Category Archives: Evening Standard


This could be fun:

Factually (says wikipedia):

  • Greater London is 607 square miles;
  • Luxembourg is 998.6 square miles;
  • Delaware is 1,982 square miles;
  • Wales is 2428 square miles.



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Filed under Britain, Europe, Evening Standard, Guardian, London, United States

Where’s “Outer London”?

In the good old days, that was an easy one: it was London beyond the former LCC, which became the area covered by the Inner London Education Authority. The LCC/ILEA area had an in-built Labour majority, so in 1963 the Tory government imposed the London Government Act, incorporating a further 20 outer London Boroughs, carved out of the (now-extinct) County of Middlesex, and chunks of Surrey and Kent. The Greater London Council came into effect in 1965.

To the gross disgust of the Tories, who thought they had gerrymandered a London to their liking, on three of the six subsequent elections, “Greater London” went Labour — and “lefty” Labour at that. In 1983 the Thatcher government gave up, and abolished the Greater London Council with effect from 1985, throwing authority (eventually including education) back at the 32 boroughs. That left a few residual matters, so a transport, policing and fire authority persisted.

The creakiness of this operation was obvious from the start. The incoming Blair government proposed a Greater London Authority, with an elected Mayor, and a titular London Assembly.

Which is the current state of play.

Then we read guff like this, at the heart of the London Evening Standard‘s piece about Sadiq Khan becoming the Labour nominee for the 2016 Mayoral Election:

… to win he will have to boost Labour support in outer London, where the party trails behind the Tories, and appeal to Londoners who do not normally vote Labour.

So we need to address “Outer London” — those 2o boroughs created by the 1963 Act.

Last year’s Borough elections, across all of London showed Labour out-voting the Tories by 2.6 million votes to 1.8 million: 37.4% to 26.1%. A year later, at the last General Election, despite the rest of Britain tending in the other direction, Labour continued to advance in London.: 1.5 million votes (43.7%) to the Tories’ 1.2 million (34.9%) — a gross swing to Labour since 2010 of 7.1%.

As a result Labour gained seven London seats — all but one of them in “Outer London”. When the London loves Business site mapped that, this was the result:

Labour vote 2015

The Evening Standard should indeed beware of what it fears: were Labour further to advance in the GLA area it would imply that seriously bourgeois and leafy suburbs are continuing to trend left.

Moreover, Labour has been recruiting members and — note this — workers very successfully indeed, in just those areas.

Sadiq Khan doesn’t have to “boost” very far.



Filed under Evening Standard, History, Labour Party, London, politics

Stroke, counterstroke, spoke, wheel

Yep: sure enough! Here it comes!

UnknownThe “Stop BoJo” wagon, as predicted, is beginning to roll. Quick chorus of Three Wheels on my Wagon (Burt Bacharach for the New Christy Minstrels, 1961 — if my memory serves). Mayor Johnson will need to heed:

Them Cherokees are after me
Flaming spears
Burn my ears
But I’m singing a happy song!

As I see it, we can count:

Wheel One:


The Guardian has that one.

It’s the old story of adversarial politics: your opponents are over there; you enemies are behind you.

All the evidence is the Tory ship is not a happy one. It’s not just the long-festering EU-thingy (and BoJo has swung both ways on that), it’s pent-up ambition and resentment:

  • Cameron has overlooked talent — every Tory back-bencher feels she/he has a need for, deserves one of those red boxes.
  • Dammit! Those unworthy LibDems have their share of that elusive prize.
  • Cameron, despite keeping his enemies close, has kept his friends closer. He has discarded a few too many adept political dagger-men. They will not forgive and forget.

Consequently there are two schools of thought on BoJo (who, for all his numerous faults — to which we come in a moment — is an operator):

  1. The Tories are likely to lose in 2015, That will necessitate a change of leader. That opens opportunities for new talent to be discovered, old talent to be refurnished. Let’s get on board early!
  2. We have all the talent we need, thank you. Even if we do lose in 2015, we don’t need more flashy competition in the next talent-show.

Among the second group are the Friends of George, and it is the Osborne faction whom we need to watch. They are not Friends of BoJo.

Wheel Two:

MailThe Daily Mail, of course.

First thing to consider in that case: the Daily Mail is no convinced fan of Cameron.

Then again, are the constituencies really Stompin’ at the Savoy to have BoJo as their prospective parliamentary candidate? The blue-rinse ladies may coo over him … then nudge each other in the ribs and recall how he treated poor Petsy. Among others. Constituency chairmen may harbour ambitions of their own, or for someone local, or who is mouldable in the right image: Johnson doesn’t fit anyone’s mould. Nor does Johnson have any reputation for being “a good constituency MP”. His attendance at local functions was notoriously erratic. Max Hastings, also in the Mail, nails a lot of the rest:

… he is also capable of creating mayhem. He is an egomaniac with a strand of recklessness, a loose cannon capable of holing his own side’s ship. He was, don’t forget, a member of that silly Oxford Bullingdon Club group with Cameron and George Osborne.

