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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Boris admits working from home after denouncing it as a "skivers' paradise"

Mayor concedes "sometimes I don't go in" after being challenged by Ken Livingstone on his LBC phone-in show. 

In my interview with him in the current NS, Ken Livingstone reveals that disgruntled Tories on the London Assembly have told him that Boris has decided to start working from home on Fridays. 

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.

For the mayor, it was an embarrassing claim. Back in the summer of 2012, as ministers advised people to work from home during the Olympics to reduce congestion, he denounced the practice as a "skiver’s paradise", declaring: "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 Boris. 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."

When I reported the story last Wednesday, the claim was denied by the mayor's spokesman ("no plans to work from home on Fridays"), but Livingstone seized an opportunity to question Boris himself today. In a message left on his LBC show Ask Boris, he said: 

Hi Boris, it's Ken here. I was really interested to see that you're now working from home on Friday, I used to do that occasionally when we couldn't do a babysitter, but I managed to take a big wad of stuff home and brought it in on Monday morning. All your staff tell me they don't see you come in with a big load of work on Monday morning. Tell me, all the problems that we've got in London, the housing crisis, the air quality, do you really think it's justified taking all that time off?

I was just surprised when we had that picture of you in the Telegraph standing in front of the desk after you'd been mayor for five years, you hadn't even moved a little pot of pens and pencils that I used to keep there. Do you do the day job?

The mayor gave a typically evasive response, declaring: "Well, I'm delighted to say that since I managed to evict the idle, useless reprobate Ken Livingstone from his position in London, where he was doing not very much, we have greatly improved the supply of housing, which he mentioned..."

But pressed by presenter Nick Ferrari ("Do you work from home on a Friday?"), he replied: "I work all the hours God gives, I can tell you, I have absolutely no plans to work on Friday." The exchange continued: 

Nick Ferrari: That wasn't quite the question. Do you work from home on a Friday? It's not against the law, by the way, should you so desire. Do you work from home on a Friday?

Boris Johnson: I do not, I do not. I come in, I work unbelievably hard and look at all the things that we've done...air quality...

NF: Where's Ken Livingstone got this idea from?

BJ: Because I'm sometimes out of the office on a Friday, which is perfectly legitimate

NF: Ah! So you sometimes don't go in on a Friday?

BJ: Yeh, I sometimes don't go in. 

Whether working from home involves completing his 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. As I reported last week, one source close to City Hall said that he had "never known the place to be so quiet".

Update: Tom Watson makes a sharp point on Twitter.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism