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6 May 2014updated 09 Jun 2021 9:22am

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. 

By George Eaton

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: 

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THANK YOU

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.

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