Emma Jacobs in the FT:

“Boris Johnson may be well-versed in Latin – he dropped a bit of Virgil’s Aeneid into his first mayor’s Question Time. He may be well-versed in Shakespeare – he cited Romeo and Juliet to the Commons home affairs select committee. “We need to deglamorise knife crime,” he said. “This is not the death of Mercutio taking place on the streets of London.” But, from his interview this week with the FT, the mayor’s knowledge of science seems lacking. “London is meant to be the Petri dish into which Tory central office is introducing the bacillus of their policies,” he said. Likening your party’s policies to bacteria is an odd strategy. After all, one type of bacillus causes anthrax. Perhaps he meant “friendly bacteria” like the ones on the telly? It’s a timely reminder in the week that the CBI spoke of the need to strengthen science teaching that even those with a first-class education may need to do more than read the back of a Yakult bottle to learn their Petri dishes from their penicillin.”

Incidentally, tonight, for anyone who misses Boris’s diversions into entertainment, the man himself will be scrutinising his past as the focus of an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

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15 Responses to Moments Of Calm

  1. The original FT interview with Bob Sherwood (on line at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7a434252-678f-11dd-8d3b-0000779fd18c,s01=1.html?nclick_check=1) is otherwise notable.

    The two participants are identified throughout as “BS” and “BJ”. I trust the sub-editor kept his job.

    I also liked the bit from “BJ” about:
    “being in government. You kind of feel it is sometimes like ladling water with a sieve, it is exhausting. It is Sisyphean pushing a pebble uphill with your nose. Actually I don’t think he pushed it with his nose, did he? He pushed a rock. Getting things done in a big bureaucracy can be quite draining.”

    I believe it’s a process called “communication”.

  2. BenSix says:

    Hehe, very good.

  3. Tom says:

    “Getting things done in a big bureaucracy can be quite draining”

    Diddums. Bit of evidence there for the ‘bright-enough-but-can’t-hack-the-hard-work’ school of Boris-watchers.

  4. And of course the irony is that the London Mayoralty is about the least bureaucratic branch of government there is in the UK.

    Which is not to say there is no bureaucracy, but it’s pretty hard to reconcile complaints of this nature this early in his tenure as an all-powerful executive Mayor with those much-vaunted ambitions to move on to bigger and more bureaucratic things in Downing Street one day.

  5. Tom says:

    It is indeed, you can basically appoint who you want, do what you want and have no powerful permanent Civil Service to worry about. Boris has, of course, added to the bureaucratic component by his policy towards the boroughs, but that’s such a key part of his manifesto that he’s an idiot to complain about the burden it brings.

  6. prj45 says:

    I’m always mindful of a Boris musing he made a fair while about an out of service escalator at Hampstead tube.

    “I mean, surely all it would take to fix it is a screwdriver”.

  7. Helen says:

    “He told me he was a service engineer and I trusted him, I never thought to check his qualifications!”

  8. Tom says:

    One of his many 1950s throwbacks is a bottomless faith in technology tempered with a severe lack of knowledge of how it works. Tube cooling was another such example – that the ‘boffins’ had already gone through it thoroughly and come up with some workable solutions was irrelevant – there was no magic bullet solution he could understand, therefore he needed to go back to the ‘boffins’. I expect much the same with the Routemaster, when he sees the bill.

    In fact, anyone using the word ‘boffin’ should raise alarms – my sister’s A-level English teacher once referred to me as ‘that boffin’. He started off as a Latin teacher…

  9. Proof the ability to drop classical citations into everyday conversation doesn’t necessarily mean you’re intelligent.

  10. Guano says:

    … and if the “boffins” don’t come up with a solution it’s because they are being obstructed by some politically-correct North Korean health and safety conspiracy!

    I look forward to seeing the entries to the BorisBus competition. The main design criterion, if I understand it right, is that there is a rear open platform. I think that means that it will be difficult to have the engine at the back as well (unless someone comes up with a way of putting the engine under the stairs). However just about every double-deck bus in the world now has the engine at the back: that means that it will have to be some completely new design if the engine is going to be at the front. It will also be a bit tricky to transmit the power from the engine at the front to the rear wheels if the floor of the lower deck has to be low height. I’m far from conviinced that an economical and sustainable solution to these conundrums can be developed in three years.

  11. Tom says:

    This has all been pointed out already, and has apparently been swept aside with the view that ‘good old-fashioned British know-how’ will prevail.

    You could turn the design round and have the engine at the front driving the front wheels under a raised section, but I’m sure there’s a decent reason why buses are rear-axle driven. Must find out.

  12. Guano says:

    Maybe good old-fashioned British know-how will prevail (if it isn’t sabotaged by Stalinist health and safety goons)! Maybe the engine could be under the stairs or the engine could drive the front wheels, who knows?. But the real Routemaster was under development for 10 years and the prototypes were road-tested for three years, and its general shape was similar to previous buses, which is why it lasted more than 40 years in front-line service (and why it was the only rear-platformed bus running in the 21st century). The BorisBus involves some stiff criteria which will probably have lots of implicatiosn for the design of the chassis and the body, and this cannot be tested in less than three years.

    I don’t know whether Boris has difficulty in understanding this sort of thing or only pretends to have difficulty, but the general acceptance of this “I’ll ask the boffins” mentality isn’t very encouraging.

  13. BenSix says:

    “Proof the ability to drop classical citations into everyday conversation doesn’t necessarily mean you’re intelligent.”

    What was it that Aristotle said about that…

  14. Tom says:

    “What was it that Aristotle said about that”

    ‘Vote Ken’, wasn’t it?

    “But the real Routemaster was under development for 10 years”

    The reason it lasted so long was because in those days you could take huge quantities of public time and money to do something radical (the shape was the least radical thing about it, in many ways). What kept them going was the very un-Thatcherite way they were maintained in top condition, including almost complete rebuilds at regular intervals.

    So if he really wants to replicate that sort of thing it’s going to cost a lot of money, which brings him smack bang up against what he’s apparently told Parker to do at TfL, which is reduce costs. It’s possible he’s reducing costs to pay for Routemasters and similar, but there’s so little in his transport policy that costs any money he could just be doing what I think he’s doing and freeing up the budget for GLA functions to be transferred to TfL’s budget, thus allowing the precept to be reduced.

  15. […] and one would have assumed that ample time would be allocated to discussion of events in the “petri dish“. It’s not as if there haven’t been events worth talking […]

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