John Dryden, back in 1681, described the 1st Earl of Shaftsbury in similar terms:

A daring pilot in extremity,
Pleased with the danger, when the waves went high,
He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.
Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide…

Being BoJo’s Constituency Committee, and therefore licensed keeper, would never be an easy job. Yes, the next 2015 Election will involve a huge media attention … and then? And there’d always be the fear of a late-Saturday evening telephone call, and a reptile for one of the sensational Sundays looking for an instant quote on the latest doing. Oh, and Lock Up Your Daughters.

Wheel Three:

TimesThe simple matter of orthodoxy.

Truth to tell, Tory orthodoxy is Euroscepticism, even to the ultra utterance. Let’s go to the Times next (as right):

Last night Eurosceptics said they saw Mr Johnson’s decision as a boost to their campaign to take Britain out of the EU. His announcement of a return to the Commons came after a speech in which he said that Britain should not be afraid of life outside the EU.

Yet, Johnson carefully tailors his remarks to his audience. What he says about leaving the EU is always balanced with City-friendly qualifications about “reform” of the EU. Try that recent Bloomberg speech:

… for 15 years after the fall of the wall, it was the EU that served as a beacon and an objective for Poland and other former communist countries. It was the EU’s insistence on market reforms that has transformed those economies, and helped provide the British speedway fan with the friendly cafes and prompt service, ice cream and all the stuff that you would not have expected under communism.

And as we, this week, mark a century since the outbreak of the First World War, we should reflect that for 70 or almost 70, of those 100 years, there has now been peace in western Europe, probably the longest uninterrupted absence of war since the days of the Antonine emperors; and of course there are probably all sorts of reasons for that peace

Then come the Eurosceptic “buts”, starting with  “economic underperformance” and “collapse of political trust”. Both those sound capable of remedy. That’s the third section of his speech, pointedly sub-headed The solution: reform and referendum. For all the eurosceptic spin, most of this speech could have been delivered (absenting the mock-intellectual stuff about Roman history) by a David Cameron acolyte.

So, the problem with BoJo’s third wheel is one never knows which way he will spin it.

The spare wheel

Johnson comes with so much excess baggage. He is a foul-mouthed, adulterous, lying, racist bigot. Note that I have hot-linked each of those terms.

When Michael Howard (who, remember, went along with those dog-whistle Tory posters in 2005) sacked Johnson from his Front Bench, it wasn’t for the adultery:

Howard said the sacking was because Johnson had lied over the affair. It had nothing to do with morality.

That remains one of my favourite definitions of Tory family values.

Finally, let’s consider Johnson as a parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge, which seems to be a prime choice:

He is now expected to seek the safe seat of Uxbridge & South Ruislip where the Tory MP, Sir John Randall, who has a majority of 11,000, has announced that he will not run again.

However, local sources said that huge interest in contesting the seat meant that Mr Johnson faced a race against time if he hoped to secure it. Tory HQ is expecting as many as 100 applicants, according to insiders, meaning that Mr Johnson needed to make his intentions known very soon.

A source said: “Things have moved on quickly. The selection process is now set in motion. We’re gearing up for it and the association will make a final choice on September 12. So if Boris wishes to apply for the constituency, he’s got to get his intentions known to central office pretty quick. If he wants to throw his hat in the ring, he’ll have to do it over the next week or so.”

Now, let’s wait for Johnson to backtrack on what he has committed to with HS2, Heathrow, and urban motorways — for none of his previous stands would sell in Uxbridge. That’s baggage not wanted on voyage.

All of which will be oozing into the Press through though “Friends of George”.

A Favourite has no friend

Bottom line — if :

Boris Johnson is the early favourite among grassroots Tories to succeed David Cameron as leader, according to a poll conducted by Conservativehome.

That may be historical (2012) but Paul Goodman and ConHome are still, today, in the same groove:

If Cameron is Prime Minister after next May, Boris can serve in Cabinet when his mayoral term ends.  And if he isn’t, Boris can contest the consequent leadership election, as he has every right to do.   After all, he repeatedly comes in first or second in this site’s polls among Party members of future leaders.

Johnson should remember the fate of Thomas Gray’s Selima, Drown’d in a Tub of Gold Fishes, complete with those Classical allusions:

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
   Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
   A Favourite has no friend!
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
   And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
   Nor all that glisters, gold.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, ConHome, Conservative family values, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Guardian, London, politics, Times, Uncategorized

How you spin ’em, number 94

Anthony Wells, yesterday:

Over the last couple of days the Evening Standard have been reporting the contents of a new YouGov London poll – yesterday here and today here.

