Last week we invited your questions for Boris Johnson and he has submitted the answers below. He answered all fifteen that we submitted him to him. Our apologies if your question wasn’t one of those we put to him. Brickbats please to us rather to Boris if that was the case.
Nick Hoile: Please, please, please can we have air conditioning on the tube?
Nick, we are working towards that very goal. We have great plans to upgrade the sub-surface lines by the end of 2009, and in the meantime we’ve put giant fans at particularly busy stations to try and provide some comfort to passengers. By 2015, around a third of the network will have air conditioning.
I’ve refused to concede defeat on getting air conditioning on the deep tube lines (Northern, Jubilee, Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Victoria) and I’ve asked TfL to look at it again.
As always, it’s a question of money and when I met Alistair Darling I pointed out to him that the extra services we’ll be running over the next few years will create extra kinetic energy which will raise temperatures on the tube, thus making investing in air conditioning an absolute necessity.
Lucy: When is he getting rid of bendy buses?
Lucy, my first preference was to banish them on day one and I know that’s what most Londoners wanted to see too. However, the brutal fact is that we need to wait until the contracts expire, as cutting the cord immediately would involve wasting a lot of taxpayers’ money. The first contracts start to expire next year, and I hope to humanely euthanase the bendy buses from then.
activist: Can you recommend any good textbooks for teaching young children Latin?
There are many great Latin textbooks, but I would single out Kennedy’s Shorter Latin Primer.
wtf: What would you say to those who complain that your appointments to City Hall haven’t exactly been based on merit? Isn’t public school/Oxford cronyism just as bad as Red Ken’s jobs for the boys?
I’ve appointed people who I think will deliver my vision for London, regardless of where they come from. I don’t think, for example, that Ray Lewis (despite his appointment not working out) would be pleased to be described as being a public school crony! The reality of the system set up by this government is that, as Mayor, I can appoint a small group of people to help me run the administration. They each bring different, great talents to the table, and in appointing them I have been mindful of my duty to reflect all Londoners.
Dorian Grape: I get excited about flags, me. As the matter of buildings, flag poles and flags is under your executive control can we have the Cross of St. George displayed prominently at the GLA? You could probably get away with it if you said it was the City of London without the sword. And how about a GLA flag? You could run a competition or something and come up with one like Haringey’s: http://tinyurl.com/638jv3. But I’m pretty sure I have seen that design on a Panzer tank. No, really. Will you fly the flag of England?
Dorian, if you come to City Hall, you’ll see the Union Jack flying outside, as well as a special ‘City Hall’ flag. You’re very welcome to send me your suggested design for such a GLA flag, as at the moment it just says ‘City Hall’. People often express their frustration at the previous regime’s reluctance to champion English culture and tradition, and ask me what I plan to do to rectify that. We celebrated this year’s St George’s day in Trafalgar Square and will continue to do so vociferously.
I’m sure during next year’s celebrations, we can organise having the flag of St George fly outside City Hall- an offer open to all other cultural celebrations at other times in the year.
Surrey Boy: Why do you think you can deliver a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary when Conservative and Labour governments in the past have studied the proposal in detail and found it impossible to deliver?
I think we all need to wake up to the fact that Heathrow just isn’t the solution to our long-term aviation needs. As long as people continue to want and need to travel to faraway destinations in contraptions powered by kerosene, we’ve got to have the infrastructure to support it. You will never expand Heathrow to the satisfaction of anyone, so I believe we should look elsewhere. There could be an opportunity to do something in the Thames Estuary, and I don’t want to be the kind of Mayor who shuts out fresh thinking. Yes, there are all sorts of issues to overcome- but I want to take a serious look at the feasibility of delivering it.
Imagine if Joseph Bazalgette had looked at previous failure and concluded there was no way of delivering a sewerage system for London? Or if Brunel had thought of what hadn’t been done before, and concluded he couldn’t do any better? We must always press forward, we must always aim higher and we must always seek to achieve what hasn’t been achieved before.
gingeral: Are you going to cancel Ken Livingstone’s planned celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution next year (bearing in mind that Castro killed more people in his first three years in office than Pinochet managed in seventeen!)?
You can rest assured this is a dead plan. It is no more, it has ceased to be, it is an ex-plan! My administration will not be treating taxpayer’s money with the lax attitude of the previous administration.
Oberon Houston: When will the review of the city cycle hire scheme be complete, and when will firm proposals be announced?
Oberon, I’ve instructed TfL to move as fast as we can on this, because I’m really excited about the potential this has to transform the city. My aim is to get this up and running in 2010. There are a few hurdles to overcome along the way; the hardest thing is finding appropriate pavement space and finding the right supplier. We’ve also got to do formal consultation, and consider the impact extra cyclists will have on traffic flow. Make no mistake, I want this to happen and it will.
Marcus: Would you PLEASE do something – apply pressure, whatever – to get the 2012 Olympics logo changed from the present amateurish design?
Marcus, I’m now in a position where I’ve got to accept a little collective responsibility! I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I’d rather focus on extracting a viable legacy from the Games, and ensuring we deliver an event fit for a first class city. That’s where my energies are directed, and that’s where they are best focused.
