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John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Tuesday 3 July 2012) Love hangover

Roy woke with an erection the like of which he had not experienced for quite some time. He lay back, closed his eyes and thought hard for a while about Joanne Browne.

After that he weighed himself nude. Still 13 stone five.

He dressed and spent the morning at home, listless, distracted and depressed. He opened the wedding photo album again. How ever had he and Holly got involved?

They’d met at a golf club dinner-dance. Roy had worn a beige suit whose broad lapels and flared trousers had yet to attract the fatal mothballs of fashion ridicule. He had A-levels in economics, chemistry and maths, had rejected the ivory towers of university – Brian’s sort of thing – and instead stayed at home, been taken on by a local firm and got his qualifications on the job.

The world of work had suited him and introduced him to the world of golf, a sport whose great attraction for Roy was that, unlike most others, you could play it very averagely without being mocked, ostracised or dropped.

Roy had just turned 22, his handicap was 23 and he was starting to make headway in the world.

The dinner-dance was a New Year’s do. Don and Gwen had been there too and the evening’s ballroom phase had morphed, via the bump and the jive, into a full on disco finale. Holly, aged 17, an optician’s assistant, had asked Roy for a dance. Roy was shy, but he’d obliged, trucking gamely to You Should Be Dancing and joining a Love Hangover conga, in which Holly had got behind him and held his hips.

This was a signal that she’d like him to buy her a rum and black. At the bar she’d talked and he’d listened. He’d liked her green butterfly collar spilling out from underneath her velvet smock dress. He’d liked her bubbly laugh, the feathered cascade of her hair. They’d made a date, gone out several times then got engaged. It was just after Crystal Palace’s famous Cup run. Charlie’s Angels were on the telly, Boogie Nights was on the charts and in the air. Holly had breathed it in.

Roy closed the wedding album and wandered down the garden in the rain. Why had Holly got so angry with him, why had he ever thought it would be otherwise? She was hungry for late nights and good times, Roy wanted to tend their little nest in Horsham, bought with a bit of help from the two Banks of Mum and Dad. He winced at the memory of Holly’s impatience, the raucous girls’ nights out she began to taunt him with, the many of her needs he couldn’t meet.

He blamed himself for everything. He didn’t want that big, flash wedding. He didn’t want to dance till dawn. He couldn’t bear Holly’s increasing, implied rebukes that he was a slave to dull conformity. Roy had realised far too late that he and Holly were hardly acquainted at all; that each had projected hopes on to the other that neither had been aware of at the time, let alone able to fulfil.

Rain interrupted Murray at Wimbledon, but in the end he cruised past the Croatian, Cilic. Roy remained subdued.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

London 2012 Olympic Park: What’s really happened with housing?

As the tenth anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games nears, early depictions of what is now called the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park have been rendered from the black-and-white palette of betrayal. That is unsurprising – it’s how you get attention in journalism and academia, and there will be plenty more stuff like it to come. Let’s add some shades of grey to a complicated picture that narratives of negativity tend to exclude.

It’s important to keep in mind that the planning and development of the post-Games Park as a new piece of city in the Lower Lea Valley have gone through many changes and still are, varying according to political priorities, prior pledges, delivery practicalities, financial imperatives, market conditions and so on. Early hopes and estimates of, say, how many homes and jobs would be created on the Park and what the broader benefits for east London might be were always likely to be revised, adapted, contested and in danger of being too optimistic.

With housing, always a hot topic in London, five residential areas are in various stages of evolution on land within the Park itself owned by the public body responsible for the Park and its environs, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC): Chobham Manor, East Wick, Sweetwater, Pudding Mill and part of Stratford Waterfront. The first of these is nearly finished, the last two not yet begun. The Stratford Waterfront homes will stand alongside the emerging East Bank culture and education hub, and help to pay for it. The entire site had previously been earmarked for high density housing and the switch away from that – an important story in its own right – is a good example of how and why the Park project has changed over time.

Between them the five neighbourhoods will eventually comprise around 5,500 dwellings, of which 40 per cent will be “affordable” of one kind or another – that is, available for rent at less than market levels or through “low cost home ownership” schemes designed to help middle-income households on to “the housing ladder” when it would otherwise be beyond them. Below is a breakdown of the Park’s existing and planned tenure types, provided by the LLDC, which also includes some small developments on LLDC land that lie just outside the Park itself (hence the grand total of 5,855 homes).

Screenshot 2022 07 02 at 20.26.45

The term “affordable” is slippery and an enduring source of cynicism about how affordable “affordable” homes actually are and to whom. Affordable Rent dwellings, the creation of the Conservative-led coalition government, can be set as high as 80 per cent of local market rates, although in practice in London most are not because housing associations regard doing so as inconsistent with their objectives.

The quantities and types of “affordable” dwellings within housing developments on the Park are the product of a number of factors. There was pressure to get housing delivery going as soon as possible after the Games were over – to have dawdled might have been termed a “betrayal” – and the first of the neighbourhoods, Chobham Manor, was approved under Boris Johnson, who placed less weight on affordable percentages than either Ken Livingstone before him or Sadiq Khan after.

Another consideration for the LLDC was the need to make money. There has always been a tension between that and its duty to make the Park of maximum benefit to local people. The Chobham Manor site had been bought from the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, and money previously borrowed from the government to buy land for the Park has to be paid back over the long term under a legal agreement – quite a favourable one, of which more another time – between Mayor Johnson and the Treasury (see paragraph 56).

This was the context in which initially only 28 per cent of the Chobham Manor homes were to be “affordable”. It has since risen to 35 per cent, one result of Sadiq Khan pumping more funds into housing on the Park (it’s why the “affordable” proportion will ultimately be quite healthy). London Affordable Rent is a term coined by Khan to reflect his insistence that the rents of Affordable Rent homes he helps pay for through his Affordable Homes Programme, using funds allocated by national government, are adjacent to what new social rent levels would be. Something else to keep in mind is that many Londoners in social and other affordable rented accommodation are recipients of housing benefit or universal credit with a housing cost component (558,000 social rent households according to the evidence base for the Mayor’s housing strategy).

Intermediate “affordable” homes, called London Living Rent and London Shared Ownership when supported with money from the Mayor, are “low cost home ownership” products tailored to households on middle incomes. It is often protested that these aren’t really affordable even to that group. In his “betrayal” article for the Guardian, Oliver Wainwright reports that to qualify for shared ownership homes in “the Olympic area” demands “an annual income of at least £60,000” and contrasts this with an “average income in local boroughs” of “about £27,000“.

