Page last updated at 02:38 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 03:38 UK

Assessing mayor Johnson's first year

By Tim Donovan
Politics Correspondent, BBC London

His critics said he would be a disaster, and his shambolic style would soon see his mayoralty come unstuck.

But there is no indication Londoners have fallen out of love with Boris Johnson.

Londoners give their verdicts on Boris Johnson's first year as mayor

His first year has certainly not been uneventful. He has waved the Olympic flag, hounded out a police commissioner and sworn repeatedly at a Labour MP.

But is there much substance yet coming out of City Hall? What are Londoners going to get from him?

After the early months of near paralysis at City Hall, it has been a year in which Boris Johnson has been learning the ropes.

Not an easy transition for a celebrity journalist to adapt to the grinding detail of municipal governance.

Undoubtedly he has warmed to the task, displaying the same exuberance of personality which swept him to power last year.

Endearing attraction

And the early hiccups in establishing a team have made way for a coterie of trusted advisers from the ranks of local government, think-tank and journalism.

There seems little reason to believe that the Londoners who voted for him have grown disillusioned.

They wanted a fresh face and were happy to usher in a new chapter after Ken Livingstone placed the first imprint on the role.

Boris has begun an eight-year audition to show whether he's fit to be prime minister
Andrew Gimson

With his enduring and endearing attraction to his mates in the media, he has continued to give the job a national profile - hoping London will prove a staging post to bigger things.

Andrew Gimson, his friend and biographer says he has confounded his critics.

"Boris has begun an eight-year audition to show whether he's fit to be prime minister.

"He is stupendously ambitious and he's really on his mettle to do well. The last thing he wants is to fall unexpectedly on his face."

A year with Mayor Boris Johnson

A few Johnson passions have become obvious - cycling, tree-planting, electric cars. And he has trundled down fairly predictable paths - presumably to appease his big suburban vote - like talking up the celebration of St George.

Tony Travers, local government guru at the London School of Economics, says much of what he has said and done has been rational enough, but barely amounts to a vision.

He said: "His initiatives are fine in themselves, but they don't add up to a big story. So he's got a long way there, better than his enemies suggested, but it's not quite yet the sum of its parts."

Memory of Ken

His election manifesto pledges have been ticked off methodically, and there's been a sudden rush of press releases and largely tepid policy announcements these past few weeks to make the cut of the many "One Year On" profiles being prepared.

It has been a year defined by removing the memory of Ken.

But the blond demolition man has also turned on the western extension to the congestion charge, the low emission zone, London's climate change agency, the 25-quid gas-guzzling charge, the Rise anti-racist festival, London's international promotions agency, a "target" of 50% affordable housing and the bendy bus.

Sir ian Blair
Sir Ian Blair a resigned citing a lack of support from the mayor

The year has also been defined by his relationship with others.

His fans cite the departure of Metropolitan commissioner Sir Ian Blair as the moment Johnson came of age. Certainly he intended to rough him up and the effect was his resignation.

But it also led to accusations of improper political encroachment into policing, which may easily flare again.

When the mayor phoned a friend - Damian Green MP - in the middle of the "leak" investigation and condemned police tactics, it gave further hint that he and his party are looking to re-define their relationship with New Scotland Yard.

Labour critics did not know whether to laugh or cry when Johnson hurriedly rang up BBC Radio 4's Today programme to announce - before the home secretary or the commissioner could - that anti-terror chief Bob Quick was resigning.

Tensions are likely to increase as police numbers start to fall from their peak and the pressure for savings continues as the mayor attempts to contrive further years of zero, or thereabouts, council tax precept rises.

On style of governing, the promise was of more accountability and more openness.

Bored already?

But he does not expose himself to the same level of scrutiny as Ken Livingstone, whom he so derided.

One of his first acts was to junk the weekly open-ended press conference held by his predecessor and his minders keep him on an extremely short leash.

Guardian blogger Dave Hill says Boris Johnson prefers photo opportunities and themed press events - often in outer London - where more than one question per journalist is discouraged and it is hard to pursue any pressing contemporary issue with him.

Overall, little has happened to dent the impression of humour and likeability, though a furious F-word tirade against a Labour MP told another story, as did his irascibility before parliamentary committees.

On his signature policies like resurrecting the Routemaster, cutting crime by half, tackling youth offending and creating the small matter of a new airport in the Thames Estuary, it is far too early to tell what will happen.

But was it a risk to allow the impression at this stage that he may not seek a second term? So ungrateful so soon? Bored already?

Londoners will make up their own minds.



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