Mayor Boris Johnson: one year on
PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:04 07 September 2010
2008 Getty Images
In July 2007, MP Boris Johnson was better known for his shambolic presenting skills and scandals at The Spectator than his political achievements. Many dismissed his campaign to become London Mayor, which started with a joke-filled application form, as a
In July 2007, MP Boris Johnson was better known for his shambolic presenting skills and scandals at The Spectator than his political achievements.
Many dismissed his campaign to become London Mayor, which started with a joke-filled application form, as a wind-up or, at its most serious, a huge error of judgement for the Conservatives.
But, in just nine months, the milk-blond Henley representative turned it into serious political purpose and soon his campaign had steam-rollered across the Thames to take City Hall.
Across London, people were suddenly taken by the politician, who they thought of as the plain-speaking voice of London in comparison to the arrogant incumbent and in May made that point at the ballot box.
Although 12 months on Mayor Johnson admits the job is harder than he ever thought, he is still as wide-eyed that he has the role as those who dismissed him.
"It's a fantastic job, it's a massive job, it's like being secretary of state for some huge department but amazingly good fun," he says.
"It is also like being constituency MP for a gigantic constituency and everyone feels able to talk to you.
"When I'm perched on my bike on a street corner, people can talk to me about whatever they want and they do.
"It is such a privilege to do this job - it really is. It would be very, very churlish of me to say there were moments when I felt like I didn't want it and there aren't. But what you realise is you've got to work hard to get things done."
The hard work has been put into force in several areas, say the administration. They started with closing down The Londoner paper - saving almost £3million - and then the controversial banning of alcohol on the Tube.
Next came the mayor's involvement in the resignation of Sir Ian Blair and later policies like freezing the precept on council tax and the announcement to restructure City Hall and save money on staff.
"I think I was elected to try to bring a bit of common sense to the management of City Hall," he says.
The other area that Boris says he is happy with is crime - a key issue in the election race which focused on London's knife problems.
"We've just been looking at some of the figures for the All London Survey which we've done for the last year and one of the most interesting things is that people seem to feel much safer on public transport," he says.
"We've got more people out in uniform on the buses than at any time in the last 30 years and the result seems to be that it's not just our figures which show us crime is falling but people feel it as well.
"That's obviously positive but I want to stress there is much, much more to do and we are going to keep working on that."
Many critics knock Mr Johnson, not for what he has done but what he is aiming to do. Ken Livingstone told the Ham&High last week that the mayor has no "narrative" for London.
Not so, says Mr Johnson, who with typical verbose imagination delivers his view of the capital to be: "I have a vision of a streetscape which is safe, where you have happy pelotons of cyclists scudding through the streets which have less bubble gum and fewer impermeable iron railings - where you have wonderful new cleaner, greener prototype replacement Routemaster buses, where we are starting to pioneer the use of electric vehicles and reducing carbon emissions.
"Where kids feel they can go and play in the park safely, cycle to school safely and there's a continued and intensifying sense of cohesion and community between the 300 language groups that make up the greatest city on earth."
And for the man who pulled off an electoral stunt which shocked many, he says he can shock again and deliver that London in three years' time.
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