This week marks the second anniversary of Boris Johnson’s election as Mayor of London. With just days to go until the country goes to the polls, what does the administration of Cameron’s Bullingdon Club colleague tell us about how a Tory government might look? If they really are the party of change, what kind of change can we expect?
On all the big issues facing London – housing, public services, transport, crime, safety and the environment – the Tories’ record in power is not a good one.
There are over a third of a million households on London’s housing waiting lists – families often living in over-crowded and poor conditions and with little security. Yet despite this urgent need, one of Boris Johnson’s first moves was to scrap the policy that half of all new housing should be affordable. And he has gone back on his election pledge to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2011.
Despite promising to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority to get more police on the street, Johnson is actually cutting 455 officers and has refused to guarantee the neighbourhood policing model of one sergeant, two PCs and three PCSOs for every London ward.
And while he rails against public sector “fat cats” in his Daily Telegraph column, he has presided over massive pay rises for himself and his most senior staff, while cutting jobs lower down the chain.
His re-organisation of City Hall has made the GLA more white and more male.
Just a couple of weeks ago, it was announced that London’s childcare affordability team is being scrapped. With the future of early years and Sure Start centres in jeopardy from the Conservatives, Boris Johnson’s decision puts 10,000 childcare places for low-income families under threat.
But it is arguably transport which has suffered most thanks to Tory rule in London.
Boris Johnson has failed to persuade his party to commit to Crossrail. He has cancelled a funded Thames crossing in East London that would have brought jobs and regeneration to the area. And wasteful, regressive decisions like halving the size of the congestion charge zone, replacing London’s modern bus fleet and wasting over £1.5m per vehicle on building five new double-deckers have been paid for by the biggest real terms fare rises in Transport for London’s history.
Hardworking Londoners faced 20% bus fare rises in January thanks to Boris Johnson’s decisions. And rather than keeping fares down and protecting public services, he has instead spent his political capital campaigning against tighter regulation for financial services and a higher rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000. He has spent his time talking up the chances of bankers leaving London, warning they have been “punished enough”, and has campaigned against taxing City bonuses.
On the environment, London has gone from being a world-leader in tackling climate change to losing the chair of the influential C40 group. Under the Conservatives, plans to charge the most polluting vehicles a higher rate of congestion charge have been cancelled.
And while up to 5,000 Londoners die prematurely because of the city’s poor air quality, Boris Johnson prevented a scheme going ahead which would have charged the most polluting vehicles for driving into Greater London.
This is the cost of the Conservatives in London: a less green city, higher fares for hard-working Londoners, reduced services and a lack of support for people who need a home they can afford.
For anyone who thinks the Tories have changed, Boris Johnson’s two years in charge of London reveals their true face. The presentation may have improved, but at every opportunity the “nasty” party will fall down on the side of the few, not the many.