Office for National Statistics labour market statistics for 2021 tell a different story about local earnings. Its median figure for residents of Newham is £677.60 a week, equating to £35,235 a year. For the other three original Olympic boroughs, whose boundaries the Park straddles, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets, the figures were respectively £705.30 a week (£36,675 a year), £727.70 a week (£37, 840 a year), and £797.30 a week (£41,460 a year), the latter likely to be skewed by high earners residing in Canary Wharf. Furthermore, the qualifying figure for these housing tenure types is for household income, not individual incomes. London Living Rent is for households earning a maximum of £60,000. So perhaps median income local couples, earning around £70,000 a year between them, will be able to afford those intermediate Park homes. A number already do.

There is also often a focus on what became of the now former Olympic Village, constructed next to Westfield’s Stratford City shopping mall, for athletes to reside in during the Games. In what for him was an, at points, almost friendly description of the area as it is now, the writer Iain Sinclair, who was a media go-to man for anti-Games scorn and mockery in advance of London 2012, has described for the Financial Times the absence of kitchen facilities within each unit as a “design flaw anticipating eat-out hipsterdom”. But the original Village was built with communal dining provision and the plan always was for the flats and the building and its surrounding infrastructure to be converted for normal residential use after the Games.

It had been envisaged that the Village would be paid for by the private sector, but the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 put paid to that. It was left to the Olympic Delivery Authority to find the money from within its Park construction budget and then to sell the flats with the competing objectives of meeting local housing need and balancing its own books with the taxpayer interest in mind.

About half of the flats went to a housing association for social renting and shared ownership, and the rest were bought by developer Delancey and the property investment arm of Qatar. The ODA’s £1.1 billion costs weren’t fully covered by those transactions, to the tune of about £275 million, but that outcome was defended on the grounds that public investment was always going to be needed to develop the site. Could and should the ODA have done better? You probably had to be there to answer that. But had those deals not been done and the Village building left empty when a promise had been made that it would be turned into homes, people might have shouted “betrayal”.

Pre-anniversary coverage has already drawn on a prominent pre-Games churnalism sub-meme, the destruction of the Clays Lane housing estate. In Wainwright’s article this is fairly characterised as “an experiment in creating close knit communities to help vulnerable single people”. It is more problematic that one of its former residents, a dedicated anti-Games activist who was also closely involved with running the estate, is cited as claiming the community there was “shattered” by its eviction and the estate’s destruction.

Guardian readers did not learn that much of the housing there was student accommodation and that many of the estate’s inhabitants did not consider the experiment a success. A survey conducted in 2005 found that 84 per cent of them didn’t want to live in the communal housing blocks there and would have preferred a self-contained flat, and that more than half of them wished to be rehoused outside a co-operative or collective housing set up. Prior to that, in 200o, a report by the Audit Commission for the Housing Corporation, which funded affordable housing at the time, concluded that the management of the estate was extremely poor and there was very little prospect of improvement.

It is another example of how monochrome polemics about the Park and Games legacy erase complicating details from the Olympic Park project’s history. Accusations of “betrayal” are easy to make. Explaining why things happened and describing how they might have been different is trickier.

Dave Hill is the publisher and editor of On London and the author of Olympic Park: When Britain Built Something Big.

Categories: Analysis

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Tuesday 26 June 2012) Women, men and Wimbledon

The box from the attic contained an assortment of his daughter Leila’s birth and christening gifts, the delicate ones wrapped in pages of the Daily Mail from January 1982. Margaret Thatcher’s son was lost in the Sahara. Liverpool led Division One.

Roy took the newspaper pages downstairs, leaving their contents – a Flower Fairies cup, a Beatrix Potter bowl, a canteen of tiny silver spoons – on the landing in the box. He read the pages for two hours, ate breakfast late, decided to work from home, took the car to the filling station, had a big salad for lunch and sat down to wait for Andy Murray.

This meant watching Kvitova, the Czech defending women’s champion, who Roy had forgotten all about. To him she was one among a rotating cast of top female players with eastern European names who appeared, disappeared, and almost always sounded American when they spoke. Only one of them stood out just a little from the crowd, because she was Rory McIlroy’s girlfriend. Roy was pretty confident that her surname began with W.

Kvitova won easily. Roy tried to pay attention, imagining Lucy, his younger daughter, scolding him for only being interested in woman players if they were celebs. Such criticism would not have stuck to his father Don. He’d offered firm views about a wide range of female Wimbledon contestants for at least three decades. Most of his favoured players wore visible frilly knickers and always lost prettily in two sets. The rest were British and he backed them unconditionally, especially against opponents of whom he disapproved.

Roy recalled Don’s robust dislike of Billie Jean King for being too competitive, too brash and generally too American, a viewpoint Gwen had shared. They had greeted King’s defeat by Anne Jones in the Wimbledon ladies final of 1969 as a triumph for modest British pluck over pushy Yank vulgarity.

Many years later Kristie had mentioned to Roy that a short time before Jones’s great triumph eyebrows had been raised when she’d married a Birmingham businessman old enough to be her dad. Roy had remembered the BBC cameras alighting on him and thinking it was strange he was so old. He had no memory, though, of either Don or Gwen passing comment. Little had been said either about Virginia Wade, who won in 1977. Gwen: “She isn’t married, is she?” Don: “Isn’t she?”

Other unorthodoxies among lady champions had been received less equably. Navratilova had stirred in Don an uncomprehending moral outrage condensed in the barked dismissal, “Butch!” Navratilova’s rise to Queen Martina, darling of the Centre Court, had failed to moderate his No Surrender stance, even though it strained his alliance with Gwen. “Her personal life is her own business,” Gwen had firmly said one day and Don’s tail had retreated between his legs.

Roy recognised the breadth of Wimbledon’s appeal and that it was a bellwether of national attitudes, although he never thought of it in such terms. He was, in fact, more conscious, and acutely so, of the hopes and obligations it imposed on home players.

Tim Henman hadn’t managed to meet them – a measure of how impossibly high they were. Murray was better equipped as a player, but even as the Scot thrashed his first opponent at the All-England – in fact, because the thrashing was so sound – Roy feared the worst: Murray would never play that well again; he’d never hit those heights against the very best; he was bound to fall short and so ensure that the ratchet of longing for a home Wimbledon win would be wound up tighter still; pressure unasked for yet still imposed, and with it the threat of endless failure. Roy wasn’t sure he could cope.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Get your Mega Balls HERE.

