Confessions of a Political Animal

July 3, 2009

New Standard – same old news values

Printed in Southwark: not all that interested in reporting on it

Printed in Southwark: not all that interested in reporting on it

I am Political Animal, and I am a secret purchaser of the Evening Standard.

Well, just once in fact, so perhaps I don’t need to head for Standardholics Anonymous just yet. But yesterday, the sun was shining, there was 50p burning a hole in my pocket and my train home was 5 minutes late. So I gave in to temptation. But, honestly folks, I had a motive. I wanted to check a hunch I had. Bear with me.

I’ve written before about the running fiasco that is the Elephant & Castle regeneration project. This is probably the biggest such project in Europe and affects the homes and businesses of thousands of people in one of the most deprived areas of inner London. It includes thousands of new homes, businesses and transport facilities. Well, on Wednesday the newswires(alright, Google News Alerts, but that makes me sound so much less important) alerted me to the latest depressing development – or rather, non-development – in the saga. With the project already around seven years behind the original timescale, the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition at Southwark Council have failed to meet their self-imposed deadline of 1st July to reach a deal to progress the project. This follows two years of exclusive negotiations with struggling Australian property giant Lend Lease (also responsible for the Olympic Village) – the exclusivity deal expired on Wednesday. Where this leaves the project is anyone’s guess – in these difficult financial times it is entirely possible that Lend Lease will refuse the meet Southwark’s demands on affordable homes, small business premises and green space protection and simply walk away, leading to years more of delays. The thousand households in the soon-to-be-demolished Heygate Estate are effectively in limbo: no-one knows when their replacement homes will be built and the council is years behind targets in building the temporary ‘decant’ homes. (more…)

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).  (more…)

June 15, 2009

And they say irony is dead…

Filed under: London Politics,Media — Political Animal @ 2:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Felt I had to post briefly to record a sight that really brightened up my lunchtime and made me wish I had a camera with me.

An advert for Iranian-sponsored Press TV, with the tagline ‘Giving a voice to the voiceless’, sporting the faces of George Galloway, Yvonne Ridley, Tariq Ramadan…and Andrew Gilligan. Interesting company for a neo-con. And the irony? Well, it was on the side of a number 12 bendy-bus! (I realise this will mean nothing to those unfamiliar with Gilligan’s oeuvre).

And if that wasn’t enough, Gilligan’s face was partially obscured by the word ‘Truth’.

They say irony died when Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m going to demand a second opinion on the status of the corpse.

May 1, 2009

Revealed: £2.75m down the River

boris-johnson-11“One thing we cannot do is spend tens of millions keeping projects alive, for political reasons, when there is simply no government funding to deliver them. The truth is that we don’t have to cash to do everything we would like, and it is better to be honest than continue to play upon false hopes.”

Boris Johnson, “Way to Go“, November 2008

So said the Mayor last year, as a justification for removing any ambition from Transport for London’s infrastructure investment programme. Johnson’s implied criticism of the previous mayoral administration was that it had spent money developing and promoting transport projects that were unlikely to ever come to fruition. The weakness of the argument is palpable: it was investment in the development and promotion of schemes such as Crossrail and the East London Line Extension that paved the way for funding eventually emerging from central government.

However, a few schemes escaped the Johnson Axe, including stage 1 of the Greenwich Waterfront Transit, a partially-segregated bus route linking the Jubilee Line station at North Greenwich with Woolwich and Thamesmead. The principle aim of the route was to improve bus services to Thamesmead, a heavily deprived area on the borders of Greenwich and Bexley with woeful public transport links. Given the opprobium heaped on the Transit scheme by Boris-friendly commentators, in particular Andrew Gilligan, its survival in November was very surprising: all the more so as its proposed future extensions across the river had been rendered impossible through Johnson’s scrapping of the Thames Gateway Bridge. (more…)

March 6, 2009

Sugar, and spice, and all things nice…

alansugar…that’s what an Evening Standard non-story is made of.

There’s a series of books doing the rounds with the generic title ‘I Never Knew That About [London/ England/ Scotland/ Ireland/ Wales etc]’. I’m hoping to find out who the series’ commissioning editor is and that I can convince them to issue a new one. It’ll be entitled ‘I Never Knew That About the Labour Party’ and will, I hope, by compiled by pro-Tory, right-wing populist journalist (and therefore expert on all things Labour) Andrew Gilligan.

Because this week, Mr Gilligan has taught me something I never knew about my own party. It’s an amazing fact; it will shock you to your very core and is definitely worthy of being the centrepiece of a major comment piece such as this one, or this one. Are you ready for this? Some people in the Labour Party don’t like Ken Livingstone very much and don’t want him to be the Mayoral candidate in 2012.

OK, and irony switched to ‘off’. (more…)

January 21, 2009

Cheap by any Standard

Filed under: London Politics,Media — Political Animal @ 11:39 am
Tags: , , ,

standardSo…it’s official. The Evening Standard, that fine forward-looking, even-handed, well-written voice of London (I’m told it is all those things – I won’t have it in the house myself) is worth…a little over £1.33*. Just for the avoidance of any doubt, that’s for the whole paper, not for a copy. That remains at 50p.

