The election results show the capital has distinctive needs - and we need someone new to deliver them
Boris Johnson’s election to parliament last week may have gone relatively unnoticed on a night of wider, and much greater political shocks. However its significance is not lost on the London that Boris was elected to serve.
His appointment to David Cameron’s political cabinet will only reinforce the distancing of his attention from London that many, including some at City Hall, had begun to notice.
Boris is very adept at achieving publicity, which ultimately serves his own ambitions, but this prioritisation has clashed before with the drive and attention needed to advance a complex, global city such as London.
As a result the capital has been treading water for too long on many key issues. Whether cleaning up London’s toxic air, dealing with the housing crisis or investing in the bus network, there are many bread and butter issues which the mayor has already begun to neglect.
A good example was his flustered dismissal of a question at Mayor’s Question Time: when was the target of new, affordable homes so desperately needed in London going to be met? His response of “Well I don’t know. Whenever we’ve done them” was as troubling as his eventual inability to meet this key election pledge on time.
Not having the time to engage with these sorts of details can directly affect the lives of Londoners and the city as a whole. This cannot simply be dismissed as the mere collateral damage of one individual’s personal ambitions.
In the recent past it has been Boris’ ambitions and his campaign for the General Election which have distracted from his mayoral duties, and now we risk his focus quickly moving to the internal machinations of government. What is clear is that Boris’ attention, and commitment, to City Hall and the office of the Mayoralty is not up to standard.
London produced a significantly different outcome to the wider UK picture in that the Conservatives only secured support from a third of Londoners. So it’s clear that what London needs is a mayor who will fight for the capital and its distinctive interests.
It is now very unlikely that Londoners will get the representation they deserve from Boris. His focus could instead very easily drift again to his own personal ambitions; most obviously by spending time rallying support and favour for his post-London future.
Meanwhile however, increasing swathes of his vital mayoral duties are being passed down to others. Couple this with the fact that Boris’ first working day post-election saw him strolling into City Hall gone 2pm seems to suggest that a worrying apathy is rapidly setting in.
City Hall now appears set for a year of neglect and drift while a part-time mayor pursues other political ambitions. These ambitions, coupled with the limited focus Boris will now be able to give the Mayoralty, mean that Londoners and the issues that are important to them will become one of the first casualties of this General Election.
Len Duvall is the leader of the Labour group on the London Assembly. Follow him on Twitter
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