Friday, May 25, 2012

London shows what is wrong with the mayoral system too

When pointing out the shortcomings of the mayoral system of local government as implemented in Leicester - a Labour mayor and 52 Labour councillors out of 54 with those councillors being told how to vote by the mayor - I have been known to point to London as a better model.

After all, at least the Greater London Authority is elected by proportional representation, ensuring that its assembly cannot be dominated by one party.

But Sonia Purnell's Just Boris - an excellent biography I hope to review here one day makes it clear that London has a far from ideal system too:
There is ... no shadow mayor - and virtually no open press conferences .... And just as Boris had earned a reputation for treating committees in the House of Commons with contempt so did he frequently trade insults rather than information with the 25 London Assembly members elected to hold him to account. 
Anyone attending Mayor's Question Time at City Hall would not be wholly surprised to learn that Boris's favourite film is Dodgeball, with its running motto of "dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge". Knowing that each member is limited to a six-minute slot in which to ask him questions, he filibusters, goes off on tangents, asks for the question to be repeated, answers a totally different question, constantly shouts over question, and employs each and every tactic to avoid answering, to the continual annoyance of successive assembly chairmen. 
And when that it not enough, he does what they do in Dodgeball and throws the ball right back at his opponents in the form of personal insults such as accusing Opposition members of needing "care in the community" of "suffering from Tourette's Syndrome" and patronising female members by addressing them as "my dear".
You can blame Boris Johnson's personality and the fact that there are only 25 assembly members to represent a city the size of London. But at the heart of what is wrong here is the mayoral system itself.

As I wrote earlier this month:
Enthusiasm for that system is a hangover from Blairite heyday, when supporters of debate and discussion just did not get it and Richard Branson was expected to become the first elected mayor of London.

1 comment:

Lang Rabbie said...

Now that there is a cohabitation between a Tory mayor and a predominantly non-Tory London Assembly, it will be intriguing to see whether one of the opposition parties (hopefully the Lib Dems!) proposes a change to the standing orders of the Assembly.

If I recall correctly, by an oddity of the GLA set-up, a change to the SOs reguires two thirds of assembly members to be present but only an overall majority of those present.

If the Tories absented themseleves from the vote to nullify the special quorum and avoid future scrutiny of Boris, would it be a news story that anyone in the London media would run with?