City Hall is going to take some corporate responsibility for the G20 policing fiasco. Don’t bank against Malthouse having to walk.

Sir Simon Milton Deputy Mayor, Policy and Planning 150-1

Sir Simon is going nowhere – which is just as well for Boris Johnson, given that by all accounts the man effectively runs City Hall. Having seen off chief rival Tim Parker, Milton has created himself an unrivaled position of power and influence, principally through holding the almost unique (for this administration) quality of competence. By rights, Sir Simon ought to be a risky category – leading Westminster Council in the post-Shirley Porter era, many feel he is implicated in the half-hearted nature of the council’s attempts to recover the surcharge that the Dame owed the borough’s tax-payers. But nothing ever seems to quite stick – even Ken Livingstone once described him as ‘the acceptable face of Conservatism’. Nor does it seem likely that Sir Simon would give up his new-found power for the possibility of being a junior minister in a Cameron administration. Expect Sir Simon to remain at City Hall until 2012, drawing his £127k per annum – and beyond if Boris is re-elected.

Richard Blakeway Director of Housing  15-1

Given the perilous state of Johnson’s housing targets, will his Director have to take the rap? The economic situation provides some cover, but with housing targets still not agreed with many boroughs and embarrassing statistics for housing completions likely to dog the administration for some time to come, Blakeway – as a key architect of Johnson’s housing policies – may be given the opportunity to slip quietly away. Notably, he has been a special adviser to Conservative shadow ministers – would the same job in a non-shadow capacity be tempting?

Anthony Browne Policy Director 30-1

There was plenty of furore over the appointment of ex-Policy Exchange Director Browne, particularly given his outspoken comments on immigration and multi-culturalism (apparently, the left holds London in esteem because ‘there is so little British left about it’). It’s all gone very, almost suspiciously quiet since then – but then that is perhaps to be expected from the Policy Director of an administration so lacking in policy direction. We can’t rule out a Browne polemic in the style of the late lamented James McGrath leading to an exchange of resignation letters with the Mayor, or more likely perhaps would be a walk-out when Boris refuses to fully endorse the Gilligan/Policy Exchange prescription for the capital – the Policy Exchange loons are certainly losing ground to the Simon Milton-led borough based operatives. One thing we can be sure, is that he won’t be heading off in response to a call to higher office from Mr Cameron. Dave ain’t that stupid.

Pamela Chesters Mayoral Advisor on Health and Youth 45-1

Who? Chesters is a pretty low-profile appointment – the Mayor has no real powers over health and the youth portfolio is in most respects covered by James Cleverly, the Bexley & Bromley Assembly Member who replaced Ray Lewis. Chesters will probably trundle along anonymously enough through the life of this administration, although as a former senior health professional, it would hardly be a surprise if she was tempted by a job with some real powers over health?

Isabel Dedring Director of Environment 15-1

Dedring was a surprise appointment as Director of Environment, although Boris took long enough to get round to appointing someone to the post. Dedring is a respected ex-TfL Policy Unit Director who had significant input into the last administration’s environment policy. Gilligan, needless to say, blew a nut at her appointment. Dedring’s team has been whittled down in the latest round of budget cuts, and there may be a point when the tokenism that dominates Johnson’s environment policy may begin to drag for this highly employable ex-Harvard and Mckinsey lawyer.

Guto Hari Director of Communications 20-1

Is there anything in the BBC expenses revelations that could cause an embarrassment for this ex-political correspondent? Probably not, but being a spin doctor there is always a danger that, Campbell style, you become the story. It’s interesting to note from Hari’s register of gifts that he is keeping in touch with his ex-employers at Fleishman-Hillard through lunches and champagne. How committed is he to the Mayor – and will he walk if the walking disaster area image of Boris were to magnify? Could a similarly well-paid berth at Cameron’s Downing Street beckon?

Munira Mirza Director of Policy for the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries 40-1

Much of what was said about Browne applies equally to Mirza. As a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Mirza is probably even less employable by a Tory government. Nor does the rather half-bakedStory of London festival, one of Mirza’s brainchildren, suggest that she is any great shakes in her current role. Likely to hang on, unless Boris thinks he needs a bit of celebrity star-dust in this role.

Kulveer Ranger Director of Transport Policy 5-1

Kulveer ‘I invented the Oyster Card’ Ranger’s abilities have been called into question on many occasions, with blushes over his lack of transport experience only being saved because Johnson is even worse. As he has no hands-on responsibility for transport operation, he is safe from the sack for any faux-pas in this respect, but he isn’t safe from being sidelined by the competent and confident Peter Hendy at TfL. Ranger was formerly a member of Cameron’s A-list of potential candidates. If he continues to be frustrated at City Hall, the call of one of the many safe Tory seats newly on the market may be too much to resist.

Boris Johnson Mayor of London 150-1

Well, who knows? Boris is in no danger right now, but if things were to escalate further in respect to Clement, or another senior aide goes under a cloud, things could change quite quickly. There are real and serious questions to be answered by the Mayor about the signing off of Clement’s credit card receipts whilst being in the full knowledge of his previous rule breaches. And the taxi billstuff only removes more of the lustre. A blustering attempt at a cover up when he is called in front of the Assembly’s Business Management Committee over Clement would be badly damaging – and questions might, just might, start to be asked at CCHQ over whether the Johnson effect is still a positive for them in the capital. If he plays his cards right, Johnson is safe to 2012 and possibly beyond – so I’m keeping my money in my pocket for now. What you do with yours is your own concern.

More prices may follow…

Terms and Conditions: In the event of another scandal involving credit cards, mistresses and Americano, these odds may shorten without notice. Wagers should be sent (cash only) to left luggage locker 247A at Victoria station.

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1 Comment »

  1. Not strictly speaking ‘City Hall’ but you’ve missed the most likely departure: Boris’s man on LFEPA. Odds 3-1

    Comment by AdamB — June 29, 2009 @ 4:52 pm | Reply


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