It’s the State of London address on Thursday and I have tickets and, indeed, an invitation to see Boris afterwards, like last year (where he wouldn’t look me in the eye and give me a straight answer, but that’s by the by). This year’s State of London, however, is a cut-down, shrunken event held at City Hall at 5pm on a Thursday instead of in the heart of Westminster on a Saturday, and thus will not be particularly well attended, given that many people will be working at the time (I’ll have to make up an hour of time at some point in the week, for instance, and I have quite understanding bosses). It’s also clearly being directed towards four areas of debate:
Obviously no one in London is interested in housing, planning, culture, the fire service or for that matter the Olympics. How nice of them not to worry us with such things.
Further, the two sessions outside the main debate are also ticket-only, one for Economy (Anthony Browne/Tony Arbour/John Biggs) and Policing (Kit Malthouse/Joanne McCartney) and the other combining Environment (Martin Powel*/Gareth Bacon/Darren Johnson) and Transport (Kulveer Ranger/Caroline Pidgeon/Richard Tracey). That’s, er, it. Go back to Helen’s post last year for details of the 2007 programme for comparison and Boris’s accountability promise looks decidedly threadbare, and the bargain basement decision to move to a smaller venue hardly helps, although I suppose it’s better than whoring the place out as a set for ambulance chasing lawyer adverts. I note Dave Hill is getting rather more acid about Boris recently, and his piece covers similar ground.
However, I’m more interested in the person chairing the event, LBC’s Nick Ferrari. Now, we know Boris only regularly goes on two radio shows: Vanessa Feltz (who would doubtless prefer to spend the time covering the Mayor in honey and licking it off rather than asking him actual questions) and Nick Ferrari (who’s a grumpy opinionated sod who can be relied on to be at least slightly critical of his guests occasionally, but is nonetheless politically a supporter of Boris). Given that, it’s interesting and instructive to listen to this recording of Boris on Nick’s show last year, recorded up on the London Eye as part of their tenth anniversary celebrations. I hereafter partially transcribe it (from 7:41 in) as an example of what we might expect from the Nick and Boris show on Thursday:
NF: I’ve got an email here, Mayor Johnson. Jonathan Goldsmith from E1 – “Mayor Johnson talks about trying to save the High Street in the recession, at the same time the Corporation of London” – it’s important to stress the Corporation of London – “is trying to raise shop rents…
NF ..by 35%” – there seem to be perhaps mixed messages, to use a political expression, Mayor Johnson
BJ: Er, of course, I mean Jonathan, I’d point out what what you know, Nick, which is that the Corporation is completely separate…
NF [over Boris]: Of course, that’s why I stressed it…
BJ: …the City of London, er…
NF: But you have a view on this?
BJ: I do have a view and we are putting in the new revised London Plan, er, measures to protect local shops and to ensure that, er you know, councils can, er, preserve, er, local high streets and stop the endless homogenization of the high street of which we’ve seen er er across this country by, by, protecting local shopkeepers and giving them the advantage of, er, cheaper rents where that’s possible.
NF: Alright, let’s go back to the calls – Enny, you’re in Greenford, go ahead Enny
Enny: Hello Boris,
BJ: Hi Enny
Enny: Um *mumble* the price of London er attractions has gone up considerably over the past few years…
NF [interrupting]: the price, I’m sorry, could…you’re you’re just a little bit faint that’s why I’m repeating, the price of London attractions has gone up consistently, yes, go ahead, go ahead Enny
Enny: Right. Right. Over the, um, example coming [?] from the London Eye over the past nine years it has gone um over 100% it was £8.50 in 2001 and now it’s seven, er, seventeen pounds fifty.
Enny: My concern is um, will there be a standstill prices who for Londoners who just want to have a day out on this…their doorstep without…
BJ [breaking in delightedly] : Enny that’s a very good question! And d’you know by great good fortune we have the chairman of the of the London Eye here in this very bubble and, er, I…he’s looking um…the price of…did did you hear the question, David? The cost of travelling on the London Eye has gone up I’m told from eight pounds to seventeen pounds fifty erm and the question is what can we do to have cheaper fares er for
NF [interrupting] : for Londoners
BJ: Londoners who want a day out
NF: Specifically for Londoners, is there, could there be an initiative…I don’t quite know why the Mayor’s decided
BJ [mock outrage]: *mumble* I’m ruthlessly passing the buck here…
NF [talking over]: You know
BJ: Well there is
NF: If I have another holiday
BJ: I I I I I’m interceding on the part on the part on on the part of Londoners with the with the with the chairman of this very attraction
NF: Well, well, he’s not quite the Chairman – let’s give David Sharpe is Divisional Director for London Midway Attractions, but go ahead David Sharpe, if you want to shout…
DS [background]: The short answer, go online, get 10% off.
NF: OK, you go online, you get 10% off as in a London… as a Londoner, thank you very much indeed for that…
BJ: But but I think I think people should be offering er discounts…papers like the Evening Standard … there are all sorts of things you could do to offer discounted travel er discounted trips on things like this and er as a way of boosting circulation…you LBC should have, er you know, free er London Eye trips for listeners!
NF: We have, we’re doing a special promotion today, that’s why we’re here and enjoy your glass of champagne that we’ve paid for, or actually they have.
That’s about a quarter of the interview there, with two questions, one about something the Mayor has no control over but which allows him to spout on about how something he hasn’t done yet will make the world so much better in some unspecified way and the second from this mysterious ‘Enny’ character who just happens to have a question that allows a clearly delighted Boris to ‘ruthlessly pass the buck’ by in turn questioning a man who, it turns out, is responsible for…
…Midway attractions in London, where the London Eye and London Aquarium will be included alongside Madame Tussauds and the London Dungeon
…and has effectively just bought Boris a glass of champagne, allowing him to promote a money-off deal. How wonderfully cosy and how wonderful that Boris doesn’t actually have to answer the question himself, merely suggesting that other people sort it out. Well worth his Mayoral salary, that man.
Of course, we don’t know who ‘Enny’ is, but since this interview was brought to our attention via a comment on this Boriswatch piece about Einy Shah’s latest adventures, the accent and pronunciation of the name fit with this BBC interview with Einy Shah and Greenford is near enough to where she went to school in Wembley to be plausible it’s entirely possible it was her. However, the clincher is that the original comment was followed by urgent Twittering from the lady herself about the possibility of her stopping her No2Ken astroturf in return for me deleting the link forthwith. This one, for example, somehow escaped the memory hole:
Ok. I still a few London politico types know. Probably still carry on – unless you delete the comments?
Yet again confirming that Einy is her own bloody worst enemy.
I’ll therefore stick my neck out and state that Boris was answering a question on air from a member of his own staff at City Hall (judging by the dates on her still-extant Twitpic account she wasn’t unknown there at the time) whom he knows personally, as if she was a member of the public, about an attraction he was receiving hospitality from, mediated by the man he’s since chosen to chair the statutory debate about his leadership of the City and who is also a political supporter. The only question appears to be whether Nick Ferrari is a witting or unwitting accomplice to this shameless media manipulation and astroturfing. Maybe he can tell us on Thursday?
[I have asked her if she's willing to answer questions before I post this, to give her time to respond. She has declined to answer the four questions offered, offering only 'No comment' and a request to leave her alone. I still hold out the hope that she'll tell us what she's been up to in a bit more detail one day.]
P.S. I also recall that Einy has accompanied Boris to LBC on at least one occasion, on the day of the long-delayed Emergency Rail Summit.
* Standing in for Isabel Dedring, who’s apparently on maternity leave. We wish her all the best.
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