You don’t have to be Audley Harrison to talk a big fight and then trip over your flat feet when it comes to walking the  walk.  Boris Johnson’s been at it for years.  As an example, let’s refresh the memory bank about the plans to make London the capital of the electric car:

May 2008:

Nothing.  Boris’s transport manifesto doesn’t mention electric cars at all – any issues of air quality are to be addressed by making the traffic flow more smoothly rather than addressing what comes out of the back (except with buses, which back then were seemingly assumed to cause all the pollution, or at least be the only type of vehicle it was politically correct to blame):

Our approach recognises the scientific evidence, and focuses on reducing emissions by decreasing congestion. In addition to re-phasing traffic lights we will focus on reducing emissions across the whole of Greater London, by pursuing policies to increase cycling and working with bus companies to ensure the bus fleet runs on the cleanest fuel possible, and expanding the use of hybrid technology

January 2009

Look At The Shiny Shiny.  It’s not hard to distract Boris, a technical ingenue, with shiny new things. Tesla Motors know the way to the man’s heart, as the petrolheads at gibber on:

And now comes news that our favourite political ‘Buffoon’ (which is more persona than reality – Boris is pretty shrewd) has been out playing jollies in a Tesla Roadster.

Boris has already gone on record as saying his next car will be electric (although his stint at GQ Magazine as a Car journo has given him ample opportunities to enjoy the finer cars the automotive world has to offer, and it is a matter of record that Boris has actually ordered the new Lotus Evora!), and I suppose we thought he may be trying too hard and looking at a G-Whiz! But it would seem not.

I wonder if he’s taken delivery of his V6 162mph 205g/km CO2 sports car yet?  Band K for VED, that.  Lucky he’s got the Telegraph column to pay for the tax disc, really.

March 2009:

Two months on and Boris is earning his Telegraph chickenfeed plugging the shiny shiny from back in January.  The evangelism now goes like this:

Yes, there is carbon dioxide produced in the generation of the electricity – but only about a quarter of the CO2 produced by a similar sports car. If we used nuclear or other low-carbon power sources, we could achieve spectacular reductions in vehicular CO2.

We can produce solutions that allow people to drive fast, and have fun, and overhaul the slowcoaches – and still save the planet

The classic Boris attraction to over-optimistic have-your-cake-and-eat-it everyone-pleasing solutions is here in spades.

April 2009:

Suddenly everyone’s been talking about it, apparently – one mischievously assumes Boris has bored everyone shitless with tales of the wondrous Tesla for two months.  He certainly earned his chickenfeed as far as Tesla is concerned.

“The time for simply talking about electric vehicles is over – we need real action on the ground to make the electric vehicle an easy choice for Londoners,” said Johnson. “I am today committing millions to install the infrastructure needed for when, in just a few years time, these vehicles become much more widely available.”

Among the proposals are a change to the London Plan, ensuring all new building developments install charging points and at least a fifth of all new parking spaces are equipped with charging facilities.

Or, essentially, a massive subsidy for an extremely small number of people using a form of transport everyone sane agrees should not be encouraged in 21st century cities.  Mind you, there’s nothing essentially wrong with public seeding for fledgling hi-tech, it’s just that it, um, goes completely against the grain of what Boris is supposed, as a post-Thatcher Tory, to believe in.  Hell, I’ve seen Andrew Boff decry EU attempts to standardise mobile phone chargers, never mind state-funded car chargers.  See also: cycle hire, Borismaster bus.

December 2009:

The mayor of London said today that electric cars were a way of reducing harmful emissions in the capital without settling for “hair-shirt abstinence”.

But he made clear that he expected funding support from the government to turn his ambition for mainstream use of zero carbon electric vehicles into a reality.

The mayor is under pressure to find solutions to London’s poor air quality – which is among the worst in Europe and risks incurring millions of pounds of EU fines for the UK government.

In a speech at an event held today in Copenhagen for city mayors from around the world running parallel to the UN climate change summit, Johnson said that 25,000 charging points would be in place by 2015: 22,500 at workplaces, 500 on the streets of London and a further 2,000 in public car parks

Got that?  Electric cars are now the panacea that allows us to tackle climate change without ‘hair-shirt abstinence’.  OK.

November 2010:

Mr Johnson had pledged to raise £20m for the £60m scheme which would see 22,500 charging points across London, with 7,500 being installed by 2013.

But following the Spending Review he has cut his monetary commitment to the project to £7

The previously Boris-friendly (check the classic-of-its-type nonsense Borismaster article – ‘We admit it’s been a year or two since we jumped on a bus – fat, middle-aged men take taxis if they’re not driving’)* has executed a swift reverse ferret here, too – Boris is no longer ‘shrewd’ but, by association, ‘barking mad':

As part of that plan Boris committed some £20 million of taxpayers money to build electric recharging points all over London. In the barking mad world in which politicians live it seems Boris was convinced that London needed 25,000 recharging points around the Capital, with one in five parking spaces needing a plug-in point.

So, we started off with nothing, we’re ending up with basically nothing, what have we lost?  Nothing!  Wrong – we’ve lost two years of fannying about trying to stay onside with both the petrolheads and the air quality standards people instead of having a decent strategy to tackle climate change and air pollution.  That’s the nasty underside of Boris incompetence – we don’t get those two years back even if he suddenly starts doing the right thing – we’re just closer to the edge of the waterfall.

P.S. Although Boris, if asked, will inevitably blame Gordon Brown (or possibly Danny Alexander), the laws of physics aren’t interested in convenient political excuses.  Worse, he may have to look closer to home for the politicians who fouled up his plans: in Ealing the opposition Conservatives are doing their bit for Osbornomics by trimming what they see as ‘waste’ from new school building programmes:

“We are hugely concerned about reckless spending associated with Labour. Through the call-in process the Conservatives forced the Council to look again at the extra spending on green roofs and electric car charging points. This meant that they reduced the extra spending by just under £200,000 – a savings to taxpayers.”

Electric car charging points: from magic bullet solution to solving climate change while having fun to ‘reckless spending’ in under two years.  Oh dear, Boris.  Will you still love a man out of time?

* ‘Inevitably run by a couple of Clarkson-aged know-alls, we’re kept in check (most of the time) by a balancing view from the girls on the team’.  Sweet Jesus, do I not want to be stuck in that office ever.

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