A disappointingly under-briefed Andrew Marr interviewed Boris this morning on his BBC One show, overlooking the Income Support claimants’ bus fare-doubling, the reneging on various campaign promises, and many other controversies.
However, he did raise with him the near-half-million pounds spent on his transition team of ‘consultants’. This money is raining down on the people that helped get Boris elected, without any information at all being made public about what any of them are doing to deserve it. The amount involved has already been revised £40,000 upwards from a figure which an official report to the Assembly said it was "not expected to exceed", currently standing at £465,000.
The point here, aside from the complete lack of the much-promised transparency, is that the people ‘earning’ this money are only employed for between one and six months each. I believe some have already finished their time at City Hall, only one month in. Certainly anyone who hasn’t already finished will be gone well before Christmas.
There is therefore an important question of value for money hanging over this expenditure, and Andrew Marr attempted to raise this.
Boris’s response was extraordinary: he seemed completely unaware of what he was being asked:
I don’t think we’ve spent half a million so far: I think that may be the total of their annual salaries, something like that… I’m not sure that we’ve spent half a million so far… I mean, I’ll have to go and check that… doubtless your researchers have… I mean, we’ve only been in for a month!
Unfortunately, Andrew Marr clearly didn’t know the details of this point himself, so was unable to press him further on it, but it seems extraordinary that Boris doesn’t even seem to be aware as to which half a million the claim could have been referring!
I’m sure some of the "Boris is a genius" brigade would say it’s possible he was attempting to get past the question by pretending to have no knowledge of the controversy, but this would be a risky strategy as he couldn’t have known whether Marr would then be able to pull out quotes from the Evening Standard blog that uncovered the amount, thus escalating the story live on national TV into one in which not only had he paid out £½m in an opaque way, but also he didn’t even seem to know he had done so.
So the only conclusion one can draw is that he genuinely isn’t aware of what’s being paid out in his name to a group of unelected, unaccountable advisers, at least most of whom have never been demonstrated to have contributed any work worthy of public funds whatsoever.
No wonder his administration isn’t being transparent with the public: they’re not even being transparent with the supposed boss.
One more quick observation from elsewhere in the interview.
It’s clear Boris has had to have extensive training in conducting himself sensibly during interviews, sticking to pre-arranged scripts and so forth. Unfortunately I think he may have become a bit confused by part of his training session about dealing with bendy-buses, to the point where he is now repeating back the entire piece of advice he was given, rather than simply taking heed of it.
In discussion with Andrew Marr about buses this morning, and I think with Riz Latif the other day too, he came out with:
The plan is to phase out the bendy bus – or the ‘artic’, as you can call it if you want to sound more professional.
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