On London strives to provide the best possible writing about the capital city. Become a supporter for £5 a month (or £50 a year) and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.

Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

Vic Keegan: Clerkenwell, home of the Kodak empire

If you walked along Clerkenwell Road at onset of the 20th century couldn’t have missed the UK office of Kodak, the company that was once synonymous with photography. You couldn’t miss it because the signs on the outside of the building, spelling out “KODAK” in bold capitals, wouldn’t have let you. The small bright white ones in the picture above look as if they have been superimposed in what we would today call a photoshop operation, but there is no doubt that the frontage caught the eye.

Kodak was good with words as well as pictures. The corporate motto, “You press the button, we do the rest”, also emblazoned on the building, was a brilliant bit of wordplay which any modern advertising agency would be proud of.  Then there is the company name itself. That was the work of its American proprietor and creator George Eastman. It was a confected name that didn’t mean anything, but it was easy to say and, unlike other brands, began with a sharp, incisive “K”.

The UK’s first Kodak factory was opened in Harrow in 1891, but Clerkenwell soon became the centre of its operations. In 1898 its head office and wholesale depot moved from Oxford Street into new luxury offices at what was then 43 Clerkenwell Road, which, unusually at the time, also had a swanky customer service centre. The move was partly to make use of a ready supply of skilled jewellers and watchmakers, many of them immigrants, who were well able to build Kodak’s stereoscopic and folding pocket cameras.

Three years later, in 1901, Kodak also took over what was then Number 41 Clerkenwell Road from tobacco retailers Salmon and Gluckstein, which reckoned to be the biggest such operation in Europe. One of the Gluckstein family went on to found the amazingly successful J Lyons catering empire. The Salmon and Gluckstein shop was merged into Kodak’s building a year after the purchase. The street was also renumbered, as the photo above shows.

Kodak left Clerkenwell in 1911 for new offices in Kingsway. Its former premises were, as shown below, taken over by another American company, Murrays, which made a wide variety of confectionery (though not Murray Mints!). The building has since been demolished.

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Today, it can be hard to appreciate how dominant Kodak was. Eastman patented the process of photographic film being stored in a roll in 1884, and in 1888 perfected the first camera to exploit his invention. As recently as 1976 Kodak commanded 90 per cent of the sales of films and 85 per cent of cameras in the US.

It must have seemed to Kodak that its success would go on forever, but it hadn’t planned well enough for what became its nemesis – the digital revolution. Although it claims to have developed the first self-contained digital camera, like so many other industries it failed to see the how totally disruptive to its operations digital would be. To cut a long story short, in January 2012 it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. Sadly, the second half of that famous slogan – “You press the button, we do the rest” – had become redundant.

This article is the 24th of 25 being written by Vic Keegan about locations of historical interest in Holborn, Farringdon, Clerkenwell, Bloomsbury and St Giles, kindly supported by the Central District Alliance business improvement district, which serves those areas. On London’s policy on “supported content” can be read here.

Categories: CDA supported series, Culture

London: The Levelling Down Monitor

In his Introduction to the Conservative Party’s 2019 general election manifesto, Boris Johnson said his government had already mapped out a programme to “level up, spreading opportunity across the whole United Kingdom”. The document said this meant “not just investing in our great towns and cities, as well as our rural and coastal areas, but giving them far more control of how that investment is made”. It continued: “In the 21st century, we need to get away from the idea that ‘Whitehall knows best’ and that all growth must inevitably start in London.”

Many would agree with those manifesto objectives, including plenty in London who recognise that it is unhealthy for the UK economy to be so heavily dependent on that of its capital city – London generates nearly a quarter of the nation’s economic output and around one third of its taxes – while other big cities lag far behind, and who would like to see far greater devolution to regional and local government across the nation.

And yet much of what the Johnson government has done in the name of “levelling up” seems to have nakedly electoral goals, concerned less with enabling cities and regions outside of London to enjoy greater autonomy and control over their own affairs than with making a public performance of depriving London of resources and pulling rank over the London Mayor to impose its own priorities on the capital, most notably in the key areas of transport and strategic planning.

This is damaging not only to London but also, precisely because the rest of the UK is so reliant on its capital city, to everywhere else – you will not “level up” the country by levelling London down. At the same time, serious progress towards the goal of closing the economic productivity gap between London and most of the rest of the country – one pursued with little success by successive national governments since the war – has yet to be made.

Just as the populist untruth that London and Londoners, many of whom struggle daily with poverty, prosper at the expense of fellow Britons goes largely unchallenged, the government’s policy discrimination against London and its top-down interventions in City Hall affairs go largely unreported.

On London is an exception to that failing and this page is dedicated to gathering all examples of anti-London policy into one place. As well as being compiled here in the Levelling Down Monitor, new examples will be reported separately on the website. Input to the project comes from a wide range of London-focused individuals and organisations, to whom gratitude is extended. The most recent examples of levelling down London appear at the top of the list.

Last updated, 28th May 2022.

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May 2022 – Home Secretary Priti Patel reportedly tells outgoing chief inspector of constabulary Tom Winsor that the review of the Met he is leading should consider cutting the powers of the London Mayor over the service.

May 2022 – An outstandingly ignorant Spectator comment piece proclaims that London doesn’t need a Mayor.

May 2022 – The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is introduced into Parliament, with the government claiming it will “put the foundations in place” for “ensuring all part of the country share equally in our nation’s success”. Exploring the detail, Centre for London director Nick Bowes raises concerns that provisions of the future law could “chip away at the Mayor’s powers on the London Plan and give the government “more sway”, eroding the powers of London government still further.

May 2022 – In a report about Covid’s impacts on the capital and government measures to address them, the Legatum Institute think tank says London continues to have the highest poverty rate in the country with one million Londoners coping with what it calls “deep poverty”, defined as more than 50% below the poverty line.

March 2022 – Home Secretary Priti Patel reportedly orders formal “probe” into Sadiq Khan’s handling of the departure of Cressida dick as Met commissioner.

March 2022 – An opinion poll finds that most Londoners are unmoved by the “levelling up” agenda.

March 2022 – The Arts Council, obeying instructions from culture secretary Nadine Dorries, confirms that £75 million will be cut from the capital’s arts funding over the next three years.

February 2022 – Michael Gove’s compendious levelling up white paper is finally published. Writing for On London, Richard Brown describes it as a mixture of the laudable, the aspirational and the spiteful and notes that the government’s intention to divert funding for housing away from London is not very helpful.

