Saturday 15 June 2019

Wielding the hatchet

...led me to find that report (via TV Eyes).

It was on BBC London's early evening local news programme and was by their political editor Tim Donovan.

So was it a biased hatchet job or not?

Well, I'd say it was. But here's a transcript for you to judge: 

Tim Donovan: The mayoralty was never enough, as we found out halfway through his second term. He wanted to leave City Hall and get back to Parliament. But now eyeing a bigger prize was this in his campaign video rather a rosy recall of London life under Boris?

He definitely wanted to be seen as a crime-buster, but total recorded crime was actually 14% not 20% lower at the end of his mayoralty, marked in red here. Homicides did come down, as he said, but all violent crime, having fallen initially, started going up in the middle of his mayoralty, again marked in the red, and kept on rising. Boris Johnson also cut the police numbers by nearly 2000, reluctant to follow Ken Livingstone in raising council tax to pay for more.

His penchant was for big monuments and physical legacies. The hire bikes which may forever be known by his first name were panned initially as a bad deal for the taxpayer. Then there was this vision of the green oasis across the river, £50 million spent on a bridge that never happened. Question still being asked. The cable car across the Thames is making a profit for the operators, while this treasured sculpture in the Olympic Park has now been turned into a slide to pay the bills.

What also slid under a Tory mayor and a Tory Chancellor was state investment in transport. The grant from government went down from 1.9 billion to half a billion in just four years, while Johnson put up fares year after year above inflation. Cycling was his signature policy, bringing in segregated highways and riding out a difficult period when deaths and injuries soared. He pressed the button which officially got Crossrail construction under way. But then there was the new routemaster bus. Stylish, nostalgic but expensive, plagued by mechanical problems, and yes, very hot. And what about when he closed all those station ticket offices?

He did finally help generate a solution to Battersea Power Station, but housing became a genuine crisis in the capital. Investment from a Labour government helped him build 54,000 affordable homes in his first term but in his second that fell to 40,000, as Tory led austerity really started to bite. Together, he and the Chancellor George Osborne shifted the focus and meaning of affordability towards ownership and higher rents. That meant homes for social rent, what we'd always known as council housing, just well, fell through the floor, with record showing only three such homes were started across the whole of London the year he left.

If he ends up at this property [10 Downing Street], he'll have the full machinery of the state behind him, making unlikely a repeat of the judgments and the chaos, really, that saw him lose six top advisers in his first year at City Hall. He often of course seemed to be able to bounce back and on the Olympics lucked out on a perfect stage for his talents. Now we know he is making his record in London a big selling point. Often untroubled by detail, he delegated much to the team around him. He was the Tory who could and did win in Labour leaning London, but did he let down the Remain-leaning capital? Many think it's unlikely he would win here now.


  1. I've been wondering where he's been for the last couple of years. He used to be on the Sunday Politics and I think was the editor. I still remember him for the attack that passed for an interview with the Conservative candidate for Mayor, Zac Goldsmith. No doubt it pleased his masters and served its purpose.

    As for the above transcript, it reads more like a charge sheet than an honest appraisal and even if something positive creeps in, oh well, he got lucky. There are always clues in the language where the bias leaks out - mention of a Tory this and a Tory that would be an example. It sounds awfully like a Labour mantra doesn't it?

    And in the content too, what is left out is often key. Does anyone remember the state of corruption in the finances and at the London Development Agency when he took over? Would that be why he lost six advisers in the first year? Why no mention of the reason why it happened? Suppose that is the reason, wouldn't it be bias - and worse, dishonesty, to ignore that and add it to the charge sheet anyway?
    I am not particularly happy with a lot that went on in London and elsewhere, in housing, population, building and planning but the reckoning should include an honest account.

  2. My beef is not so much with the content of the report as that it exists at all. Both BBC and ITV regional news in London suffer from the "wannabe" factor - both political editors would clearly be happier on national news and probably 25 years ago would have been, but they are now the wrong race and gender.

    But there's no excuse for them to introduce national news (well, opinion really) into what is supposed to be a regional news programme.


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