The Animal always fancied himself as a newspaper proprietor, so had he known what the asking price was, he’d have been happy to enter into a bidding war with Mr Lebedev and gone all the way to £1.50 to take the whole caboodle off Associated Newspaper’s hands. Hell, I’d even promise to keep on Andrew Gilligan. Probably as some kind of gardening correspondent.

So what should Londoners expect from their new KGB nouveau riche owned Standard? Whilst few will shed many tears at the departure of Veronica Wadley, I’d be surprised if there is much of a change of course. The paper has nailed its trousers firmly to the mast of pro-Boris, London-is-crap, move-to-the-home-counties-as-quick-as-you-can mantra. And when you’ve nailed your trousers to the mast, climbing down becomes a little embarrassing.

*: Showing working for extra marks: Lebedev has brought 75.1% of the shares for £1.

Update: (more…)

December 19, 2008

Bending the facts, not the buses

new-routemasterSo, the day we have all been holding our collective breaths for arrives – at last, and after so many delays, the Mayor has revealed unto us grateful Londoners the design of bus that will might could probably won’t be gracing our streets sometime around the middle of the next decade.

A quick flick through the entries submitted for the design competition here reveals firstly that – surprise, surprise – all the entries appear remarkably similar looking: could that have anything to do with it being made patently clear that what was wanted was a Routemaster pastiche rather than an innovative new design (despite the fact that the latter would be more in keeping with the Routemaster tradition than simply ripping off an existing model)? Apparently the ‘quality’ of entries was such that they couldn’t decide on a single winner, so the first prize was split between this stunningly ugly Aston Martin/Lord Foster design and this rather traditional design from Capoco.

Hang on a moment though – doesn’t the Capoco design look rather familiar? Could it have any links to the design floated by the self-same design company through Autocar magazine in December 2007 as part of the ‘Routemasters are great, bendy buses are evil’ disinformation campaign (more…)

November 20, 2008

Now that’s what I call an obssession

griffinWhat was your reaction when you heard that the BNP’s membership list had been published on the internet?

a) A sudden desire to see whether any fascists lived on your road? b) A certain gleefulness that such a vile party had come a cropper in this way? c) A little salivation at the prospect of BNP members losing their jobs? d) A mild concern over the data protection issues involved? e) Or maybe you thought ‘Aha, here’s a chance to have a bash at someone who used to be Mayor of London’?

If your answered mainly ‘e’, then you are Andrew Gilligan, and I claim my £5. The Animal’s favourite scribe has dedicated his Evening Standard column to pushing the centre-right’s usual line regarding the hard right: “oh look, aren’t they small and insignificant, if we generally downplay them and pander a bit to the prejudices of their supporters, they’ll go away.”

Gilligan headlines his article “Now we know what little threat the BNP poses” and bases his assumptions on the fact that the membership list shows a relatively small number of members in London generally, with unsurprisingly, very low numbers in the inner boroughs. But surely this was news to no-one – it was always assumed that the party’s membership was somewhere in the vicinity (more…)

October 30, 2008

Is this the most ridiculous Boris quote of all time?

Westfield. It'll save the world. Boris says so.

Westfield. It'll save the world. Boris says so.

Move over cyclist-squashing bendy buses, culturally-derivative Chinese, inverted pyramids of piffle and tribal warriors with watermelon smiles. For Boris Johnson has managed, to my mind at least, to top practically every previous statement for sheer jaw-dropping bonkersness. As reported by today’s Evening Standard in relation to the Mayor’s visit to a new shopping emporium somewhere out Shepherd’s Bush way, Mr Johnson has deigned to provide us with the following words of economic wisdom:

“If anything can persuade the British public not to worry too much but to spend, it will be the Westfield shopping centre.”

You have to admit, it is more coherent than anything that the Tory’s real economic spokespeople have yet to utter. Time after time, the economic textbooks have told us that what dries up consumer spending is not a fear of unemployment or home repossession; not the drying up of consumer credit (more…)

October 21, 2008

Questioning Boris: some highlights (& lowlights)

Tory Troll has alerted me to the fact that the written answers from the Mayor’s most recent Question Time session (which we previewed here) are now available for public consumption, although as yet only in the rather clunky pdf format [post now updated with direct links]. Forgive me therefore if I can’t yet provide direct links to the questions and answers discussed below – we’ll have to wait for the ‘Mayor answers to London’ section of the website to be update for that.

Most of the Mayor’s responses are the normal carefully phrased promises to do everything and nothing that we have come to expect, or indeed constitute blatant attempts to answer a different question to that which was asked. A few responses caught my attention, however.

In question 2195/2008, Labour’s Val Shawcross asked for a list of the stakeholders consulted regarding the Mayor’s proposals to allow motorcycles into bus lanes. Johnson’s answer:

The following stakeholders will be consulted with regards to the use of Motorcycles in bus lanes:

  • All of the Boroughs with bus lanes on the TfL road network, together with the emergency services
  • The Freight Transport Association
  • The Road Haulage Association
  • The Post Office (more…)
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