There is always a surreal air about aspects of the Annual Dinner hosted by the (unelected) Lord Mayor of London in the City’s Mansion House for the (elected) Mayor of London and the “Governing Bodies of London”. And tonight’s was no exception.
The surrealism began with a Grace from the Lord Mayor’s Chaplain that seemed to be based entirely on a song by Noel Coward – an innovation too far even for the New Model Conservative Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham, Stephen Greenhalgh, or at least for his phone which warbled its protest whilst the Chaplain was speaking (Greenhalgh tried ineffectually to silence it..).
Meanwhile nearby, discontent simmered amongst Mayor Johnson’s Deputy Mayors about the seating arrangements: why had (unelected) Deputy Mayor Sir Simon (rumoured soon to be Lord) Milton been given such a prominent seat allocation, compared with the two other (elected) Deputy Mayors? (Milton was at the centre of the top-table at the left hand of God himself or more precisely at the left hand of Stuart Fraser, the (unelected) Chairman of the Corporation’s Policy and Resources Committee.)
And then, of course, there was the speech from Mayor Boris Johnson himself. Surreally praising those present for braving the snow and ice – the snow and ice itself being a tribute to the success of the team from City Hall that had gone to the Copenhagen to reverse global warming (“How successful they were and so quickly”).
He then moved rapidly on to an argument that the success (sic) of London in coping with the snow and ice was itself a metaphor for the success that London was having in weathering the recession(sic, sic).
This elided into a paeon of praise for the decision he had himself announced that in future all the data held by the GLA would be made freely available on the internet. This in itself would transform the economic prospects of London (if not the Universe).
And then after a brief digression on how his heart goes out to those poor MPs caught up in the expenses scandals “for buying themselves a pepperami” (sic) and how the GLA decision, if adopted by Parliament, would have averted the scandal because the afore-mentioned pepperamis would not have been purchased. At least, I think that was the argument.
Finally, the great champion of openness informed his audience that he could tell us that he had seen the proposed 2012 Olympics mascot but that he couldn’t tell us anything about it – we were not permitted to know whether it was an animal or not, what its gender was, or its sexual orientation. All he could say was that it would be “a howling success”. And what is more, if by the time it is unveiled in May, Gordon Brown has been sent to a salt-mine (there was a sub-theme of the evening relating to salt and grit) the Olympics mascot will be temporary Leader of the Labour Party. Now as everyone knows, if the Leadership of the Labour Party becomes vacant, the post is automatically filled by the Deputy Leader of the Party until a successor is elected – so presumably this was Mayor Boris Johnson’s way of telling us that the 2012 Olympics mascot will in fact be the Right Honourable Harriet Harman MP.
As the Governing Bodies of London filed out of the Mansion House into the snow and ice (which amazingly still remained), you could hear the murmur of confusion/buzz of excitement about the sweeping vision of London’s future that they had just heard from Mayor Johnson.