It hasn’t been an easy week for Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Why did he agree, as a politician so robust in resisting health and safety excesses, agree to suspend the entire bus service? The answer is he didn’t. It was an "operational decision" by Transport for London, he was notified but not consulted.
I’ve been writing about this for the Daily Mail’s online Debate section and I’m relying on what the TfL press office told me. The Mayor’s own press office never got back. Boris has retained 15 press officers from the Livingstone era including Joe Derrett, who used to be a press officer for the London Labour Party. Do they really have Boris’s best interests at heart? Can he really claim that a Council Tax freeze is the best he can manage while he still employs all of them?
But back to the snow. Boris has defended the bus decision in public. Very British, very Eton. Take it on the chin, don’t worm out of responsibility. Rather in the way he took the wrap for Simon Heffer writing an error infested Spectator leader denouncing Liverpudlians. But I rather doubt if Boris privately is entirely delighted about the decision and suspect he will "micromanage" a bit more from now on.
Ken Livingstone, who never saw a regulation he didn’t like, has been
opportunistic in posing as a champion of individual liberty. "We’ve
never just given up before," he told Channel 4 News of the suspension
of the buses. "I think the health and safety bureaucrats slipped one
past the mayor on that." Indeed but I reckon part of the blame is due
to a TfL management craven to the unions. Some more of the blame, according
to Camden Council, is due to snowploughs not being able to cope with
humps. Livingstone was fanatical in demanding more humps through most
of his mayoralty while Boris has signalled a change of direction.