The Ken and Boris show dominate’s London’s playground politics…

Well, in London the Ken and Boris show had it’s second outing with Ken grabbing the bulk of the news coverage for his emotional response to his own party launch… (the Guardian have even started their own poll to see if you were affected in the same way)…

Well that’s one way to make a video go viral… It features a lot of ordinary people making Ken’s manifesto pledges for him… Hmmm…

For an office that doesn’t have a lot direct power, there’s not a huge amount a London Mayor can actually do one way or the other. Though main claim of each tells you something of the very different audiences they are trying to reach. Both are claiming to save Londoner’s money.

Boris through fiscal tightening and a cut in council tax. Ken’s targeting fares on London Transport promising to bring them down by 1st October this year.

One could have been designed to appeal to the outer doughnut (who as well as having a higher proportion of homeowners, don’t really use London Transport) and the second is targeting the poor of inner city London).

Although, I’d go along with Bagehot’s important caveat here, the battle over the big figures yields some interesting left right variances in perspective. Polly Curtis notes that Ken’s fare cuts will wipe out London’s surplus in its capital spend, and endanger the very capital developments that Ken – with some justification – complains Boris has been dining out on over the last four years:

If this money was diverted to spend on fare decreases it would leave TfL with no surplus whatsoever, and any organisation on the scale of TfL usually keeps a buffer to stop it tipping into deficit within a year. Over the next three years TfL expects to have a surplus of around £700m – 2.7% of its total nearly £26bn expenditure over the same period.

In fact, this argument comes down to what a sensible surplus is for an organisation of this scale, rather than whether it should have one at all. Johnson’s team points out that when Livingstone was mayor he defended TfL surpluses. Livingstone’s team point out that this was largely because the surpluses it ran it was earmarked for capital projects; TfL is essentially saying the same now.

This incredibly narrow ground is one of Ken’s problems. HIs voters care about London Transport, and Boris’s don’t. In most other respects, most of the things Ken started when London had money have been continued by Boris, including the nicely marketed (Ken and) Boris Bikes. He can hardly shoot up his own projects.

The internal balance in TfL has been tilted by the incumbent. Money that appears to be free, will be used by Ken shore up a subsidy to the London Transport user, but at the expense of further investment. If Boris wins, it may not be so much that people didn’t want Ken than the only serious difference may be that it’s Boris’s turn to get a second go.

And as Bagehot notes, such playground politics is all we’re likely to see from London (which unlike the rest of the country is not short of a bob or two), until and unless the London Mayor is made responsible for its own tax raising powers:

London—a cosmopolis with an economy larger than Belgium’s and a population the size of Switzerland’s—should be a fine test-bed for such reforms. The capital is crammed with the ambitious, the restless and those dissatisfied with the circumstances of their birth. Its mayor should be a spokesman, heard around Britain, for economic growth and openness to the world. This will not happen until City Hall raises much more of its own money, perhaps via business taxes or VAT, forcing mayors to make tough trade-offs. Playing trains and buses is not enough. London’s mayoralty turns 12 this year. Time to grow up.

, , ,

  • tyrone_taggart

    I think Boris Johnson idea of Devo Max for London would be popular………in London.

    The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said UK Government ministers have been “very receptive” to his demands for a devo-max settlement for London.

    The outspoken Tory figure said that London should no longer be a “cash cow” for other regions of the UK and argued that the city’s taxes should be kept and spent locally.

    Whilst there is now vocal Conservative support for devo-max in London, the party remains largely opposed to the same rights being granted to Scotlad
    http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-economy/4724-tory-mayor-boris-johnson-demands-devo-max-for-london

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Pretty nice effort, young Fealty. And I haven’t time or enthusiasm to critique it in full.

    So:

    1. For an office that doesn’t have a lot direct power, there’s not a huge amount a London Mayo can actually do one way or the other.

    Well, it goes nicely with salad. Or frites for a Belgian.

    2. the outer doughnut (who as well as having a higher proportion of homeowners, don’t really use London Transport).