January 2022 –  The Times reports that a survey conducted for think tank More In Common has found that “a majority of voters think London and the south have to become less wealthy and prosperous in order to achieve Boris Johnson’s flagship goal of levelling up Britain”.

January 2022 – Grant Shapps announces a further extension of the “funding settlement” for TfL imposed in June 2021  to 4 February 2022 (it had previously been extended to 17 December) while he thinks about proposals from Sadiq Khan for raising additional incomes of between £500 million and £1 billion. In a statement Shapps says: “The government is committed to supporting London and the transport network on which it depends, whilst balancing that with supporting the national transport network as a whole.” Don’t worry voters elsewhere, London won’t be given more than you think it deserves.

December 2021 – Responding to Sunday Times coverage of a letter to Rishi Sunak from London business leaders imploring him to fund Transport for London properly, a spokesperson for the Treasury says “any support” for TfL, whose latest short-term funding support arrangement was to expire on 11 December, would be provided “in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country”. Government figures show that up to £40 billion of taxes raised in London are spent in other parts of the country every year.

November 2021 – Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove tells MPs that he intends to discuss with Homes England “how we can invest in proper urban regeneration projects outside London and the south east” and that it is “very much something that is in my mind” to redistribute funding to help local authorities in the North of England.

November 2021 – London receives only £1.9 million of the £203.3 million awarded by the government from its UK Community Renewal Fund, representing a 30 per cent success rate for London-based schemes bidding for the money compared with 36.8 per cent rate for England as a whole and a 42 per cent rate for bids from Wales.

October 2021 – In his budget speech on 27 of the month, Chancellor Sunak announces funding for a string of towns, cities and regions but mentions London only twice (three times if you count a passing reference to the British Museum). One mention praises the city for being named the “best place in the world for green finance” but the other is to “London-style transport settlements” for other city regions, the effect being to reinforce the populist untruth that London has been spoiled at the expense of the rest of the country. The budget and spending review “red book” detail contains further use of the “London-style” formula along with a repeated emphasis on what proportion of national spending on particular things was being deployed “outside London”, adding to the impression of the UK’s capital quite properly being cut down to size. There is a surreal sense of a separate quasi state of Outside London effectively being formed. London also receives the smallest amount of money from the first allocations from the Levelling Up Fund in the whole Britain. The only bit of real cheer for London’s economy is a business rates discount for the struggling hospitality sector.

October 2021 – In advance of the budget and spending review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces £6.9 billion of transport funding for English cities. He laters admits that only a fraction of it hadn’t been announced before, but even so London is pointedly excluded.

October 2021 – At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Boris Johnson’s speech contains crowd-pleasing jibes about “north London dinner parties” and “lefty Islington lawyers” amid signals that his priority is maintaining his new-found support in the North of England. London Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Richard Burge complained that Johnson’s presents London “almost as a villain” in his “levelling up” narrative. Prior to the conference, the former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry had written an article denouncing “southern privilege”. London Tory MPS at the conference were unhappy with Berry’s remarks, and AM Andrew Boff told a fringe event that problems his party is having with road schemes in the capital stem from Johnson’s transport adviser Andrew Gilligan.

July 2021 – PM’s transport adviser Andrew Gilligan blocks funding to London councils which, in his view have “prematurely” ended active travel schemes he wants kept going, having pressured the Mayor’s cycling and walking commissioner and Transport for London to take a more aggressive approach to “backsliding councils“.

July 2021 – Bids by seven groups of London colleges and businesses for government “skills accelerator” schemes are all unsuccessful. Eighteen bids from other parts of England receive all the money. London weighting for Higher Education is officially removed.

June 2021 – TfL emergency funding extended until 11 December with Grant Shapps stating that the arrangement is “fair to the national taxpayer” and that “the government will continue to review passenger demand” in the capital. The package requires more savings and sources of income, a review of TfL’s pension scheme and a programme for additional Tube automation. Shapps claims the deal combines helping the capital with “continuing to spend money on vital infrastructure projects to level up the national transport network outside of London”. A campaign led by London TravelWatch is later launched to prevent further bus service cuts.

March 2021 – Government publishes prospectus for its £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, announced in the November 2020 spending review. Analysis by Financial Times reveals clear bias towards Tory areas, some of them affluent, with only two London local authorities, Newham and Barking & Dagenham, eligible for a scheme that “could have been designed to exclude the capital,” as Richard Brown put it.

January 2021 – Education secretary Gavin Williamson decides to remove the “London weighting” element from the government’s Higher Education teaching grant, designed to recognise higher costs in the capital, saying “the levelling-up agenda is key to this government, and we think it is inconsistent with this to invest additional money in London providers.” A plea by Sadiq Khan to reconsider had no effect.

January 2021 – Government launches £3.6 billion Towns Fund, describing it as “part of the government’s plans to level up our regions. Robert Jenrick says it is designed to help “rebalance the national economy and level up our regions through the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Oxford-Cambridge Arc. London town centres are excluded.

January 2021 – TfL submits its suggestions for becoming financially sustainable by 2023, as ordered to by Shapps. These include introducing a Greater London Boundary charge to be paid by non-London motorists entering the capital and retaining the share of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) currently paid by Londoners but almost entirely spent elsewhere in the country. By the end of the month, Shapps appeared to publicly dismissed the idea for devolving VED and in February he publicly rubbished the boundary charge suggestion, which he would be able to block.

November 2020 – National Infrastructure Strategy is published, saying (page 15) “the government is investing in national transport and pivoting investment away from London, ensuring every region has great connectivity”.

October/November 2020 – A second short-term funding deal for TfL is provided, this time for £1 billion (including £95 million of further borrowing). Shapps instructs the Mayor to impose above inflation fare increases from January and to maintain the new, increased congestion charge levels and operating hours, along with the changes to concessionary fares for over-60s and under 18s, adding that if the Mayor and TfL wish to re-introduce the latter “they will meet these costs themselves”. He also orders TfL to “co-operate” with a “government-led review of driverless trains” and says a new “government-led working-level oversight group will be created”. TfL is further told to “produce a single, comprehensive management plan” for achieving “financial sustainability by 2023”) by January 2021.

September 2020 – City Hall releases documents showing that various attempts to secure government funding to repair Hammersmith Bridge had been rebuffed. Grant Shapps had previously claimed that “a failure of leadership” in London was to blame for the bridge’s poor condition.

September 2020 – Government officials argue that VAT refunds on purchases made in the UK by overseas visitors should be scrapped, because the scheme “does not benefit the whole of the UK equally” and is “largely centred on London“.

