Is this the new brutalism?
Friend of wealthy criminals Boris Johnson (Seen here left in his flowerpot-throwing youth) was banging the drum for more homes in London via his
Barclay Brothers megaphone Daily Telegraph column yesterday morning. He actually started by banging the drum for the ‘squeezed middle’ who (as he put it) ‘cannot get the mortgages they would need, not at current prices, and not with lenders in their current mood.’
As always with BoJo, he skates neatly around the reality – that his mates the bankers (whom we must not knock, God bless ‘em) caused those funds to dry up in the first place. Now – as yesterday’s Slogpost about the latest in a long line of RBS scams illustrated – they are busy squeezing the squeezed middle even harder by fleecing them at every turn. “Anything to get their blood money back,” as a right-wing friend said to me last week – although it was of course our money in the first place.
But one has come to expect this deft swivelling from the Blond Booby. Like many tubbies, Johnson is lighter on his feet than you’d imagine. This became clear as the article proceeded – and focused more and more on what the Turkish Aryan called ‘affordable housing':
‘We in London have this month launched a “Housing Covenant”, an understanding between government and middle-income groups who work so hard, that we will put £100 million into building the good-quality homes that they need, and that they can buy.’
It’s all good, knockabout crypto-democratic stuff from a bloke whose behaviour always suggests to me that he doesn’t give a damn about anyone with a personal fortune involving less than seven noughts. But at no time during the article did Mr Johnson mention the Elephant in his castle, The Earls Court Project.
This is something of a flagship for Boris – or a heavily armed submarine, depending on your viewpoint. The plans for this Grand Design are going ahead – despite the strong opposition of people living in the 760 homes to be demolished – and will involve the destruction of the Earls Court exhibition centre, despite the objections of the Association of Event Organisers. Oh, and just for good measure, despite a panel of architects Hammersmith & Fulham Tory Council itself helped to appoint advising it to reject the plans.
Personally, I’ve always found the Earls Court ExCentre a ghastly eyesore, but there can be little doubt that much hard riding by those on roughly-shod steeds is taking place here. Running throughout Mayor Johnson’s life and political career is a broad streak of hussling, bullying, swearing, destruction and threatening. Whether one is talking airports, Mayoral enquiries, media interviews, flowerpots thrown through priceless stained glass windows, or Darius Guppy, there’s nothing the Conservative Party’s latest Heseltine likes better than sailing perilously close to the wind.
So I wasn’t surprised to read in Dave Hill’s Guardian blog about alleged bribery and corruption taking place in and around ‘the consultation process’ in relation to the Earls Court redevelopment. In a nutshell, Hill’s allegation is that BoJo’s staff have been pinpointing truculent residents who are against the scheme, and offering them rehousing priority in return for rolling over.
Now Mr Hill has an agenda, and that agenda is a million light years away from mine: but on this occasion, the picture he paints rings true for me. I wonder what, if anything, such flagrant abuse of public office (if it turns out to be true) will do for the image Johnson is nurturing as the plain-speaking Etonian with no side to him.
The Tory Party’s Coming Man was wowing them at Conference today with a promise (pretty flimsy when you examine his words) to bring back Grammar Schools. This is BoJo’s way of licking the 1922 Committee Chairman Graham Brady all over, it being the Mancunian MP’s favourite hobby-horse. It also happens to be one of mine; however, I find this intervention not only cynical showboating by the London Mayor, but also offensive.
Johnson has no understanding whatsoever of how the 1944 Butler Education Act allowed ordinary blokes like me to become socially mobile and, ultimately, classless. He has no idea what he is promising, or indeed how any government would produce such a result in terms of either costs or quality of teaching staff. But it plays well, so Boris ‘Thunderer’ Johnson says it. It is a classic example of power being wielded without responsibility.
In a remarkably similar approach to that adopted by Benito Mussolini in 1920s Italy, BoJo is building an extra-Parliamentary power base. I doubt very much if he is planning a march on Westminster, but he has similar instincts to Musso. I have been insisting since 2007 that, alongside Harriet Harman, Johnson is the most dangerous threat to decency and freedom of speech in the UK. It’s almost as if he seems determined to prove me right.