    Huh? On the contrary …

    Have you stood all the way from Baker Street to Watford? Seen the cattle-truck conditions into Paddington? Sweltered from Tottenham Court Road to High Barnet?

    Do you know the costs, and heard the complaints of Zones 4, 5 and 6 commuters? See the Standard‘s New Year piece that London has the most expensive fares among major world cities.

    3. most of the things Ken started when London had money have been continued by Boris, including the nicely marketed (Ken and) Boris Bikes. He can hardly shoot up his own projects.

    Where did you get the notion that the money had gone away? £8 million for just five buses. As for those blasted bikes, nobody told us they’d cost £12,000 each. And we’re not allowed to know just how little Barclays are contributing to their branding exercise. This nonsensical cable car ride? Beyond that triple whammy, BoJo seems to have been remarkably ineffectual. It hasn’t stopped his public appearances at every opening, however.

    The two long-term Big Deals are the Crossrail projects: not just Crossrail 1 (conceived in 1944, due 2017) but the Chelsea-Hackney Line (protected since 1991, and still with no definite start time). Even so, there’s been money for HS2 (see this week’s revaluation of the estimates) and even a bit to juice the froth about Boris Island.

    3. This incredibly narrow ground

    True, but everyone wants also to talk education and housing, which ought to be on the agenda, but won’t be — because, after transport, here’s where the beef is.

    And that’s also why Devo Max won’t come to London. Think back: the GLC was the intended Tory way of choking off Labour control of the LCC; the GLC was in turn axed because the Tory Boroughs hated pooling.

    If the Tory Boroughs manage to decant their lower orders to the poorer outer fastnesses (which is the IDS/Shapps plan), there’ll certainly not be much action on housing. 35,000 de-plebbed flats going in Kensington and Chelsea, chaps?

    While Gove is marketing his Academies and “Free Schools” (apparently giving seven years of guaranteed funding, while everyone else doesn’t know from year to year) there’s no hope of education becoming a London-wide topic — though, in the light of the chronic shortage of school-places it ought to be. And let’s not forget Fiona Millar’s little squib:

    Before 1988, the secretary of state had three powers over schools (removal of wartime air raid shelters, managing numbers in teacher training and opening/closing schools). The 1988 Act increased those powers by over 250 and the DfE now has more than 2,000 powers over schools. As Sir Tim Brighouse pointed out in his excellent lecture last year to the Oxford University education department, the losers in this “shift of power downwards and upwards” were the local authorities.

    And Gove is a decentraliser?

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: £8 million for just five buses.
    Boris Johnston: And that new bus incarnates our cost-cutting approach, because the entire project has been delivered for about £10 million – not much more than the annual fare evasion on the bendy buses. You will hear my critics say that each of the first eight new buses therefore costs more than a million. This is cretinous.
    Malcolm – you may resent the terminology used by Boris here, but his logic is sound. Up front development costs may be a bit confusing for those keen to be confused, but it is surely more honest than the generational costs of the PPPs preferred by the left.

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: If the Tory Boroughs manage to decant their lower orders to the poorer outer fastnesses (which is the IDS/Shapps plan), there’ll certainly not be much action on housing. 35,000 de-plebbed flats going in Kensington and Chelsea, chaps?
    I assume this is your take on the capping of housing benefit at levels that won’t pay the ridiculous rents in inner London? Boris has opposed the plan, which makes me think you have missed a couple of chances to be cynical at his expense; maybe he’s an inner London landlord, and stands to lose out when inner London rents are no longer propped up with masses of housing benefit money? Or perhaps he employs a cleaner and will have to pay more for a cleaner who has to commute? Do those suspicions work for you?
    The alternative may be that you and he share the same position through similar motives – a prospect too horrible to contemplate, I expect.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Reader @ 8:33 pm:

    up front development costs may be a bit confusing for those keen to be confused, but it is surely more honest than the generational costs of the PPPs preferred by the left.

    I’m sure that made some sense in the original. But not in plain English.

