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18 January 2010

The two sides of Boris Johnson

Ever the populist, is the mayor on the run?

By James Macintyre

The London Evening Standard is today leading with an exclusive: “Cut ‘excessive’ bonuses, Boris Johnson tells bank chiefs”. The Mayor of London is reportedly claiming to be “shocked and baffled” that the banks have failed to acknowledge public outrage over the payouts.

Labour strategists point out that this seems odd, coming from a man who has made a point of defending bankers over the past year, as part of his perennial attempt to pursue his barely disguised rivalry with David Cameron. Odder still, from a man who only last week was demanding a meeting with the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, to defend high earners. “You have made unilateral changes to taxation that risk damaging London’s competitiveness and its status, alongside New York, as the world’s leading financial services centre,” Johnson wrote to Darling.

This, despite the chair of Johnson’s own London Development Agency, Harvey McGrath, telling the London Assembly: “I am not aware of any specific financial institution that has declared that it will relocate from London.”

Could it be that this most populist and image-aware politician is now on the run, after his extraordinary Tube fare increases, and as Labour focuses hard on Johnson and attempts to portray his London administration as a dry run for a Cameron-led government?

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