Boris Johnson delivers his speech on Europe at Bloomberg's London HQ this morning. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Boris's frivolity has left London craving serious leadership

When it comes to tackling the real issues facing the city, Boris has failed spectacularly. 

Who would have thought it? The famous blonde mop will soon be seen frantically pedalling its way past City Hall on the way to Westminster. As predictable as it was, Boris’s announcement today breaks a long-standing promise to Londoners that he would not become an MP while he was Mayor. The news clarifies where Boris’s priorities really lie and confirms what many of us have been saying for some time: the story of Boris’s London has been far more about Boris than about London.

To give the man his due, it hasn’t all been bad. For all the bombast and bravado, Boris has represented London well on the global stage. He is a jovial and likeable figurehead for the capital, fronting the 2012 Olympics and promoting the city well. I worked with him closely in the aftermath of the 2011 riots and always found him to be warm and amiable. I wish him well in whatever he does next.

But what has become increasingly clear is that while his own ambition knows no limit, Boris is seriously lacking in real ideas or ambition for London. The headline-grabbing gimmicks such as "Boris Island" disguise the fact that this emperor does not have any clothes. It took five years as Mayor for Boris to finally publish his vision for the city, and subsequent steps towards implementing that vision have been minimal and half-hearted.

Boris sets his targets low, but still fails to meet them. At a time when London needs 100,000 new homes a year, he gave himself a hopelessly inadequate annual target of 15,000 affordable homes and still spectacularly fell short. He talks up Silicon Roundabout yet fails to recognise that a 21st century world city needs technological innovation and investment that extends far beyond a few streets in Farringdon. He lets unemployment soar and then says it’s not his job to create jobs.

When it comes to tackling the real issues facing London, Boris has failed spectacularly. From infrastructure to transport to policing, his legacy is one of delays, disinterest and distraction. Those who have to work with him talk of a man biding his time, doing the minimum he can get away with and pushing the big issues into the long grass to avoid having to make tough decisions.

As a result, the next mayor will inherit a city in which problems that were mounting in 2008 are now spiralling out of control. On housing Boris’s record is particularly poor. His pledges and targets on house-building lie in tatters, constantly rewritten and redefined to cover up his failures. He has passively allowed London rents to hit an all-time high. And his decision to allow affordable housing rents to be significantly increased has hit low-income Londoners hard. Eighty two per cent of Londoners now believe the capital is in the grip of a full-scale housing crisis – and they are right.

Going forward, big problems will require big solutions. Tackling London’s housing crisis will mean making brownfield land available for housing, introducing a sensible system of rent controls and lifting the borrowing cap on local councils so they can build new council homes. Six wasted years mean London’s housing problem has reached crisis point – it needs committed leadership to solve it.

Boris doesn’t score highly on transport either. On his watch, bus fares have soared by 61% while the cost of a Tube travelcard is up by nearly a half. Meanwhile, Boris proudly poses for photos in front of his pointless £60m cable car and his defective £11.4m Routemaster buses. Instead of spending taxpayers money on vanity projects and a few accompanying headlines, he could have committed to keeping fares down. The Mayor of London should be overseeing and implementing a reliable, affordable and integrated transport system, not chasing photo ops and dangling on zip wires.

After promising to make London’s streets safer, meanwhile, Boris cut the number police officers by over 2,600 and forced through the closure of 12 fire stations.

The result of all this is that London is decreasingly affordable and increasingly divided. From his luxury office at the top of City Hall, Boris looks out over a city in which one in four people now live in poverty while the gap between rich and poor has turned into a chasm under the leadership of a Mayor who claims inequality is "essential". 

Whoever takes over in City Hall will have to make up for eight years of lost time. They will need to act boldly and decisively to ensure that London maintains its global edge. London therefore needs a mayor whose sole focus is working for Londoners, not one who is doing the job as a fall-back option or a stepping stone to Downing Street. With steely focus and real commitment, none of the issues the capital faces are insurmountable. It remains a vibrant, diverse and successful world city that 8.6 million people are proud to call home. But we need the mayor to prepare the city for the challenges of tomorrow. Behind the frivolity and the frollicks of Boris’s mayoralty lies the reality of a city craving serious leadership.

David Lammy is Labour MP for Tottenham

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Will the collapse of the EU/Canada trade deal speed the demise of Jean-Claude Juncker?

