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Ken's tactics to portray Boris as lazy backfires - raising questions about his own workrate as Mayor of London

By Joseph Willits 
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ByrneIn an embarrassing twist for Ken Livingstone's election campaign, statistics used to accuse Boris of laziness have backfired. Official statistics suggest, that Boris's attendance at official meeting is in fact double compared to his predecessor. On Livingstone's website, in a post labelled 'part time Mayor', Liam Byrne is quoted as saying:

"It's truly astonishing that Boris Johnson can find the time to write a book when he was elected to run London ... Every hour Boris Johnson has spent writing his new book is an hour which he could have spent working to make our streets safer and getting new investment and jobs into London.“ 

In response to Byrne's claims, Boris' campaign director, Lynton Crosby said that "Ken Livingstone's and Labour’s tactics to attack Boris Johnson are not only baseless, they are deceitful." Boris, he said "has held, on average, more than double the number of meetings per month than his predecessor did while he was in office" according to the official diaries of both men. Statistics from Livingsotne's diary of meetings, are as follows:

  • First term (2000-2004) - 1,091 (average of 22.7 a month)
  • Second term (2005-2008) – 1,655 (average of 36.8 a month)
  • Overall – 2,746 (average of 28.9 a month)

Byrne drew attention to Boris' public diary, saying it "records the Mayor attending an average of just 2 meetings a day this year – and that’s including ribbon cutting and photocalls". Statistics from Boris' diary of meetings attended each month, as highlighted by Livingstone's website, are as follows:

  • 2008 - 411 (average of 58.7 a month)
  • 2009 - 806 (average of 67 a month)
  • 2010 - 758 (average of 63 a month)
  • 2011 - 464 (average of 58 a month)

In contrast to Ken, Boris had also "visited almost every borough in London more in three and a half years than Mr Livingstone did in his eight years". Boris had made 544 visits to London's boroughs, compared to Livingstone's 255 visits.

The attack is perplexing on several levels. At a time when Ken Livingstone himself is out and about plugging his autobiography, it seems somewhat odd for him to launch an assault on Boris' upcoming book. Perhaps there is a fear, that Boris' book (incidentally about great Londoners, rather than himself) will outsell a biography of a former Mayor which has largely been received as somewhat dull, apart from some asides about paternity. Perhaps Livingstone has also taken to heart to Decca Aitkenhead's comments, who said "I don't see it troubling his rival's biography on the bestseller list".

As the rivalry between Livingstone and Boris takes a somewhat literary turn, questions still remain about the political motives behind such accusations of laziness.  Why Liam Byrne? Why use statistics that have so easily backfired? Maybe Livingstone's campaign hoped to tap into a feeling about holding politicians account, and that by throwing "laziness" into the mixture, the media might happily lap up the sensation of the accusation.

Lynton Crosby suggested desperation: 

“Indeed, the only politician Mr Livingstone has managed to agree to attack Boris Johnson is Liam Byrne – a politician who helped take Britain to the edge of bankruptcy as chief secretary to the Treasury and then joked about it, leaving a note for his successor that there was ‘no money left'".

If Livingstone only has Liam Byrne, someone who spent time writing an 11 page report, telling staff how to treat him, to back him up, and help fight the crusade of political transparency, the I'm sure we can expect the 2012 election campaign to be variations on a theme.