WHS: Will the Mayor make sure his bods at City Hall inform local Associations when he is out and about in the boroughs? He has been to mine on various photo-ops three times since becoming Mayor: it would have given all our troops an enormous boost just to go and touch his hem and cheer him, and made us more willing to go out on wet Wednesdays to make sure he stays in to be Mayor for the Olympics.
I would love to see local members more when I’m out on the road, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all the activists and volunteers who campaigned tirelessly to get out the vote and help us win City Hall for the first time. It really is no exaggeration to say we couldn’t have done it without you, as turnout was so crucial to the result.
There are some visits that I do that are not of an association nature, but I plan to do more visits where associations can be fully involved in all parts of London. Of course, I have to be mindful not use the resources of my office to undertake campaigning, but I do not for one minute want the troops to think I have forgotten them- I haven’t.
JR: I voted for you but am concerned about your level of commitment and interest in the job. Why have you, for example, decided to continue with your weekly column in the Telegraph?
I see no harm in spending a Sunday evening writing a column. It doesn’t impede my duties as Mayor at all. I am quickly finding out that the sheer scale of this job is wider, deeper and more intense than I ever imagined. More important, I am loving every minute of it. My day is scheduled to within an inch of its life, and I want to squeeze as much as I can out of my time as Mayor in order to get things done. There is so much to be done, on transport, on the environment, on housing and most crucially on knife crime. So be in no doubt- this is the biggest and best challenge I have faced in my professional life and I am throwing everything I have into it.
Graeme Archer: I know that legally you cannot sack Ian Blair- power that a Tory government must give the mayor (do you agree?). Why not make a moral stand and publicly demand his resignation? You are far too perceptive to believe his public protestations and he will work to undermine your crime and social justice agenda.
Sir Ian and I need to work together to solve the serious problems with knife crime and youth violence. I do believe that the Mayor should have greater power over the Met, as there is a democratic deficit at the moment. I can, and should, be held accountable for crime in this city- but I have little power to hold the Met to account. Of course, in reality we work closely together, and they are responsive to the needs of the city and my priorities. But if you look at other major cities, like New York, there is a clear line of accountability that enables that Mayor to drive through the changes that the city demands. At the end of the day, I can’t demand, I can only ask and I believe that should change.
Londoner: Please will you and Sir Simon Milton progress rapidly new detailed policy and guidance to deal with tall buildings and overdevelopment (developers are still behaving according to Ken’s dictates)? I am thinking of such areas as Vauxhall Cross, which need regeneration but do not need a whole cluster of very tall buildings totally alienating the area from the surrounding mostly Victorian streets. Might you seek a major arts or sports organisation to set up a national centre/performing space there, as the centre point for Vauxhall Cross regeneration, rather than a lot of tall rabbit hutch homes and offices designed only to meet some top down London-wide target?
Sir Simon has already made progress on our planning policy. We have recently released a direction of travel document ‘Planning for a Better London’, which sets out very clearly the priorities of our planning policy (http://www.london.gov.uk/mayor/planning/plan-better-london.jsp).
On tall buildings, we will support them in the appropriate locations, where there are existing clusters and give greater weight to local context. On the specific example you give of Vauxhall Cross, as I am soon to take personal control of planning power, I can’t comment in detail as it might prejudice any decision I make. But I can give you my general view. I want new buildings to be of the highest quality, and I want to ensure we think of urban regeneration schemes in the context of how they will shape communities for 50 years and more so we try and avoid the mistakes made by previous generations. I will be more sensitive to local opinion, and only use my new powers to intervene in exceptional circumstances.
Question for Boris Johnson: Mayor Johnson, I would like to know why you felt the need to interfere with internal US politics by endorsing Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama for president? Protocol generally has foreign politicians – from any country – avoiding endorsements to cause embarrassment. Additionally, I really don’t understand how someone who is conservative (with a small ‘c’) with right-wing leanings can endorse Mr Obama, who had the most left-wing voting record in the US Senate?
I was asked my view on Barack Obama, and I genuinely believe he would give black people the world over a tremendous boost. I suppose that inevitably gets reported as an ‘endorsement’, but I’m far too focused on the challenges facing London to get embroiled in the presidential election. However, I also said at the time that John McCain has many wonderful qualities.
ConHomer: So far, what is your biggest achievement and what was your biggest mistake?
I’ve done a lot of things I am proud of, but if I had to pick one I would say increasing the number of police on public transport. During the campaign many Londoners, particularly those in the outer Boroughs that the previous Mayor ignored, urged me to do something about crime on the buses. I am pleased to have been able to take action so quickly, and establish three bus hubs where expanded Safer Transport Teams now operate. It proves that there are some things that can be done, when there is the right political will in place. I will be announcing the next phase of this operation over the coming weeks, including the early results.
Of course, there are some things, with the benefit of hindsight, I could have done differently, but I think it would have been a dramaturgical cheat on the electorate not to have done a few things that attracted criticism.