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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Donald Trump ushers in a new era of kakistocracy: government by the worst people

Trump will lead the whitest, most male cabinet in memory – a bizarre melange of the unqualified and the unhinged.

“What fills me with doubt and dismay is the degradation of the moral tone,” wrote the American poet James Russell Lowell in 1876, in a letter to his fellow poet Joel Benton. “Is it or is it not a result of democracy? Is ours a ‘government of the people by the people for the people’, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?”

Is there a better, more apt description of the incoming Trump administration than “kakistocracy”, which translates from the Greek literally as government by the worst people? The new US president, as Barack Obama remarked on the campaign trail, is “uniquely unqualified” to be commander-in-chief. There is no historical analogy for a President Trump. He combines in a single person some of the worst qualities of some of the worst US presidents: the Donald makes Nixon look honest, Clinton look chaste, Bush look smart.

Trump began his tenure as president-elect in November by agreeing to pay out $25m to settle fraud claims brought against the now defunct Trump University by dozens of former students; he began the new year being deposed as part of his lawsuit against a celebrity chef. On 10 January, the Federal Election Commission sent the Trump campaign a 250-page letter outlining a series of potentially illegal campaign contributions. A day later, the head of the non-partisan US Office of Government Ethics slammed Trump’s plan to step back from running his businesses as “meaningless from a conflict-of-interest perspective”.

It cannot be repeated often enough: none of this is normal. There is no precedent for such behaviour, and while kakistocracy may be a term unfamiliar to most of us, this is what it looks like. Forget 1876: be prepared for four years of epic misgovernance and brazen corruption. Despite claiming in his convention speech, “I alone can fix it,” the former reality TV star won’t be governing on his own. He will be in charge of the richest, whitest, most male cabinet in living memory; a bizarre melange of the unqualified and the unhinged.

There has been much discussion about the lack of experience of many of Trump’s appointees (think of the incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has no background in diplomacy or foreign affairs) and their alleged bigotry (the Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, denied a role as a federal judge in the 1980s following claims of racial discrimination, is on course to be confirmed as attorney general). Yet what should equally worry the average American is that Trump has picked people who, in the words of the historian Meg Jacobs, “are downright hostile to the mission of the agency they are appointed to run”. With their new Republican president’s blessing, they want to roll back support for the poorest, most vulnerable members of society and don’t give a damn how much damage they do in the process.

Take Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general selected to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt describes himself on his LinkedIn page as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” and has claimed that the debate over climate change is “far from settled”.

The former neurosurgeon Ben Carson is Trump’s pick for housing and urban development, a department with a $49bn budget that helps low-income families own homes and pay the rent. Carson has no background in housing policy, is an anti-welfare ideologue and ruled himself out of a cabinet job shortly after the election. “Dr Carson feels he has no government experience,” his spokesman said at the time. “He’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”

The fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder, who was tapped to run the department of labour, doesn’t like . . . well . . . labour. He prefers robots, telling Business Insider in March 2016: “They’re always polite . . . They never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

The billionaire Republican donor Betsy DeVos, nominated to run the department of education, did not attend state school and neither did any of her four children. She has never been a teacher, has no background in education and is a champion of school vouchers and privatisation. To quote the education historian Diane Ravitch: “If confirmed, DeVos will be the first education secretary who is actively hostile to public education.”

The former Texas governor Rick Perry, nominated for the role of energy secretary by Trump, promised to abolish the department that he has been asked to run while trying to secure his party’s presidential nomination in 2011. Compare and contrast Perry, who has an undergraduate degree in animal science but failed a chemistry course in college, with his two predecessors under President Obama: Dr Ernest Moniz, the former head of MIT’s physics department, and Dr Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from Berkeley. In many ways, Perry, who spent the latter half of 2016 as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, is the ultimate kakistocratic appointment.

“Do Trump’s cabinet picks want to run the government – or dismantle it?” asked a headline in the Chicago Tribune in December. That’s one rather polite way of putting it. Another would be to note, as the Online Etymology Dictionary does, that kakistocracy comes from kakistos, the Greek word for “worst”, which is a superlative of kakos, or “bad”, which “is related to the general Indo-European word for ‘defecate’”.

Mehdi Hasan has rejoined the New Statesman as a contributing editor and will write a fortnightly column on US politics

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era