May 2020 – After Covid safety measures shatter TfL’s finances due to collapse of income from fares, government emergency funding of £1.6 billion is provided (including £505 million of additional borrowing), with a string of conditions attached, including the “temporary” suspension of free peak time travel for over-60s and all free travel for under-18s, instructions to increase the level and operating hours of the congestion charge and the implementation of “active travel” schemes and “detailed monitoring” of “operational performance” under government supervision. Two, “special representatives” of government are to attend all TfL board meetings with powers to “request additional information” and report to transport Secretary Grant Shapps. One  of them is the Prime Minister’s special adviser on transport, his erstwhile media support Andrew Gilligan.

March 2020 – Communities secretary Robert Jenrick writes to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, criticising his “intend to publish” draft London Plan, the master blueprint for the capital’s spatial development, and directing him to make changes to key policies.

December 2019Conservative Party general election manifesto commits to “devolving power to people and places across the UK” with “full devolution across England…so that every part of our country has the power to shape its own destiny”. It adds: “We must get away from the idea that “all growth must inevitably start in London.” (The Labour manifesto also mentions “levelling up” and says a “national transformation fund unit” will be located in the north of England).

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Categories: Analysis

Vic Keegan’s Lost London 229: The medieval origins of Watney’s

Hundreds of years ago, the western side of Parliament Square, where the Supreme Court and the statue of Abraham Lincoln stand today, was known as Greene’s Alley. That was because the Greene family,  from which many offspring came, ran two pubs and a small brewery along the alley close to Westminster Abbey’s own brewhouse in Dean’s Yard. From these small beginnings can be traced the growth of what became the biggest brewery group in the country – the Watney Mann empire.

The Greenes had been in the industry since at least 1420 when Thomas Greene became Master of the Brewers’ Company. But business growth began in earnest around 1607, when descendants of Thomas started to move their activities from the Abbey precincts and set up at what became known as the Stag Brewery in Pimlico.

The brewery belonged to the Greene family until 1787 and it didn’t do badly – in 1722 it was described as being “the finest Brewhouse in Europe”. Expansion gathered pace and in 1837 when James Watney, a miller, bought a quarter share and became a partner along with John Lettsom Elliot.

For a while the premises were known as those of the Elliot Watney and Company (see map below). The entrance was at the end of Castle Lane, which used to be called Cabbage Lane and had two alleys running off it: Powder Beef Court and Mustard Alley, presumably to enhance the cabbage. The site, part of which is shown in the photo above, was opposite today’s Victoria Palace theatre, where a branch of Marks and Spencer currently takes up part of the space.

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By 1858 the brewery was under Watney’s control, and he led a trend for gobbling up competition through mergers and takeovers. The fusion of Watney with Combe and Co of Long Acre and Reid’s stout of Clerkenwell into Watney, Combe & Reid is reckoned to have been the first big merger in the history of British brewing. In 1958 came an even bigger union when Watney merged with Mann, Crossman & Paulin to form Watney Mann. The Stag brewery lasted until 1959, well within the memory of many local residents, but was deemed too small for the enlarged company’s needs and closed down.

Watney achieved considerable success with its alliterative slogan “What we want is Watney’s” but ran into trouble when the emerging Campaign for Real Ale went for it and other big brewers in a big way, with sustained criticism of its huge promotion of the Red Barrel keg beer.

Nothing remains of the brewery building, though its name became attached to a brewery in Mortlake. An old photo (below) shows the site of the Stag Tap pub in Castle Lane, which was used by brewery employees and Westminster Archives has produced photographic memories of what it was like to work there (the buildings to the rear of the brewery in the picture, including the Westminster Chapel, are still functioning.

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The only structure surviving from the earlier Greene era is the beautiful Wren-like Bluecoat school in Brewers Green, SW1, which was built in 1709 by William Greene, partly to educate the children of employees. The whole of the location’s name may refer to the endeavours of the Greene family, from whose name the final “e” was often dropped. It is believed that barrels were sometimes stored in the cellar there.

Whether the Watney company would have fared even better had it returned to its roots and called Red Barrel “Green Barrel” instead can only be guessed at, but at least Brewers Green and the Bluecoat school serve as small reminders of where it all began.

Main photo: Brewery History Society. All previous instalments of Vic Keegan’s Lost London can be found here and a book containing many of them can be bought here. Follow Vic on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture, Lost London

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Monday 2 July 2012) Horsham exhumation

A new email from Kristie was factual and light and came with photographs attached: grandchildren Tom and Ella in big hats, elder daughter Leila smiling, perhaps through doubt and pain. Younger daughter Lucy had gone back to Cambodia. Roy replied: great photos, weather here still wet, making progress with the loft. He was grateful for the workaday tone of the exchange, its dearth of intimacy or probing concern. He believed that he loved Kristie, but he was glad she was away. She would miss him if he died, but not for long. His passing would bestow a new age of freedom on her: the freedom to go on the safari holidays that did not appeal to him; the freedom to buy the puppy she’d hankered for since Lucy left.

Roy decided to make a long weekend of things. He brought the last of the boxes through from the garage and more down from the loft, grouping them on the kitchen table. Then he took courage, drew a formal photo album from one of the boxes, took it through to the living room and placed it in a space he’d cleared for it on the coffee table.

Its cover was ivory white, embossed with silver hearts. Every inside page had a protective tissue leaf. It was pristine, perfect, the product of days, weeks, months of sifting and choosing, of dithering, agonising, ever-extending ecstasy for all the women involved. He saw that Gwen had entombed the album, perhaps decades before her death, encased it against the erosions of heat and light, perhaps in order to forget it, yet also maybe to ensure that it could some day be exhumed should anyone ever feel the urge. That “anyone” could only be him.

Roy Illtud Paine and Holly Beryl Beardshaw had been joined in matrimony on 7 May 1977. The service had been held at a church in Holly’s home town of Horsham and the reception at a nearby country house. Holly was an only child and her parents had spared no expense. Roy opened the album at the first page then quickly shut it again. He went out to get some petrol. He had a bath. He weighed himself nude: 13 stone five. He poked through Kristie’s side of the bathroom cabinet and found right at the back a crumpled package containing two tired-looking sanitary pads. Roy puzzled over what their presence meant.

He cooked a lunch of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans buttered bread and oven chips followed by a slice of cake and ate it off a tray as Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, the ladies fifteenth seed, gave Sharapova a tough time. She won the first set six-four and broke at the start of the second. Roy began to root for her, an emotional girl, an underdog front-running against the steely tournament favourite.

