Boring Boris, was my prediction at the Pro London debate earlier in the year, and Boring Boris is what’s getting some of the froth-prone contingent on the right of sensible wing of the Conservative Party worked up recently. Take this from ConservativeHome owner Stephan Shakespeare (no, really, please take it, I don’t want it):
There’s no notable achievement, no sense that anything important will change, no grip. Real problems are not solved – in fact, there’s not even a discernable attempt to solve them. You can expect several years of the famous Boris shrug as he tells us, in his attractive manner, that there’s really not very much he can do.
Well, what did you expect? Boris is a Conservative, they exist to deny power to the Reds and the hippies, not to use it.
And for all that money, the traffic feels worse. A friend took two hours last Sunday morning to make the short car journey from Putney to Croydon, with the kids in the back feeling sick and then upset as they missed an important event in their lives – all because the streets were mangled with hundreds of unattended work-sites. Everywhere in London, the roads are dug up, then left untouched to wreak their havoc. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to impose some order on this frustrating constant chaos.
Ah. He wants Boris to ‘impose order’ on this ‘chaos’. Top down. Statist. Very…Pyong-yang. Well, Stephan, Boris is a Conservative, they exist to keep the dead hand of the state off the private sector, not to wrap it round the windpipe of the hard-working entrepreneur. Hence the New Roads And Street Works Act 1991*, which, using the famous regulatory light touch beloved of post-Adam Smith Institute Tories, laid the lightest possible burden on the thrusting newly privatised utilities when they wanted to dig the road up. Add in a decade or more of maintenance hiatus on the water and gas pipes in the name of profit and a communications revolution spurred on by privatisation and deregulation and, amazingly, you get a lot of roads dug up. Those Thatcherites and their wacky ideas, eh?
Some advice, Comrade Shakespeare – if you want to fix this you’ll need something like, say, the Traffic Management Act 2004, which allows local authorities to bring in permit schemes for roadworks and thus impose some nice new regulatory burdens on private enterprise, and really show those capitalist fat cats who’s boss. As it happens, ‘Red’ Boris is already signing up [PDF] to this manifestation of the socialist ZaNuLiebour nanny state, of course, so I can’t see Stevo’s complaint here. What more does he want? Someone to invent a magic inflatable six-lane highway paid for out of fairy gold for use on such occasions? Remember, this man is not some ranting libertarian blogger in a darkened room but a highly placed right-wing activist with fingers in a large number of pies. Truly epic failure to grasp the facts there.
Talking of pies, we move onto this piece of gibberish from LBHF’s Clown King of Comedy Harry Phibbs, who again is perturbed by the lack of action from Boris:
So far there has been no serious challenge at City Hall to the ideological assumptions of the past. There is nothing in any of the new administration’s strategy documents about irrational targets, burdensome HR practices, the problems with terms like ‘institutional discrimination’, the negative effects of “responsible procurement” on businesses, etc. Nor is there a programme for change; just a slightly toned down version of what went on before.
At best, this is a missed opportunity, at worst, it reinforces the view that there is no political debate to be had about this stuff – “After all, if even a Tory administration continues with the same approach, what is the problem?” etc.
What Phibbs wants, of course, is the wholesale replacement of ‘the ideological assumptions of the past’ with ‘the ideological assumptions of Harry Phibbs’, and his implied attack on his Conservative borough colleague Richard Barnes drew a fairly sharply worded response in a recorded interview with Dave Hill (which also had interesting things to say about the Stonewall debacle – Barnes is openly gay, of course):
Well I think Harry Phibbs has a lot to learn about life really hasn’t he? It was drawn to my attention what he said and he also criticises the language we used that it’s overly PC. Well when Harry aspires to be a little more than a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham then I’m sure we can address and sit down and recognise the real issues.
Ouch. To my mind that’s a bit harsher than Phibb’s original criticism, and in turn drew an escalation to DEFCON 3 from the right wing, in the shape of Tim Montgomerie on Twitter:
Boris’ Deputy makes childish attack on Harry Phibbs rather than addressing concerns about Livingstonian Equalities agenda
Montgomerie was 12 when Barnes was first elected to Hillingdon Council in 1982, which suggests that this is actually a young/old split as much as a PX ultra/borough boy one, with the younger, less experienced people having the 80s Conservative student smash-the-reds hard line and the arrogance allied to an enduring case of Ken Obsession (he talks about a ‘Livingstone Smear Machine’, for instance, which is conspiracy theory territory given that Ken is noted neither for his tact when dealing with a permanently hostile press nor a particular interest in the arts of spin, which require at the very least a friendly if not completely compliant press corps). For Barnes part, he’s actually been given a job to do by Boris, and appears to be approaching it in a decidedly centrist fashion, as befits a borough boy for whom the acquisition and retention of power is the sole aim of the game, not the totemic smashing of the other side’s cherished possessions. He’s presumably perfectly aware that a vote is a vote whatever the colour of the hand holding the pencil.