YouGov found London voting intentions of CON 35%(nc), LAB 45%(+3), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 8%(-2), GRN 4%(nc). Labour are up three since June, but this poll would still suggest Labour doing slightly worse in London than elsewhere (a ten point lead for Labour in London is a 4 point swing since the general election, whereas GB polls are currently showing a 5 1/2 point swing to Labour.)

For the record, London voting in the 2010 General Election went:

Labour 36.6% (down 2.3% since 2005) and 38 MPs;
Tories 34.5% (up 2.6%)  and 28 MPs;
Lib Dems 22.1% (up 0.2%) and 7 MPs.

By consensus Labour:

  • did better in London than across the UK (vote down 6.2%), and
  • far better than England taken together (vote down 7.4%).

These things have the characteristic of a rubber band: they stretch, but only so far — and the Labour vote inevitably has natural limits: even in the wonder year of 1997 the vote in London was

  • 49.5% Labour, 31.2% Tory, 14.6% Lib Dem.

One other figure worth mentioning is the 2014 London Borough elections (the most recent proper poll). This, on a smaller turn-out, which itself tends to count against Labour, had:

Labour 37.33% (up 4.83%  on 2010 Borough Elections),
Tories 26.32% (down 5.42%) and
LibDems 10.63% (down 11.73%).

Were we to take that Evening Standard/YouGov poll as total Gospel, Labour is way ahead, even from May, the Tories are a trifle restored (thanks to the UKIP decline?), and  the LibDems still barely bog-snorkelling.

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Filed under Elections, Evening Standard, Labour Party, Lib Dems, London, Tories., ukpollingreport

Lost and gone, and well forgotten

Martin Kettle starts his Guardian piece:

Commentators often fail to discern the essential insecurity of politicians. Yet somewhere beneath even the most confident MP’s veneer is the sleepless fear of oblivion.

I found that reassuring. I know my memory is not what it should be, and used to be — too much Cabernet Sauvignon, too often. Still, I wonder how many others of my vintage would recognise the names on this list:

Mac the Knife

That’s “Vicky ” for the London Evening Standard, exactly fifty-two years ago (17th July, 1962). There are, it seems, two versions of this cartoon. The early editions of the paper may have had just the seven top names, with the other nine, the junior ministers, were added in the later effort.

Kettle’s point, about “oblivion” made me wonder how many of the names on Mac’s “Little List” have any resonance these days. Does anyone hanker for David Eccles at Education (1954-7, 1959-62) or at the dead-and-gone Board of Trade (in the intervening gap)? Do we remember Harold Watkinson for his time at Defence (1959-1962) or as Chairman of Cadbury Schweppes (1969-74), or neither?

Just two characters there deserve a bit of immortality

Selwyn Lloyd (sacked as Chancellor by Macmillan) was rehabilitated as Leader of the Commons by Alec Douglas-Home, and imposed by the Heath majority as Speaker in 1971.

Kilmuir was the Lord Chancellor, formerly David Maxwell Fyfe.

I’d not be surprised if, in the near future, his name doesn’t appear more often than it has these forty odd years since his death. He was wrong about not reprieving Derek Bentley in 1953 (allegedly because a hanging would strengthen his chances to elbow Eden aside in Churchill’s succession). He justified the Suez intervention in 1956. He set up the Wolfenden Committee, and then in the House of Lords opposed its recommendations and badger-stroker Lord [“Boofy” Gore] Arran’s Sexual Offences Bill. Kilmuir remained a firm defender of the death penalty.

What may yet give Kilmuir some posthumous notice is his claim in the House of Lords, 24th May 1965:

I have in mind the proselytisation which goes out from sodomitic societies and buggery clubs, which everybody knows exist.

I cannot find another reference for this, but Geraldine Bedell, in a 2007 piece for the Observer had:

For the opposition, Lord Kilmuir warned against licensing the ‘buggers’ clubs’ which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London. But Arran, supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, won his third reading by 96 votes to 31.

The term buggers’ clubs, as there, seems always associated with Kilmuir. Properly it belongs to Lord Chief Justice Goddard:

There is no judge who has to go on circuit, as I did for many years, who does not from time to time find that in various parts of the country—in quite different parts of the country—there are what are generally referred to among the people who practise these things as “buggers’ clubs” or associations or coteries of people who are given to this particular vice. They are often careful to see that they keep out young boys, because they know that they get very heavy sentences if they are found out; but at these coteries of buggers, the most horrible things go on. As a judge, one has to sit and listen to these stories which make one feel physically sick.