Lisicki clinched the match with a second serve ace, bringing Roy to his feet in wonder at her courage and her joy. She leaped and danced, laughing, crying, both. “It’s my favourite tournament, I love playing on grass, I love the crowd here,” she bubbled in the post-match interview. She was gushing, gauche, thrilled. “I just love it,” she declared, and Roy was just a bit in love with her.

He remembered Holly telling him that she and her best friend had got tickets for Wimbledon one year. This had puzzled Roy, because Holly wasn’t interested in sport. He’d asked her, “Why are you going?” She’d replied with one word: “Legs.”

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.

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John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Sunday 1 July 2012) Mitcham memories

Roy sat on the edge of his bed, heard church bells and thought back to a dream he’d had a year before. It was a dream in which he was adolescent again and waking from a different dream, one in which he’d been eight years old and in a field, carefree. The adolescent Roy had mourned his infant self, and the middle-aged Roy had done the same.

He got the car out and headed for Croydon. The road to Mitcham was called Mitcham Road. Roy followed it using satnav, just to be sure.

Mitcham Common unrolled to left and right giving an impression of driving through countryside. After that there came a roundabout, a sequence of lefts and rights through a maze of dark brick semis to Betsworth Road, number 32.

Roy halted, idled, crawled forward, squinted and moved on. He parked and strolled back, stole sideways glances, kept walking. It was a nondescript house, but there were vivid tales about it: Don buying the first television set on the street and having neighbours in to watch the coronation; Don buying a new fridge from Whiteleys and showing every visitor how ice cream wouldn’t melt in it for days.

The Mitcham house was Roy’s first home but he’d been only three when the family, yet to be augmented by his sister Nerys, had moved to Crawley, achieving the then commonplace ambition of leaving the smoke behind. Roy had no certain recollections of the house. His brother Brian, though, claimed to remember the Humber Hawk parked outside. “A step up from dear old Lambeth,” he liked to say of Don and Gwen’s upward stride, ironic stress on the “dear old”. Had Brian been born before Don and Gwen left Lambeth? Was he the reason for the move? Roy realised that he didn’t know.

He had a bag over his shoulder with his camera inside, but didn’t dare stop to use it. He returned to the car, crawled back past the house again, snatched two drive-by shots and fled.

The road to Croydon was called Croydon Road. Roy followed it by satnav, just to be sure.

There was no Wimbledon today, it was the sacred middle Sunday, a reminder to Roy of a childhood time when big sport never happened on the Sabbath. The loss of those times made him unexpectedly regretful, even though the Paines had never attended church except for weddings, christenings and funerals.

Back home, e discovered that Bradley Wiggins lay second in the Tour de France and that his photos of the Mitcham house were blurred. He looked, randomly, for older ones – he had vague memories of greying square snapshots. He couldn’t find any, though, and his mind switched inexplicably to his last look at Don, waxy and cold in the hospital morgue.

It was a heart attack, short and sharp. The miracle, Nerys later observed, was that stress hadn’t taken out his ticker earlier: “You know, too much ‘agitato’.” This was one of Don’s signature words – a word that strongly signified Don. Navratilova got him agitato. So did El Tel. Sunday afternoon drives were diverted to building sites because Don was worried that someone might have pinched a bag of plaster. Agitato all the way.

Roy put his feet up and surveyed the mess of memories strewn across the living room. He surveyed it for quite some time. Then he switched the Euro final on. Spain took an early lead and doubled it before half time. They were brilliant, but their brilliance left Roy less awed than comforted as the prospect of a stalemate draw followed by a penalty shoot-out he wouldn’t care about but couldn’t tear himself away from receded.

Roy now thought some more about that dream within a dream, wondering if it had marked the start of a new stage, the long, slow, irreversible downward slope into an old age he already couldn’t face, patronised in some squeaky wheelchair, tubes connected to his bladder, treated now and then to a trundle among autumn leaves with Leila or Lucy pushing, and him not knowing who they were.

Six minutes from time Torres completed his relief. A fourth goal followed before the end. Italy deserved better, but Spain deserved to win. Roy switched off before the trophy’s presentation. He sat in the silence, darkness everywhere.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.

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Lewis Baston: London borough elections 2022 – some currents below the surface

The last business of the London borough elections of 2022 was concluded yesterday with a by-election in South Croydon, producing a comfortable Conservative win. The election was needed because Jason Perry, who was elected for the ward on 5 May, had to immediately resign as a councillor because he had also been elected Mayor of Croydon and could not fill both posts.

This seems a good point to look back at some of the electoral currents that flowed beneath the surface of the headline results. It is in the nature of a huge metropolis like London that as soon as one thinks one has found a valid generalisation, evidence appears to confound it. It is also more difficult to measure electoral change than usual this time because the majority of boroughs had ward boundary changes. But let us try to pick out some cross-borough trends from the results.

 

1. The end of the ‘leafy’ Tory ward?

The Conservatives suffered brutal defeats in many now former strongholds, typified by the losses of largely affluent areas in Westminster and Wandsworth to Labour. Despite Labour’s lonely gain of the Putney parliamentary seat in the 2019 general election, nobody expected the Tories to lose a council seat in East Putney ward, where one of their surviving councillors is now former Wandsworth leader Ravi Govindia.

The Tories were also wiped out in Lambeth for the first time, losing their toehold in the posh bit of Clapham (following Southwark where the last Tory bit of Dulwich succumbed to the red tide in 2018). In Camden they lost a seat in what was supposed to be a much smaller, safer version of Hampstead Town, although they have a chance to recover it because the Labour winner – as surprised and unprepared as everyone else – stood down shortly after being elected. In Ealing, Ealing Broadway ward is now the only one with a full slate of Conservative councillors.

But there were some exceptions where educated professionals still voted Tory: they only lost one councillor in the Chiswick wards of Hounslow, for example, and threats to some wards in Fulham and Kensington did not amount to anything. Chiswick votes Labour in general elections now, so local Tories must be doing something right.

 

2. Big outer London estates – most of them – swing back left

One of London’s political micro-climates consists of the large outer London estates that were built by the London County Council up to a century ago, initially as part of the “homes fit for heroes” programme after the First World War. Becontree and Dagenham form the biggest of these estates, but there are others scattered around – Harold Hill (Havering), Hainault (Redbridge), St Paul’s Cray (Bromley), New Addington (Croydon), Downham (straddling Lewisham and Bromley), St Helier (Sutton and Merton) and Watling/ Burnt Oak (Barnet).

