Mayor Boris: first term forecast

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Champagne piped into Trafalgar Square fountains? Caviar sold in tube kiosks? Time Out examines what Boris Johnson‘s mayoral win means for London

  • Mayor Boris: first term forecast

    Boris Johnson

  • The power of the doughnut

    It was London’s outer (‘doughnut’) boroughs ‘wot won it’ for Boris; accordingly, the city is likely to see his mayorship attentive to their concerns. The slumbering beast of the suburbs was prodded into action over issues including the congestion charge (they hate it), public transport (they want more of it) and low-level crime (they feel unfairly prone to it). And once prodded, the beast roared: in Bexley and Bromley the Tories galloped from 37 per cent in 2004 to 60 per cent. ‘The outer boroughs had had enough of what they often regard as the decadent, metrosexual inner city,’ says Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at LSE. This may help explain the appointment of former Bexley council leader, Ian Clement, as deputy mayor for government relations.

    Congestion charge

    The central charge will not be changed, but there will be a consultation over retaining the western extension. The plan to tax gas-guzzlers £25 will be scrapped.

    Crime

    Boris has issued a number of headline-grabbing initiatives, including banning alcohol from buses and trains, proposing the creation of up to 100 weekend clubs for teenagers, and appointing Ray Lewis as his deputy for young people. Lewis set up the Eastside Young Leaders’ Academy, to encourage leadership qualities in black youths. Staff at Live, a magazine for young south Londoners, are upbeat about the new mayor: ‘We’ve changed our minds,’ says Gus Rodrigues. ‘We thought Boris had no substance. But weekend clubs could be a solution to crime. We are excited by Lewis’s appointment.’But a note of caution is sounded by Peter Herbert, chair of the Race Hate Crimes Forum (RHCF) and Metropolitan Police Authority member. ‘We’ll see a rolling back of progress made on race issues, and a winding down of the RHCF, which would have a big impact on tackling such crime. His choice of Lewis purports to be inclusive, but his main agenda is not,’ says Herbert.

    Public transport

    Here, Boris will face his greatest challenge. ‘He doesn’t understand the need to squeeze out private cars,’ says transport expert Christian Wolmar, who also doubts that he’ll ever bring back the Routemaster because it would prove too expensive. ‘He will find the nitty gritty of the deals with Metronet and Crossrail tough. Ken had talent in that area.’ Boris has already faced opposition to his proposal of a no-strike deal with London Underground unions – the RMT’s Bob Crow said categorically that it ‘will never enter into a no-strike agreement’.

    The environment

    ‘There is stuff to be applauded, such as his proposals to protect back gardens from developers, plans to plant 10,000 trees, and support of local high streets,’ says Ian Wingrove from the London Assembly Greens. Boris has also signalled he might ditch Ken’s plans for a Thames Gateway Bridge, which was vociferously opposed by environmentalists and many south London councils. ‘This will please environmentalists and councillors in Bexley,’ says Wingrove. But targets for new developments to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent (set by Ken) will drop to 10 per cent.

    Housing

    Despite Boris’s commitment to build 50,000 more affordable homes in the next three years, Shelter is concerned that Boris has given no target for the number of those homes that can be rented.

    Cycling

    ‘He’s a bit of an unknown,’ says Tom Bogdanowicz from the London Cycling Campaign, ‘but we want him to fulfil his pledge to exceed TfL’s target of having 5 per cent of all journeys undertaken by bike.’ The LCC wants him to reconsider his plan to allow motorcycles to use bus lanes.

    Verdict

    Surprisingly benign in these early days. Many commentators are handing him the benefit of the doubt – for the moment. Rather than dramatic policy changes, it will be the style of his mayorship which will distinguish Boris from Ken. It is likely to be more ‘American’, placing power in the hands of deputies and drawing on experts from across the political spectrum. Expectations of major gaffes might be misplaced – David Cameron considers this an extremely high-profile position and will do everything he can to surround Boris with good advisors – and heavy-handed minders.

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