    This afternoon, at about 4:30pm I came out of the other bookshop in Piccadilly and fancied a pint or two nearer home. In front of me was the one-and-only operational Boris Bus, on route 38 up to Clapton Ponds: LT2, LT61BHT. And therefore heading right past the York in Islington (a decent Nicholson’s house). So … call me an expert.

    Now here come the problems. It’s an explicitly RHD vehicle, with that “signature” rear window imported from Italy and costing £1,500+ apiece (graffiti-merchants with glass-cutters welcome?). Do tell us how many export markets that opens up (hint: the answer Honks but not Shanks). The claim is a 40% fuel efficiency improvement — excluding the cost of the exiguous second crew-person, of course. Who won’t be needed out of peak times, because the back door will be locked shut.
    Moreover BoJo has promised to have 600 of these machines on London streets by 2016 (out of a total for 8,500 buses in the TfL area). The cost of that extra, unnecessary, body will be £35-40 million a year.

    By the way, I was wrong with the £8 million capital cost. It’s up to £11,065,000 for a commitment of nine vehicles delivered by this September. So we’re talking a smidgeon over £1.2 million apiece.

    Oh, and something else. The Wrightbus/Boris Boggler is based on the same Cummins engine as the Alexander Dennis Enviro400H. Which is delivering 60% fuel improvement for Edinburgh, comes out around £300k a time (without the hybrid stuff it’s a base £180k), works very nicely for London contracting companies that don’t have the choice thrust, Stalin-like Boris-like upon them, and was good enough to feature at that 2008 Olympics closing ceremony. And didn’t need £11 million from London taxpayers.

    Above all, Reader @ 8:33 pm, explain to us why a politician is the one-and-only proper expert to design and specify a model of bus. What’s wrong with a system of contracting? “We want this regularity of service, this number of bodies to be shifted per hour, what’s your price?” Wasn’t that the Thatcherite approach — and not a wholly wrong oe?

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Reader @ 9:00 pm:

    That neatly evades the essential point.

    The reason why there are the ridiculous rents in inner London is because there is a chronic housing shortage. And it’s not just “inner” London. Or even just London — look at every university town. Nor is it anything essentially to do with housing benefit. Or availability of land (why have those Kings Cross brownland sites, for just one example, remained sterile all these many years?)

    Were there investments to provide social housing, and therefore properties to rent, the rents would fall. So, cui bono?

    As it says on one of my favourite tee-shirts, “What would Clem do?”

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: I’m sure that made some sense in the original. But not in plain English.
    OK try this – the upfront development costs have been paid. Now the buses will be obtained for production costs. The notion of PPP, devised by the Tories (Boo, Hiss) but employed wholesale by Labour (Ahem…) means that the cost is spread over a long period, covering Interest, contingency and well concealed massive profit margins. Even better, even if this is detected by the voters, and you get punished, then the other lot are stuck with the ongoing payments. And instead of someone saying that the buses cost a million pounds each, that same person will gloat that the repayments don’t start until autumn.
    Malcolm Redfellow: This afternoon, at about 4:30pm I came out of the other bookshop in Piccadilly and fancied a pint or two nearer home. In front of me was the one-and-only operational Boris Bus, on route 38 up to Clapton Ponds: LT2, LT61BHT. And therefore heading right past the York in Islington (a decent Nicholson’s house). So … call me an expert.
    You and several million others. They also have a vote.
    Malcolm Redfellow: explain to us why a politician is the one-and-only proper expert to design and specify a model of bus.
    Boris must be a very modest man. The design credit seems to have been given to Capoco and additional results from a design competition. But if Boris actually sketched the whole thing out on the back of an envelope he deserves a bit of credit for the result.
    By the way, the cost you gave for employing 600 part time bus conductors seems excessive – are you assuming they are paid the same as tube drivers? If they actually turn out to be that expensive you can have the privilege of handing out the redundancy notices yourself.

