I watched Boris Johnson on the Andrew Marr show this morning. I picked up four policy areas.
Firstly, take away Oystercards from rowdy youth on buses and have more staff on buses. Taking away Oyster cards from people who abuse them was supposed to be part of the package when the free youth Oystercards were introduced; so this is a matter of enforcing existing policy, not a new idea. Boris wasn’t clear about what kind of behaviour would lead to a losing your card. Violence, vandalism, threats: yes of course. But if he’s talking about removing Oystercards from young people for playing music or calling out to their mates, then that’s over the top. Confining young people to their home area will do nothing to overcome the turf wars that allegedly underlie some of the current wave of youth violence. More staff on buses? yes please! But Boris hasn’t said how he’ll pay for it.
On cycling, Boris talked about having a bike hire scheme, as in Paris, and more action on bike theft. The current Mayor has announced a similar pledge. Both are copying the successful Paris scheme. However, the association of London Councils – led by Boris’ fellow Conservatives – has already criticised this scheme for lack of consultation. It would be better agreed with the boroughs – who control 90% of London’s roads – rather than dumped on them. Boris’ website still has a ‘later this month’ message on his work with the boroughs.
Thirdly, Boris talked about getting more accurate information on crime through better crime mapping. Sounds impressive, but what does it mean in practice: more bureaucracy, more statistics, not anything that would make a difference on the ground. We already have crime stats coming out of our ears. What we need is more action on the ground to reduce crime and the fear of crime.
Finally, Boris said he would take the Chair of the MPA as Mayor. That’s a good idea, which is why Brian Paddick has already proposed it.
Boris dodged questions on whether he would have a race advisor and if he would seek Ian Blair’s departure; and gave a fairly brush-off apology for his crude remarks on race in the past. I can understand that he doesn’t want to linger on that point, but he’s on the record and it won’t go away.
So overall, it was disappointing. No original ideas, and no big vision. As a Lib Dem I was never going to give Boris my first preference. But at this rate he’s is unlikely to get my second choice either.