There was a fiery exchange in the chamber of the London Assembly yesterday after Mayor Boris Johnson was accused of political bias and astonishing ignorance as he announced the latest round of cuts to London fire services.
The mayor was questioned about how much exactly was to be saved by reducing the number of fire engines, a perfectly reasonable question asked by Labour’s Andrew Dismore as the closure of 12 fire stations and loss of 18 fire engines happens across the capital.
However, he was clearly on the defensive when scrutinised by the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee in City Hall because when asked to give a precise figure of how much would be saved by cutting the number of engines Johnson snapped: “I won’t take repeated ignoratio elenchi from you! I’ve given you the answer! put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
The news site London Loves Business, further reported the Mayor told Dismore, who was merely doing his job by holding the mayor to account, “to go and find out about it himself”.
This blatant disregard Johnson has for political process and for those trying to hold him to account could not be more apparent than in this episode. Quite rightly Labour AM John Biggs told the mayor he should know the answer: ““It’s your budget, you have your fingerprints on it. You own it.”
He even refused to confirm with the committee, when asked about the Metropolitan Police Service’s new targets on Police numbers, who had advised him of aiming for such a target and jokingly said: “I get advice on these things from reputable people… and some disreputable people I’m sure!” Of course none of this is a joke. Ensuring adequate fire services are available across London is hugely important.
Labour politicians attempted to have a serious debate, tried to hold the mayor to account and asked searching questions, but they were dismissed, chided and seemingly sneered at by the Mayor who, based on what I’ve read on the London Loves Business site (you can read it here too), didn’t seem to take it at all seriously.