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: (why have those Kings Cross brownland sites, for just one example, remained sterile all these many years?)
    These ones?
    http://www.kingscrosscentral.com/
    The land became available at the beginning of Gordon Brown’s bust. And now it looks like there’s money for development again.
    Of *course* there’s a housing shortage in Central London. Many of the people who work and play there want to live there. And of *course* the price was also distorted by an agency that had to pay whatever it took to house a set number of people in a specific area. There is no elasticity at all in that segment of the market.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Reader @ 11:53 pm:

    Gosh: we agree on something: “the development costs”, which BoJo (2008 version) promised would be nil, but are presently somewhere between £8-12 million, paid for, not by PPP, but out of London taxes. What that doesn’t explain is why Wrightbus and Heatherwick Studio (not Capoco) got all the lovely moolah when there were rival products where the “development costs” of COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) had been borne by the manufacturers.

    As for Capoco, their Alan Ponsford (read all six pages of devastating criticism here) is on record:

    Our Capoco RMXL design study, with the full colour 3D CAD cutaway …, was a Xmas bit-of-fun for the December 2007 Autocar magazine. The modest £750 fee we received perhaps gives signal to the seriousness of the original intent. It should be noted that it only had the driver onboard as any more staff would clearly be uneconomic. It was after all just vapour-ware so smart electronics were to manage the open platform, with a mix of warning beams followed by phasers set to stun! …
    As it turned out, the manufacturing competition was an equally bad idea. It has strangely adopted a Stalinist command economy approach rather than allowing the free market to address the issue. Only by throwing a really significant sum at this project did it arrive in such a timely manner. It has probably cost some 4 (four) times more than a normal commercial program by this top down delivery. This is why LT, and all other City States, got out of bus design and manufacturing decades ago.

    There is no novelty in the 3 door and 2 staircase layout. There are scores of double deck buses running Berlin to this pattern, except flipped left to right at the back end. The raison d’etre of the open platform – to allow escape when blocked in traffic – is dubious at best. Firstly TfL are rightly agin the practice, and as many a European colleague has pointed out, the answer is to remove the congestion, not the door.

    A comment made by another major UK bus industry figure had it about right “It’s a folly.” In reality, this first batch should also be the last and TfL speedily withdraw from designing & commissioning its own hardware. All credit to Wrightbus & Heatherwick Studio for taking it on – very good work if can get it – but it should never have been offered in the first place.

    Back to the real issue: London buses (and don’t worry your pretty little head about PPP).

    Such impedimenta have a life-expectancy of seven years in “front-line service”, and are then (hopefully) sold on. There seem to be up to two-and-a-half dozen different operating companies running those 8,500 vehicles. Ian Smith’s site regularly expands and expounds on the numerous types used. The BoJo Boggler will be just one more (but the only one dictated by political considerations). It is to be hoped that this Wrightbus job does better than the firm’s previous (and only) entry into the double-decker hybrid London market — its Gemini 2 HEV. Only a dozen were bought, and on 24 Feb 2010 one went rogue and tried to drop itself into Monument tube station, with eleven victims in hospital.

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: As for Capoco, their Alan Ponsford (read all six pages of devastating criticism here) is on record:
    I read it – fun, but not devastating. The author lashed out all around, but mostly seems concerned that (1) Capoco didn’t get a load of money out of all this, and (2) Lavish praise has been heaped on people who didn’t do much that is special.
    I’m not sure where you (or he) are going with the 3 door/2 stairs layout – If it’s a good idea, why the objections; if it’s a bad idea, why are there so many similar buses across Europe?

  • lover not a fighter

    This is an apt situation for what is called a Mortons fork

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton%27s_fork

    Sadly when it comes to politics we are all too often confronted with Mortons fork.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Reader @ 9:30 am:

    Keep with the script.

    You were enthused by Capoco’s design inputs (@11:53 pm). Now you see Capoco with a bad dose of sour grapes. Which is it? Or are you merely trolling out of ignorance, for the hell of it?

