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Spectator's attack on Boris misfires

Boris Last week's Spectator ran an attack on the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. It is available here but I think you have to subscribe to the print version to be able to read it (a snip at £111 for a year's sub plus six bottles of wine.)

As a former editor Boris will understand that he has no special protection from the magazine. If anything he would spot the journalistic angle of seeking to be unpredictable. But does the atttack have substance? It comes in the form of an article from Mira Bar-Hillel. She states in the article that she was disappointed not to get a job from Boris as a housing advisor. Instead it went to Richard Blakeway. "The result, I regret to report is that London has no housing policy," says Mira. Yes, it does. You can read it here. Mira might not agree with all of it - that is another matter.

So far as Mira not gettting the job is concerned I think it would have been odd if she had. I used to see Mira quite often at the Evening Standard and would chat and gossip away about stories in the news. She never struck me as a Conservative. Richard Blakeway is a Conservative. Boris Johnson is a Conservative. He was elected to implement Conservative policies - including on housing - which Blakeway helped him to draw up before the election.

I would have liked Boris to take a stronger line on cutting spending and blocking tall building. But Mira's article is quite unbalanced in refusing to acknowledge any achievements of the Boris Mayoralty. Also many of the criticism are also quite unfair. For instance she complains regarding the London Development Agency that Boris "has allowed it to mishandle the Olympics land budget to the tune of £160 million."

But these failings go back before Boris became Mayor. The failure was in budget and financial forecasting and reporting. It was because of the stronger processes and management he put in place that ensured the problem was discovered and dealt with.

On skyscrapers she says "he failed to oppose an LDA-backed tower on the South Bank in spite of its negative impact on historic views." She also says: "And what about the Ealing 'penny whistle' tower that Boris singled out for attack before he was elected?" 

The tower on the South Bank was Doon Street which had already been through a planning inquiry so it was too late to oppose. It would have been the same as having a Lisbon referendum after the treaty had been
ratified - a pointless gesture. The Ealing Penny-Whistle Tower never came before Boris. Instead, the
applicant came forward with a much smaller building that was strongly supported by the local Conservative council and Boris let them get on with the decision i.e. localism.


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