Phibbs followed up Montgomerie’s lead with a rather more bizarre take on the whole thing. The mask is slipping, Harry:
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has now published his equalities policy Equal Life Chances for All. Plenty of the document is bland and unobjectionable but a close reading also confirms the concerns I detailed last week that the divisive approach of Ken Livingstone’s regime have been retained.
Which is unremarkable as most of Livingstone’s ideologocal commissars at City Hall have so far been kept in place. When Livingstone lost the election last year he used his leaving party in Covent Garden to ask his supporters not to resign but to attempt to remain in place and they have taken him at his word.
An invitation has been issued to City Hall for a member of Boris’s team to respond to last week’s post. This hasn’t been directly taken up so far. But the Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes took a swipe at me in a podcast with Guardian blogger and Livingstone cheerleader Dave Hill.
This is veering into wingnut territory now, where everything you don’t like has to have been engineered by some massive hidden IslamodemocratiKen-driven machinery that you alone are capable of discerning and exposing – when a Conservative says something you don’t like, it must be because the evil Ken-worshipping Dave Hill did sumfin bad or sumfin. I also love the near-paranoid hint that City Hall *chose* to get back at a Conservative councillor via the ‘Livingstone cheerleaders’ at the Guardian – Phibbs hasn’t noticed that Barnes’s attention had been drawn to his original rant *before* talking to Dave Hill, and it’s stretching the already thin credulity of the argument to suggest that whoever did that was also in the pay of the Magic Ken Spin Machine. It’s surely likely to be a fellow Conservative given the location of the article and the places Barnes usually hangs out, but in Phibbsworld it can’t be, it’s impossible, inconceivable that an actual Conservative thinks you’re a dickhead too. Blue rosette good, red rosette bad. Moan, drone.
It isn’t surprising, given this backstory, to find that Phibbs lists on his Declaration of Interests a directorship of Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail and (formerly) the Evening Standard, where Phibbs was apparently a London diarist. That’ll be the same London Diary which had a cowardly anonymous go at Dave Hill via his wife. I wonder.
Talking of Ken-hating conspiraloons from the Associated Newspapers fold, we mustn’t forget to check in with noted journalist kennite ross281 Andrew Gilligan, who’s been increasingly jumpy in recent months as his creature fails to act on his orders and start decorating the walls of City Hall with the blood of diversity officers:
- The vanity projects that the Mayor must kill off – 9/6/2008
- Now Team Boris really needs to get into gear – 3/8/2008
- You’re doing fine, Boris, but it’s time to be bolder – 27/4/2009
- Come on Boris, show us what you’re made of – 16/7/2009
I’d say he wasn’t happy. Let’s hope his new job cheers him up.
Other coverage – from PC do-gooders, ethnics and communists:
- OBV (bonus comment from Scary Angry Black Man Lee Jasper for Phibbsy to have his Two Minute Hate about)
- Hopi Sen (foreign name)
- Political Animal (freak)
- Tory Troll (foreign name and far too tall for a decent Englishman)
- Sunny Hundal (foreign name and brown, so obviously overpromoted by the liberal bruschetta munching PC elite in some way I can’t quite explain but is really, really true, honest)
- Dave Hill (did you know his wife works for the Guardian and anyway he’s not a proper journalist, is he, he even travels by bus.)
and from the true blue Bilious Tendency:
- Ed West (also appearing as Ed78 on CiF comments)
and from City Hall:
The obvious conclusion from all this is that what we’ve considered to be the ‘Tory right’ aren’t Tories at all, but entryists with a strikingly Trotskyite way of going about things – the tribalism, petty hatreds, propaganda, obsession with the meaning of words, personal vendettas and total divorce from the real world in favour of minutiae that really don’t matter and big ticket technocratic imposed solutions made up out of whole cloth, often by charlatans. No wonder proper Tories are beginning to notice that they aren’t their sort of people. It’ll be interesting, when the time comes, to see how far up the Tory hierarchy they’ve got; Gove and Policy Exchange we know about, Dan Hannan’s far too close to William Hague for comfort and ConservativeHome is infested with them but what about the rest? Phibbs, noticeably, wants to see John ‘Rubber Tyre‘ Redwood back. How hilarious would that be? Oh, and Stephan Shakespeare’s wikipedia entry suggests that he was… a student Trot. I’d love to hear confirmation of that rumour.
* For some reason I keep calling this the New Boots And Panties Act. Must be spending too much time in Kilburn High Road lately.
Update: Oh, FFS, Monbiot was on this six years ago. There goes my Pulitzer.
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