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5 January 2010

“Boris may become unpopular” shock

Is the politician-comedian losing his shine?

By James Macintyre

So now a real comedian, Alan Davies, has hit out at a part-time aspirant comedian, Boris Johnson, over the London mayor’s extraordinary transport fare hikes, first reported here a few weeks ago. Eagle-eyed Paul Waugh of the London Evening Standard has highlighted outraged online messages from Davies in which he calls Johnson a “fraud”.

Could the tide be turning against this most populist of politicians? Certainly, the government hopes so. As I exclusively reported on Newstatesman.com last month (and you can see full details of the Tube fare increases there), Labour Party strategists are determined to step up scrutiny of the mayor and portray his actions in London as a blueprint for Tory priorities.

Sure enough, in last night’s Standard, the Labour deputy leader, Harriet Harman, hit out at Johnson, saying:

This year we are going to read a lot about what David Cameron’s party represents. But here in London we don’t have to look far to see what happens when the Conservative Party is in power. We’ve got the Tory mayor Boris Johnson’s fare increases.

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Many Londoners travelling in to work today will wonder what has hit them. A single bus fare up 20 per cent. A weekly bus pass up by the same amount. Bus fares overall up by 12 times the rate of inflation. Tube fares up by nearly 4 per cent — and many single fares outside Zone One up by 18 per cent.

The reason for the fare increases is Johnson and his disastrous Tory priorities . . .

It is often said that Johnson’s real focus is what he hopes will be his next job — which is to be leader of the Tory party instead of Cameron. It’s certainly not clear what Johnson is delivering for the capital.

The fairly open Westminster secret about Johnson is that he is ruthless behind the deceptive Bertie Wooster exterior. It is hard to know whether “Bozza” will retain his Middle England popularity despite a price increase that’s hitting ordinary people pretty hard today. But either way, and not for the first time, David Cameron may seek to distance himself from this increasingly ambitious — and dangerous — rival.