The Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and and Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM, DCiC* and SDEI**, is NOT in the Chair. (This was not a deliberate snub to the petitioner but a pre-planned holiday enabling him to devote August to cuttingreviewing the Metropolitan Police budget.)
So it was left to the MPA’s Vice Chair, Reshard Auladin, to welcome former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, into the Chamber at City Hall to present his petition to the Authority. His petition was an initial shot across the bows of the Mayor’s budget process for the Metropolitan Police (hand on tiller: Kit Malthouse) and said:
‘We call on the Tory led Metropolitan Police Authority and the Tory Mayor Boris Johnson to reverse the decision to cut 455 police officers and guarantee the future of London’s dedicated 630 safer neighbourhood police teams.’
The discussion was predictable, but the body language of Conservative Assembly Members was more interesting. They displayed all the signs of having been through a trade union negotiating skills course as taught during the 1970s. This would have educated them in the value of distraction activity while an opponent (ie management) is talking.
In this case, as Ken Livingstone started his presentation (5 minutes as permitted by Standing Orders), Steve O’Connell‘s distress at having the former Mayor in the same room became apparent. He pulled faces, chewed his glasses, tapped his pen frenetically on the desk, leant back in his chair studying the roof of City Hall eight floors above, and finally got up from his seat, so that he could walk to the edge of the Chamber with his back to the former Mayor and gaze at the river and the Tower of London. Meanwhile, James Cleverly wandered in late, realised with a look of shock that he would be sitting adjacent to Ken Livingstone, and then spent a happy few minutes shuffling his papers without looking to his side.
And what was the substance of the Conservative response? It seemed to rest on the fact that the police officers being lost from the budget were displaced by a policy decision taken during Ken Livingstone’s Mayoralty. That decision related to police officers being released from administrative duties and replaced by specialist staff – a more sensible use of resources. Ken’s point was that he would have reallocated those officers to front-line duties rather than seeing a net drop in police numbers.
This then degenerated into “We’re all in this together/Mismanagement of the economy by the previous Government” rant from Steve O’Connell – despite the fact that the cut in numbers relates to a Mayoral budget agreed last year in advance of the current financial problems.
And James Cleverly, who had promised in his blog that he would “tear into Livingstone” at the meeting confined himself to suggesting that the Police Authority should stop receiving petitions as they might be used for political purposes (actually, as an old-style Stalinist, I rather agree with that point, but his intervention was hardly the “going for the jugular” moment we had been led to expect).
*DCiC = Dog Catcher in Chief
**SDEI = Shadow Directly Elected Individual