Confessions of a Political Animal

November 27, 2008

A Western Democracy?

cc-signIt probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that Boris Johnson has today announced that he will be scrapping the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge. We noted before that there had been straws in the wind in the opposite direction and that Johnson had been modifying his language and moving towards the ‘third option’ of the modification of the charge – and indeed even as late as yesterday the Evening Standard, normally a good barometer of the mayoral climate, was bigging up the compromise option. But despite this, and blue Boris trying to present himself as green Boris as recently as Tuesday, the candidate’s hyperbole over the western extension had simply been too great for any kind of credible u-turn to be executed with any kind of credibility.

The Animal’s previous posts on this subject have pointed out that Johnson had been trying to play the great democrat on this issue, whilst sticking to a very limited definition of democracy. We quoted Johnson previously as having said

“The previous Mayor made the decision to introduce the western extension in the face of overwhelming opposition. Unlike my predecessor, I am going into this with an open mind and this will be a genuine consultation. It is high time that politicians listened to the people whom they represent and I am proud to keep the pledge made during my election (more…)

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September 19, 2008

Boris and the Wild West – the epic continues

I wondered a couple of weeks ago whether Boris Johnson would be prepared to accept that consultations, such as that on the Western Congestion Charge Extension are not the same thing as a referendum, or that they are unable to provide a particularly accurate representation of public opinion, despite his pre-election rhetoric to the contrary.

Well we might have an answer – and it’s…sort of. 

At last week’s Mayor’s Question Time, Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Caroline Pidgeon asked a written question on this issue:

In your Answer on the consultation process on the future of the Western extension of the Congestion Charging scheme [1227/2008 and others] you speak of “a wider representative survey” of opinion. Exactly what is planned for this survey? Which Londoners will you be listening to, and what weight will you give to residents within the Western extension as against those from outside that area?

Astoundingly, we did get some new information and a glimpse of realpolitik in Boris’ answer:

Since consultations can elicit views only from those with strong opinions, it is important to understand how representative these views are of the wider population. Therefore, TfL has commissioned a survey of 2,000 Londoners and 1,000 businesses alongside the public consultation. This is designed to complement and inform the outcome of the (more…)

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