It’s interesting but not surprising that the Telegraph is turning into the official unofficial opposition to Dave and Nick’s multicoloured love-in – the crusties there are usually happier getting angry about things than actual government and besides they’ve got their own Conservative Prime Minister, thank you very much, sterling chap called Boris Johnson.  Possibly this explains why he’s looking a bit jaded with the world right now, with his old mate Dave very much in the ascendency.  Boris may have been hoping for a quick decapitation of a failed Cameron and a swing to blond from the faithful, instead of which he’s contemplating something rather odd and quite radical – a libertarian centre-right Europhile coalition.  No, I don’t get it either.

Other things that are conspiring to diminish Boris are the probable ending of the dynamic duel that’s existed in City Hall since 2008 between the Borough Boys (Kit Malthouse/Simon Milton plus the London Councils Tory leadership from guys like Merrick Cockell, Mike Freer and Stephen Greenhalgh plus old school bruisers like Brian Coleman and Daniel Moylan) and the radical fundamentalist Policy Exchangers (Browne/Mirza plus in the early days Francis Maude’s proteges Tim Parker and Nick Boles, to which we can probably add Veronica Wadley now).  Remember too that this was essentially politicians versus journalists.  Now refresh your mind with these classics from the archive:

Last time we looked at them the Policy Exchangers were at a low ebb with the superior street-fighting skills of the old Borough hands in the driving seat, but things have changed.  A brief summary:

1. Moving On Up

Freer and Boles are in the Commons now, having won seats on May 7th.  Their eyes are presumably fixed firmly on climbing the greasy pole and will not, therefore, be rocking the boat at this stage.

Francis Maude, who was instrumental in pushing the PX crew in the early stages, is now occupied in rewarding good comrades who are sufficiently beastly to the poor to warrant a stone-faced nod of approval from the neo-Cromwellian Star Chamber Cameron’s set up.  He won’t be bothering City Hall, then, except to demand his pound of flesh if Boris looks like backsliding.

2. Moving On Out
London Councils has now officially been stormed by the red hordes after the Labour council triumphs on the same day.  K&C’s Merrick Cockell has got the boot in favour of Hackney’s Jules Pipe, who is now effectively the Other Mayor Of London.  Given that the Borough Boys key triumph was getting the Mayoralty to sign up to the London City Charter and thus hopefully lash Gulliver firmly to the ground, this has the ironic effect of forcing Boris to choose between his manifesto commitment to co-operation and his aversion to working with what he doubtless sees as godless Communists and spendthrifts.  Notably the Charter is voluntary, so Boris can bale out if he feels like it.

3. What’s All This, Then?
Kit Malthouse is being heavily diverted ruining, sorry, running, the Met Police, which is the job he wanted all along.  With the forthcoming abolition of the MPA there’s a good deal of work to be done stuffing the replacement organisation with politically sound people, which should keep him occupied.  What would be really interesting is if there’s no election for the proposed elected police commissioner when other parts of the country have one – this is highly likely given that we can’t now be trusted not to vote for some grotty left winger.  Allied to the Wadley appointment and what’s happening at LFEPA today this would start to form a toxic brew of cronyism and unaccountability around the Mayor.

4. The March Of Time

So, the borough boys are much diminished.  However, the Policy Exchange crew aren’t the automatic winners, since they don’t exist to run things but to create propaganda.  This is fine before elections and in opposition but is singularly ill-suited to mid-terms troughs, when they’ll have no fresh ideas and lack the political skills to put out the necessary air of calm-getting-on-with-things.  Their forte is demanding Action! Now! and it’s always 1938 and we must act to save all we love.  When all that’s happening is Boris clowning about to not much of an audience this sort of thing loses its appeal, and besides the fun’s all in Whitehall now (or the Telegraph blogs, anyway, if you’re not in with Plastic Dave), not in City Hall churning out strategies that Boris will never have the funds or the interest in implementing.

We’re therefore looking at a slow decline into irrelevance for the Mayor, punctuated by occasional flashes where he gets one over the new Government using the old magic.  Indeed, this is probably his best bet, if he can genuinely show that he’s still a maverick and still willing to tweak the nose of Whitehall in our interest.  We like a good fighting underdog, after all.

Unfortunately, thus far he’s got the same as everyone else, a big cut, and there’s only so far you can go in blaming January’s fare increases on Ken when you’ve just kicked another hole in the budget by scrapping the WEZ while at the same time your own party has clawed back a cool £100m of TfL funding without even blinking.  It’s all adding up to a bit of a perfect storm in 2011/12.

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