These estates used to be some of the safest Labour wards in London, surviving the party’s worst ever local election results in 1968, but the Conservatives and sometimes the Lib Dems made serious inroads during the 2000s, and they were some of the strongest areas for the BNP and UKIP.

In 2022 Labour did reasonably well in a lot of the outer London estates, for instance winning all six seats in the Harold Hill wards and representation in the Sutton part of St Helier for the first time since 2002. But these wards did not return to their previous safe status: Hainault swung slightly to the Tories and is now one of their better wards in Redbridge; and New Addington voters seemed particularly unhappy with Croydon’s ousted Labour administration, the Tories breaking through to gain three of the four seats in the area’s two wards.

 

3. Inner London ex-council estates return to Labour

There is rarely a straightforward relationship between social and demographic trends and political outcomes, at least not over the longer term. Council house sales in inner London under right-to-buy turned grateful ex-tenants into homeowners who had acquired valuable assets in London’s preposterous property market. Buying somewhere in the best-built or best-located estates was like winning the lottery and cemented Conservative dominance. In Westminster in the 1990s the Tories started winning wards based on council-built housing. But turn the clock forward 30 years and these areas have all gone back to Labour,  despite Pimlico South ward being within considerably bluer boundaries than its predecessor, Churchill. What has happened?

My theory is that the people who bought the flats originally are still grateful, but have either sold up or use the flats for rental income, and now live in Orpington or Margate or Marbella. The people who now live in the right-to-buy flats are private tenants, paying a fortune to live somewhere a previous generation could easily afford. They are mostly young, educated and diverse professionals of the sort who have turned their backs on the Tories. There are few sharper educations in the generational political economy of Britain. Secondarily, people who live in council-built estates are often easy to contact, in contrast to those in private blocks – tower blocks and deck access flats are easy to door-knock and leaflet and their residents consequently easier to mobilise if a party has the sort of mass membership that London Labour does.

Right-to-buy, therefore, helped create the retired, working-class, property-owning Tory generation that dominates British electoral politics, but in attempting to transform the political character of particular localities through the housing market it planted the seeds of its own subversion.

 

4. Hindu London swings to the Tories

The Conservatives’ good result in Harrow, winning it back from Labour, had fewer obvious explanations in local politics than their similar success in Croydon. The Labour council was not popular, but councils rarely are. The best Conservative results at ward level in Harrow were in the south eastern corner around Kenton and Centenary, which are the most strongly Hindu parts of London, and this patch of success extended across the border to similar wards in Brent. The Tories held their three Brent seats in Kenton and gained two in Queensbury. In Ealing, the most Asian Southall wards showed swings to the Conservatives as well. There is something going on beyond the immediate politics of Harrow. Despite the strong headwinds of national government unpopularity, a long term trend that may be a major factor in election strategy two or three general elections down the line can be glimpsed.

 

5. Demography doesn’t seem to be destiny

Over the long term, given that London is constantly in social flux, some of the more surprising political trends are where the electorate has changed radically but the party politics has stayed the same. The inner north London boroughs – Hackney, Islington, most of Camden and the south of Brent – became Labour in the second quarter of the 20th Century when predominantly white working-class communities. Their electorates have since become polarised between educated professionals and the ethnically diverse poor, yet they are as strongly Labour as ever while. Conversely, there are parts of London suburbia where the BAME population has gone up from around seven per cent in 1991 to perhaps 50 per cent in 2021 yet the Conservatives have remained on top with barely a ripple in their vote share – Ruislip and Northwood in the north of Hillingdon are probably the clearest examples.

There is also the curious case of the dog that didn’t bark – the Tory vote in Barking & Dagenham. Dagenham itself was purpose built for social renting to skilled working-class families. The right-to-buy has been popular, the local politics of apparently similar communities in south Essex next door has been transformed, and at parliamentary level Dagenham & Rainham has become perilously marginal – the Conservatives narrowly failed to win it in 2019. Shaun Bailey carried seven wards in the borough in the mayoral election in 2021. But not only did the Conservatives fail to win any wards in 2022 they did not come very close, even in Eastbrook & Rush Green bordering on Romford. Part of the answer must be mobilisation – turnout in the borough was only 24 per cent. But it is probably also that Darren Rodwell’s Labour administration is reasonably popular.

 

6. General election portents

The swing overall between the 2019 general election and the 2022 local elections was small, although comparing the two is full of pitfalls. Nevertheless, some of the constituency results stand out: Labour led by 13 points in the Boundary Commission’s new version of the Beckenham constituency; Bromley will probably sustain a reasonably reliable Labour parliamentary seat in the future. The Conservatives retained leads in draft constituencies in Westminster and Chelsea, yet the margins were unconvincing and it is possible that in general election conditions the little blue island in the middle of London will vanish entirely. The Liberal Democrats were comfortably ahead in their target seat of Wimbledon, with 38 per cent compared to a very weak 29 per cent for the Conservatives (and 33 per cent for Labour, Greens and Merton Park residents together). The loose proposed successor to Barry Gardiner’s Brent North seat, Kenton & Wembley West, delivered a Labour lead of only nine points, and with the right Tory candidate it could be vulnerable.

 

7. How low can the Tories go?

It is quite possible that the 2026 borough elections will see Tory London reduced to just two boroughs, especially if the Conservatives are still in charge of the national government by that time. Only one, Kensington & Chelsea, has been under continuous overall Tory control since the year 2000 and seems likely to remain so. Bexley looks securely held. That is mostly because an unimpressive six-point lead in vote share translated, thanks to the electoral system, into a 33-12 majority over Labour, but only two wards – East Wickham and Crayford, each with three councillors – look particularly vulnerable.

But Hillingdon moved closer to the edge. The Conservatives prevailed 30-23 with a seven-point lead in votes. But while in 2018 it was difficult to see a Labour path to a majority, it is now considerably easier. And Bromley produced one of the more ominous results for the Conservatives, due to a pincer movement of Labour, Lib Dem and Chislehurst residents’ candidate gains. Before 2022 the Tories had been 20 points ahead of Labour even in the latter’s best years, but in May this margin shrank to just eight points and the Tories polled their lowest vote share in the borough’s history – 38 per cent compared with Labour’s 30 per cent, which was their best.

Losing the next general election appears, paradoxically, to be the shortest route to London Tories finding a political formula that works for them in a city which voted strongly for them as relatively recently as 1992.

