Boris Johnson tests out a bed on his visit to the Olympic Park and Olympic Village on July 12, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Exclusive: Boris's hypocrisy on working from home

Mayor of London has worked from home despite denouncing the practice as a "skivers' paradise". 

Back in the summer of 2012, as ministers advised people to work from home during the Olympics to reduce congestion, Boris Johnson urged resistance. Denouncing the practice as a "skiver’s paradise", he declared: "Some people will see the Games as an opportunity to work from home, in inverted commas. We all know that is basically sitting wondering whether to go down to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again. I don’t want to see too many of us doing that."

Nor was this mere flippancy from the mayor. He added that working from home was "greatly overrated" and that "In my opinion people need to get in. They need to meet each other and they need to exchange ideas in an office environment."

But it seems that Boris isn't prepared to practice what he preaches. In an interview with me in this week's NS, Ken Livingstone reveals that disgruntled Tories on the London Assembly have told him that the mayor plans to start working from home on Fridays. He said: 

What I find interesting is that almost all the dirt I get on Boris comes from the Tory members on the [London] Assembly. They're really angry because he's decided he's going to start working from home on Fridays. 

When I spoke Boris's official spokesman, he told me: "Unlike Mr Livingstone, this mayor has no plans to work from home on Fridays. Unlike Mr Livingstone, this mayor's focus is on jobs and growth, infrastructure investment, housebuilding and crime. That has delivered Crossrail, the Northern Line extension, 150,000 apprenticeships, an 11 per cent fall in crime and more affordable homes, over 70,000 so far, than Mr Livingstone ever built."

But he conceded that Boris had "occasionally" worked from home before again accusing Livingstone of hypocrisy. Another mayoral source said: "These are the tired ratings of someone who lost two elections to Boris. His views are total guff; Livingstone was often absent on a Friday." But regardless of whether that is true, Boris, thanks to his earlier comments, is himself open to the charge of hypocrisy.

And whether working from home involves completing his planned biography of Churchill, plotting to stop George Osborne getting his hands on the Conservative leadership, or just gorging on cheese from the fridge, the revelation will only enhance the impression that he is a part-time mayor. One source close to City Hall said that he had "never known the place to be so quiet". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.