A few weeks ago I asked “How often does Boris Johnson speak up for Londoners?” The answer seemed to be not very much. I had tabled a question in the House of Lords:
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have received from the Mayor of London in the last year on (1) health services in London, (2) housing provision in London, and (3) the impact of changes in welfare benefits on the people of London.[HL5797]“
The response I got was as follows:
“The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Department of Health has held a number of discussions over the last year with the Greater London Authority, London Councils and the Local Government Association about the London Health Improvement Board. We recognise that there is potential for delivering health improvement services on a city-wide basis in London. The London Health Improvement Board has been meeting since July 2011.
The Localism Act conferred on the Mayor of London responsibility for housing, economic development and Olympic legacy in London, in addition to existing responsibilities over transport, planning and the police. Therefore, the mayor is responsible for housing and regeneration policy in London. The Department for Communities and Local Government has regular conversations with the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority regarding housing provision in London. Over the last year these conversations have focused on a broad range of issues, such as funding and delivery of affordable housing, increasing investment in the private rented sector, getting surplus public sector land back into use and dealing with homelessness and rough sleeping.”
The answer was – as I pointed out – notable in what it does not say.
There is no indication that the Mayor had spoken up on behalf of Londoners about the state of London’s NHS and the piecemeal closure of services that is taking place all over the capital.
And there was no mention whatsoever in the answer (despite its specific inclusion in the question) of any representations made by the Mayor on the impact of changes in welfare benefits on the people of London.
So I concluded:
“Boris Johnson has made plenty of public statements about not being nasty to bankers and the iniquities of high tax rates but apparently has little to say about the cuts in welfare and housing benefits that hundreds of thousands of Londoners will face in the next few weeks.”
However, in the interests of fairness, I thought I should seek further clarification in case the omission from the answer was a mistake by civil servants.
After all, this was the Mayor who in October 2010, while he was running for re-election as Mayor, had likened the effects of the housing benefit changes to “Kosovan-style ethnic cleansing“.
I therefore tabled another question in the House of Lords this time more specific that elicited the following response:
“Lord Harris of Haringey:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hanham on 5 March (WA 397-8), what representations they have received from the Mayor of London, separately from the London Assembly, specifically on the subject of the impact of changes to welfare benefits on the people of London.[HL6517]
Lord Freud: We are not aware of any representations received in the past year from the Mayor of London, separately from the London Assembly, on the impact of changes to welfare benefits on the people of London.”
So the Department of Work and Pensions is not aware of ANY representations from the Mayor in the last year.
This demonstrates how little he really cares about what is now happening to many Londoners.
All he was prepared to utter was a single lurid soundbite in one of his rare media interviews. And then nothing.
No attempt to use the formidable statistical and information resources available to him at the Greater London Authority to put the case to his colleagues in Government. Nothing at all.
Perhaps what it means is that now he has been re-elected he no longer feels the need to represent the interests of Londoners as his focus has moved on to winning over the Conservative MPs he needs for his next objective – to succeed David Cameron as Leader of the Conservative Party. And not many of those Tory MPs care about hard-pressed Londoners damaged by the Government’ s policies on benefits.