As Boris Johnson prepares to move out of City Hall into temporary accommodation prior to his desired move into 10 Downing Street, it is time to draw up the first balance sheet on London’s second directly elected Mayor. What was it all about? What did 2008-2016 amount to?
Boris clearly passes the personality test—he is a “first name” politician, regularly hailed in the streets and, when heckled, seen giving as good as he gets. Londoners recognise him, are amused by him and even feel fond of him. Though they are not, I think, proud of him. Sure, he was a genial host for the London Olympics, but it is the dark side of life that reveals true character. He has not, thankfully, been tested as Ken Livingstone (Boris’s predecessor) was on 7/7 or as Giuliani (New York’s Mayor until later 2001) was on 9/11. We do not know whether Boris’s charm and affability stretch to be anything like the leadership and nobility they showed. He has left us with amusing phrases—an inverted pyramid of piffle—but not with poetry, words to live by.
So we are left with what he has actually done—the legacy of physical changes to the fabric of the city. There are the “Boris bikes”—actually a deal done by Ken Livingstone but not reversed by Boris. (And if there is an underrated strength in politicians, it is choosing to maintain and embrace the successes of your predecessors.) There are the Boris buses—ha…