The embattled European Comission President has already survived the migrant crisis and Brexit.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the embattled President of the European Commission, is likely to come under renewed pressure to resign later this week now that the Belgian region of Wallonia has likely scuppered the EU’s flagship trade deal with Canada.

The rebellious Walloons on Friday blocked the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The deal for 500 million Europeans was at the final hurdle when it fell, struck down by an administration representing 3.2 million people.

As Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, walked out of talks in tears and declared the deal dead, fingers were pointed at Juncker. Under pressure from EU governments, he had agreed that CETA would be a “mixed agreement”. He overruled the executive’s legal advice that finalising the deal was in the Commission’s power.

CETA now had to be ratified by each member state. In the case of Belgium, it means it had to be approved by each of its seven parliaments, giving the Walloons an effective veto.

Wallonia’s charismatic socialist Minister-President Paul Magnette needed a cause celebre to head off gains made by the rival Marxist PTB party. He found it in opposition to an investor protection clause that will allow multinationals to sue governments, just a month after the news that plant closures by the world’s leading heavy machinery maker Caterpillar would cost Wallonia 2,200 jobs.

Juncker was furious. Nobody spoke up when the EU signed a deal with Vietnam, “known the world over for applying all democratic principles”, he sarcastically told reporters.

“But when it comes to signing an agreement with Canada, an accomplished dictatorship as we all know, the whole world wants to say we don’t respect human right or social and economic rights,” he added.  

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due to arrive in Brussels on Thursday to sign CETA, which is backed by all EU leaders.

European Council President, Donald Tusk, has today spoken to Trudeau and his visit is currently scheduled to go ahead. This morning, the Walloons said they would not be held to ransom by the “EU ultimatum”.

If signed, CETA will remove customs duties, open up markets, and encourage investment, the Commission has said. Losing it will cost jobs and billions in lost trade to Europe’s stagnant economy.

“The credibility of Europe is at stake”, Tusk has warned.

Failure to deliver CETA will be a serious blow to the European Union and call into question the European Commission’s exclusive mandate to strike trade deals on behalf of EU nations.

It will jeopardise a similar trade agreement with the USA, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Commission claims that an “ambitious” TTIP could increase the size of the EU economy by €120 billion (or 0.5% of GDP).

The Commission has already missed its end of year deadline to conclude trade talks with the US. It will now have to continue negotiations with whoever succeeds Obama as US President.

And if the EU cannot, after seven years of painstaking negotiations, get a deal with Canada done, how will it manage if the time comes to strike a similar pact with a "hard Brexit" Britain?

Juncker has faced criticism before.  After the Brexit referendum, the Czechs and the Poles wanted him gone. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban muttered darkly about “personnel issues” at the Commission.

In July, it was reported that Angela Merkel, the most powerful politician in Europe, was plotting to oust Juncker. Merkel stayed her hand, and with German elections looming next year is unlikely to pull the trigger now.

When he took office in November 2014, Juncker promised that his administration would be a “political Commission”. But there has never been any sign he would be willing to bear the political consequences of his failures.

Asked if Juncker would quit after Brexit, the Commission’s chief spokesman said, “the answer has two letters and the first one is ‘N’”.

Just days into his administration, Juncker was embroiled in the LuxLeaks scandal. When he was Luxembourg’s prime minister and finance minister, the country had struck sweetheart tax deals with multinational companies.  

Despite official denials, rumours about his drinking and health continue to swirl around Brussels. They are exacerbated by bizarre behaviour such as kissing Belgium’s Charles Michel on his bald head and greeting Orban with a cheery “Hello dictator”!

On Juncker’s watch, border controls have been reintroduced in the once-sacrosanct Schengen passport-free zone, as the EU struggles to handle the migration crisis.

Member states promised to relocate 160,000 refugees in Italy and Greece across the bloc by September 2017. One year on, just 6,651 asylum seekers have been re-homed.

All this would be enough to claim the scalp of a normal politician but Juncker remains bulletproof.

The European Commission President can, in theory, only be forced out by the European Parliament, as happened to Jacques Santer in 1999.

The European Parliament President is Martin Schulz, a German socialist. His term is up for renewal next year and Juncker, a centre-right politician, has already endorsed its renewal in a joint interview.

There is little chance that Juncker will be replaced with a leader more sympathetic to the British before the Brexit negotiations begin next year.

James Crisp is the news editor at EurActiv, an online EU news service.