If this Bill goes through, so that buggery is no longer a criminal offence provided it is done in private and with no boys concerned, then it will be a charter for these buggers’ clubs. They will be able to spring up all over the place. I can assure your Lordships that it is a very real risk.

Goddard is now remembered for his other proclivities and his trousers. Which is one way of escaping public oblivion.

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Filed under Evening Standard, Guardian, History, homosexuality, Law, Observer, politics

The weather is being driven by hot air currently over the Low Countries


No, not the Great British Obsession with Brussels and all things EU. Just the Evening Standard coming to grips with the killer photo-chemical smog shrouding Londoners:

… the Met Office said there was a pollution warning level ten, the highest on their scale.

A level this high means adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity, according to the Met Office.

People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often, according to their advice.

People are advised to reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.

Things have been grim much of the month, and it’s not yet summer. Nobody in authority seems keen to address the problem. It really is a problem:

It is estimated that fine particles have an impact on mortality equivalent to 4,267 deaths in London in 2008, within a range of 756 to 7,965. A permanent reduction in PM2.5 concentrations of 1μg/m3 would gain 400,000 years of life for the current population (2008) in London and a further 200,000 years for those born during that period, followed for the lifetime of the current population. For the current population, this is equivalent to an average 3 weeks per member of the 2008 population, with the expected gains differing by age. 

A measure of the ambiguous posturing of Mayor Johnson was encapsulated in a prize quotation:

A spokeswoman for the mayor said although the figures were hypothetical, he took the issue “extremely seriously”.

Yeah, BoJo, so “hypothetical” that we have official warnings to stay indoors, avoid exercise which may add to breathing the filth.

2012 measures

The London Olympics were a particular example of how Johnson took the issue “extremely seriously”. £5million was thrown at remedies. These amounted to:

  • planters along the designated route network (i.e. the roads marked up to bring officials to and from the Olympic site);
  • applying sticky to the roads adjacent to monitoring stations, in the hope this would glue down the pollutants.

Another trick was simply to deny that some monitoring stations existed at all. Brent Council has such a station at Neasden Lane, on the heavily-polluted North Circular Road. It regularly records the kind of pollution levels that would get us into trouble and cost with the EU:

Across London, a network of boxes monitor the level of pollution that we breathe in. There are limits on the amount of pollution allowed, which were agreed over a decade ago by our government and all the others in the Europe Union. Many of the boxes around London regularly measure pollution exceeding that amount. The UK should get fined an estimated £300m by the European Commission if any one station measures unsafe pollution levels for more than 35 days in the year. 2011 was one of several years that have landed our Government in the dock, and the Mayor and the Government are [d]oing everything they can to wriggle out of their responsibility for our health.

Since that’s from Jenny Jones, her detractors would sniff (understandable in this climate) and mutter something along MRDA lines.

Note that “if any one station measures unsafe pollution levels“. Ms Jones has that one nailed:

The Government only get away with it, by not telling European Commission that the monitoring stations exists. They claim it doesn’t meet the standards the Commission sets, but the local authority and the experts who run the London air quality network both agree that it does. 

But, wait!

There is a cunning plan! Close the monitoring sites!

The closures could save councils nearly £50m over 10 years, Defra suggests. The proposals only apply to England, and have been rejected by the Scottish government on the grounds that they “would deliver no obvious benefit”.

“The UK government wants to hide air pollution and cares nothing for public health,” said Simon Birkett, director of the campaign group, Clean Air in London…

He added: “Worse, the changes would mean the loss of key protections in the planning system and the very monitors and expertise needed now to improve air quality.”

Prof Duncan Laxen, the managing director of Air Quality Consultants in Bristol, said that much of our understanding of air pollution has come from local authority monitoring: “It will be a retrograde step if the government’s preferred option is to lose this local knowledge.”

Defra insisted that the aim is to “reinvigorate and refocus” local air quality management. It said that the current regime was “diagnosis driven” and that “the level of local reporting can distract resources”.


Let’s follow and adapt Mr Punch:


If you had been planning to visit London, Don’t.

booksAs for the second zinger Mr Punch has there, try Jules Feiffer’s 1959 cartoon story, Boom! — you’ll find it in Passionella and Other Stories. At that time the nuclear powers were popping off tests on a regular basis, to the extent that, as Feiffer imagined, the air was filling with big black floating specks. Official solution: posters declaiming “Big black floating specks are good for you”.

Seems familiar.



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Filed under Boris Johnson, Evening Standard, London

Evening Standard #fail

Credited to: A History of Britain From Above, by James Crawford, Katy Whitaker & Allan Williams

Eastbourne pier 1931

It is about 105 miles from the Evening Standard‘s London office to Bournemouth Pier. Was even so in 1931.

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Filed under Evening Standard, London