Much as we like it when Boris finally gets things right (surely that’s got to be the world’s longest U-turn, makes the average supertanker look like an Escort doing doughnuts in a B&Q car park), we owe it to our public to investigate why he got things wrong in the first place. In the case of the got-up storm over the perfectly sensible, pro-business policy of opening bureaux in foreign cities to promote London, I have a horrible feeling a few old friends will bubble to the surface when we try and establish where Boris’s original line came from. Let’s check out a few candidates:
Andrew Gilligan, 17/04/2008:
‘London does not need overseas embassies in such key world capitals as Havana and Caracas.’
Anonymous Evening Standard smear artist (very Gilliganesque), 30/4/2008:
‘Ken’s foreign “embassies”, in Brussels, Shanghai, Mumbai and Caracas, will cost close to £1 million in the current financial year.’
Coun. Eric Ollerenshaw, 23/3/2007:
Eric Ollerenshaw, a member of the LDA’s governing board and Conservative councillor for Hackney, said:
“Given that Ken already has embassies in Brussels, Moscow, Beijing and Mumbai, I assume space is his final frontier. I really do not see this as a role for the development agency to get involved in.”
Former Tory AM Angie Bray, 24/2/2007:
“He wasn’t elected to have a foreign policy. He has very specific areas of responsibility.”
Nick Cohen, 20/1/2008:
“His city state sent lavish diplomatic missions to Brussels, China and India”
So, the usual collection of bitter journalists and tightfisted Tories. On the other hand, London’s business groups will be delighted:
LCCI, submission to Boris’s review, 2008:
Closing the offices in India and China as part of a cost-cutting exercise would be short-sighted and send entirely the wrong signals to potential investors and importers in two of London’s most important potential markets. The GLA may save £1 million, but it is London firms that may ultimately end up paying a much higher price. If the Mayor is not out there promoting London, someone else will be promoting New York, Paris, or Sydney instead.
LCCI are on a hat-trick here. They opposed the WEZ (check), supported the overseas London Offices (check). The next thing on their to-do list? The Heathrow Third Runway. Surely Boris won’t listen to them on that one?
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