    The possible scandal there involves Heatherwick Studio. Why did a small (but imaginative) architectural practice get a contract for a prestigious automotive project over the heads of all the big boys in the bus business? And why was Heatherwick ordained by TfL rather than Wrightbus connecting with a specialist design team? And all behind closed doors, without Heatherwick being previously involved in the (very) public toings-and-froings over this contract? For that matter, why Wrightbus, a small operation whose previous outing was no great shakes? Bizarre? You bet.

    The obvious connection is Cllr Daniel Moylan, a triple jobber who has a modest income of £131,597 for three days a week at TfL, £10,597 for being a Kensington & Chelsea councillor, and a bonne bouche of a further £6,000 for membership of the London Waste and Recycling Board.

    Back in October 2005 a proposal came to K&C’s Deputy Leader to by-pass EU rules on competitive tendering (in fact, circumvent all transparency) and commission Heatherwick to provide four newspaper stands for the Borough. Contract value: £125,000, which gives some measure of Heatherwick’s league position. K&C’s Deputy Leader? — aforesaid Cllr Daniel Moylan. Moylan is also FRIBA with property and financial directorships.

    Time passes.

    The judging panel for the Boris Bus competition (that is the public part, before the behind-the-arras arrangement to bring Heatherwick in, after the whole thing was done-and-dusted, prizes shared, and all the rest) did not include Cllr Daniel Moylan. Yet — Lo and behold! — whose fingerprints are these on the Heatherwick commission, rubbishing that judging panel and all its works? The Deputy Chairman of TfL, one Daniel Moylan.

    Invert the political allegiances here, and every right-wing journo would have antennae twitching.

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: You were enthused by Capoco’s design inputs (@11:53 pm). Now you see Capoco with a bad dose of sour grapes. Which is it?
    Why not both? There’s no contradiction.

  • Reader

    Oh, and by the way, I can understand your caution over implying wrongdoing over Heatherwick/Mohnihan. But that stuff above is really too opaque. Are you suggesting a 7 year long conspiracy by a cabal of no-hopers to earn peanuts, starting in the reign of Red Ken?

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    A quick chorus to get the juices flowing:

    Oh, come out you black and tans,
    Come out and fight me like a man
    Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders
    Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
    From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra.

    So to Reader @ 12:33pm:

    Flatter yourself. At least get the names phonetically aright.

    Moylan’s nigh-on-£150k a year for “public office” is your definition of “peanuts”? As well as regularly receiving his council papers via DHL at his Thailand “holiday home” (one year’s cost to RBKC £4,100, but see Private Eye serially)? Well, BoJo’s quarter-mill was “chickenfeed” (except we now now it was only part of the £1.7 million he grossed in three years as London Mayor). My, my: some folk have odd notions of how animal fodder relates to the public purse.

    You will find that the residents of the Royal Borough have already enough dirt and pork-scratchings on Cllr Moylan. Try the Evening Standard for 19 July 2010 and enjoy the naturally sinister demeanour that has made him many enemies. Don’t believe that he lives alone in a mansion flat off Kensington High Street and keeps a surprisingly low profile: his own website announces to the world: Daniel Moylan is gay and lives in Kensington (in Queen’s Gate ward, which he continues to represent) with his partner. He enjoys reading, classical music and riding.

    It’s not that the Royal Borough’s inhabitants, many of them LGBT to the point of queenliness, are in any way put out by such openness. It’s just that those same Tory councillors who have subsequently “come out” were once equally loud in enthusiasm for Section 28.

    This would all have absolutely no NI interest, were it not for the TaxPayer’s Alliance — not usually noted for being Tory-unfriendly. Let’s hear it from Matthew Elliott “founder and chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance”:

    There was high praise indeed for the TaxPayers’ Alliance today from Kensington and Chelsea’s Councillor Daniel Moylan: in a fit of high dudgeon we are compared, variously, to “destructive nihilists”, the rioters of 1967 Paris, Mussolini supporters and Stalinists. All in all, quite an impressive haul – I’m sure the Black and Tans will be sad they were left off the list.

    The rest of that piece is here.