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Categories: Analysis

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Saturday 30 June 2012) Flinching from hope

A google search for “roy + paine + city + london” yielded three arcane briefing papers about municipal inverse floaters and synthetic collaterised debt, plus a blog called Crunch City. There was Roy captured on London Bridge with his Help Me placard. There were his cv basics and contact details copied from one of his fliers. There he stood, his desperation immortalised.

“This sorry picture tells its own painful tale of the carnage the credit crunch is causing in our Temples of Mammon,” the blogger wrote. “Who will reward this brave chap’s enterprise?”

Nobody had ever got in touch.

Roy checked the Hoyland Hill School Reunion Facebook page.

Nobody had mentioned him.

Not yet.

He googled “holly + beardshaw” and “holly + paine”. None of the women looked familiar.

He googled: “joanne + brown” and “joanne + brown + hoyland” and “joanne + brown + crawley”. He got a lot of stills from Downtown Abbey.

Roy fetched more boxes from the garage and more down from the loft. He carried them all into the living room, unpacked them randomly onto the carpet, the dining table, the armchairs; more photos, more papers, more souvenirs, a job lot of kipper ties that Don had bought cheap and never removed from their plastic bags.

Tea time was Murray time: time for the “chippy Scotsman” as Don had dubbed him in the same sage tone as he’d once advocated bombing Dublin in order to see off the IRA. “I knew a few stroppy Jocks during the war,” he recalled.

Roy watched the knock-up with the Cypriot, Baghdatis, who reminded him of an affable cartoon dog. Murray’s girlfriend Kim Sears was there, his mother Judy, his coach Lendl.

Roy remembered Lendl as a player, hollow-cheeked, highly successful, unsmiling, unpopular. He knew nothing about Sears, but she had long hair and good looks, as you’d expect. Judy he saw as a beady, bespectacled matriarch. There were saltires among the crowd, on flags, hats, painted on cheeks. Roy saw these as indicating a residual backwash of discord between the All-England environment and the Murray entourage, a continuing unease on the Scot’s behalf with the affection Wimbledon wanted to heap on him.

Murray won the first set, but lost the second and went four-two behind in the third. Roy prepared himself for the crash, the bubble burst for another year. At nine o’clock play stopped so the retractable roof could be rolled into place and the match continued under lights. After the break Murray stormed back, completing his victory at just after eleven. Hope lived on. Roy flinched from it even as he clutched at it.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.

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Dave Hill: Met crisis handling smacks of further Johnson government power grab

The more its incompetence becomes apparent, the more convinced Boris Johnson’s government is that it knows best. From its earliest months in office an administration elected on a promise to devolve power to “people and places across the UK” has been hellbent on seizing control of the nation’s capital from its devolved authorities and imposing its will on them.

It began with Robert “Westferry Bob” Jenrick ordering Sadiq Khan to dump crucial sections of his proposed new London Plan because he thought he had a better one for the capital. As Ben Rogers and Tony Travers would put it: “Jenrick had, in effect, taken control of the London Plan”.

Then came Covid and its devastating impacts on the finances of Transport for London as passengers stayed at home. Transport secretary Grant Shapps and Johnson’s erstwhile media supporter Andrew Gilligan eagerly seized the opportunity to force on TfL their own ideas about spending and priorities.

And now, the long-anticipated assault on the third of the policy areas in which the 1999 Greater London Authority Act conferred strong powers on the capital’s directly-elected political leader, and were enjoyed by Johnson himself during his eight-years at City Hall – powers that were limited, opaque but nonetheless significant over the budgets and strategic priorities of the Metropolitan Police Service and its commissioner.

This latest hostile incursion on mayoral autonomy has been precipitated by the seemingly endless stream of ugly evidence that the Met has grown as nasty and inept as the arrogant, rogue Downing Street regime. Blame-gaming has busted out all over, with Khan pointing out that he is the one who has instigated reviews of Met culture and outed Cressida Dick while Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel stuck by her, and policing minister Kit Malthouse, who was Johnson’s policing deputy at City Hall, accusing Khan of being “asleep at the wheel”.

Let’s step back in time. When Malthouse and Johnson forced out Ian Blair as “Britain’s top cop” in 2008, in much the same way as Khan got rid of Dick, Malthouse observed with satisfaction that he and Johnson “have our hands on the tiller” of the Met. Eyebrows were raised, but the principle of a London Mayor being the primary elected steerer of London policing was sound. Now Malthouse advocates the Met tiller being in the hands of Whitehall. As with planning, housing and transport, this is a government that supports devolution only when devolved authorities do what central government wants.

Officially, if nebulously, the choice of a new Met chief is the Home Secretary’s to make (for approval by the Queen) but he or she must “have regard to” the views of the Mayor. That requirement is more exacting than those words suggest, precisely because both Johnson and Khan have shown that although Mayors have limited say in the appoint of Met chiefs they can effectively jettison them all by themselves.

Even Patel might have spotted that – after all, she has asked Tom Winsor, the recently-retired chief inspector of constabulary, to look at whether the Mayor’s powers should be reduced. In the meantime she appears to be doing what she can to ensure that Dick’s successor is as close to being what she wants as possible.

The Standard reported last month that the Home Office – not the Mayor – had eliminated all outsider hopefuls in favour of two men steeped in the Met, thereby ensuring that the Robert Mark precedent cannot be followed (Mark was brought in from Leicester as an assistant commissioner in 1967 and after rising to the top in 1972 proved to be an effective new broom at cleaning up rampant corruption).

Khan has since been complimentary about both men – serving assistant Met commissioner Nick Ephgrave and, the favourite, former counter terror chief Mark Rowley – but yesterday he revealed his “understanding” that he and Patel will be interviewing the final candidates separately which, he remarked, “doesn’t appear to me the sort of teamwork Londoners expect from their Home Secretary and their Mayor”. Khan says he wants a “reforming” commissioner. Maybe Patel does too, though her definition of “reforming” seems unlikely to be the same.

This fractious foreground fighting has intensified with a damning report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, which found basic failings on a shocking scale, and against the background of a larger and long-running question asked on Twitter today by former BBC home affairs correspondent and policing specialist Danny Shaw: “Is it time to separate the national responsibilities of Met Police – counter terrorism, royal protection etc – from its responsibilities policing London?”

I think the answer may be “yes” and that London’s Mayor’s hand should be the one guiding a turnaround of the toxic Met tanker. I doubt Johnson, Malthouse or Patel agree.

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