THE BLOG

What's Boris Ever Done for Us?

27/02/2015 12:55 GMT | Updated 28/04/2015 10:59 BST

It's a funny old game, politics. You might think that Tory hopefuls seeking to replace Boris as Mayor in 2016 - and I am one of those hopefuls - would be trumpeting the successes that our city has enjoyed under Conservative rule. After all, if we're going to persuade Londoners to trust us with the keys to City Hall for another four years, surely we need to be able to explain what we've done so far and how we'll build on our achievements in the future? But some of my rivals for the nomination seem to believe that what is needed is distance from Boris. They think that criticizing and sniping at his time in office will somehow give them credibility in their own campaign.

That's a huge shame. For a start, it lends firepower to Labour as they look to build their arguments for why it's time for them to claim back the Mayoralty - "Boris didn't do the job properly, you can't trust a Tory Mayor" they will say. That damages us all, no matter who ends up becoming our candidate. And it lets London, whose leader and representative Boris remains, down. But also, more fundamentally, it is a shame because it isn't true. Boris has been a fantastic Mayor.

Setting the Record Straight (and the Buses)

Boris - contrary to the narrative being trotted out by Labour and by some Conservative candidates - has a long and impressive list of achievements to his name. The iconic new Routemasters that have replaced the death-trap bendy buses give London it's unique aesthetic back and save the lives of cyclists (it was his pledge to make it a first fix as Mayor, which he did). Free travel introduced for veterans so that our great city can express our debt of gratitude to those who have served our country. Extending Oyster payments to more and more of the city's railways and helping to implement contactless payment so that it is even easier to get around.

Boris can claim all of this and more as his legacy on transport - nothing to sneer at and hardly the hallmark of a 'do-nothing' Mayor.

Under Mayor Johnson, a culture of transparency has been ushered in to City Hall. Any spending over £1,000 is published and accessible easily to taxpayers. There's no going back on that, no matter who wins in 2016, meaning a new norm of openness and protection from the kind of murk and sleaze we saw under Ken. In difficult times, Boris has managed to keep the City Hall budget on track whilst safeguarding vital police and fire services.

Thanks to Boris, London's transport services are safer spaces - with more CCTV and transport police actively patrolling. Run down city parks have been regenerated and redeveloped to provide green spaces for children in more deprived areas, with funding from Boris, he's also been a tireless and effective advocate for more volunteering and community action.

Housing Crisis

There's been much criticism of Boris for not building enough homes. Well, if he's guilty of that then so is every member of our political class - every Government and every administration in Britain has failed thus far to get the answer to our homes shortage right. Mind you, even here Boris' record is better than the naysayers would have you believe. He's built more affordable homes in London than Ken managed - not bad given we're all supposed to pretend that Mayor Johnson 'only cares about the rich'!

Our city's skyline will bear Boris' imprint long into the future. There's currently 230 new skyscrapers in the pipeline - many of which will open for business under the next Mayor but all of which have been encouraged, tested and approved under this administration. As Mayor I will focus on more housing at affordable prices, but the skyscrapers of the city are not detached from the aspiration of helping more people to live well in a modern metropolis. We need to use our land well and make sure that our centres of finance and commerce build up, not out, so that they don't sprawl and steal space that we need for homes.

His Work Is Not Yet Done

Boris is often attacked for his ambitions - being an MP, or potential future party leader. I would be the first to be angry that he's letting the city down to pursue this path. I would say he's neglecting the greatest city on earth, on his watch. The thing is, Boris isn't - despite his aspirations - he's still building a London that any candidate for Mayor would be proud to take over.

Take just 3 examples from the past week - firstly his huge push on housing, this is an issue I hear every week as a top priority to Londoners, it's an issue I will fight hard for, and one I applaud Boris for taking on. There's also a great example in culture - Sir Simon Rattle's plans for a new world-class London concert hall, Boris has thrown his weight in to a project for London, gaining the backing of Chancellor George Osborne. That seems to me like he's leveraging his power as Mayor of London. In the area of Transport - he kicked off the week highlighting the expansion of 24hr running lines, increasing wifi through the network; and ongoing tube improvement work.

Does this look like Boris has stopped working as Mayor? No, and I would gladly inherit Boris's London.

Three Cheers for Boris' London

Perhaps most importantly, Boris deserves our praise for being.... well, for being Boris. Big, brash, Blonde and bold - London has a Mayor that half the world recognise on sight. He went to Beijing and did us proud. He stood up to the EU when they tried to muscle in on our city. He is unafraid to mock and deride those who wish to do London down. He is an iconic figurehead for London. Which leads me to my personal reason for being grateful to Mayor Johnson.

When the Tories selected Boris as their candidate no one was quite sure how it would all turn out. Astonishingly frank for a politician and not always trusted by some traditional Conservatives - some worried that Boris was too unusual and too much of a maverick to go the distance. He's not only proved his critics wrong but he's proved to the Conservative Party that if we are to win in London then it will take a candidate who can connect on a personal level with this great, diverse, messy and marvellous city. He transcends the political divide and cuts through to Labour supporters as well as to our traditional base.

If he hadn't demonstrated to our party that sometimes the outsider is what you need then I wouldn't have a hope of replacing him!

So three cheers for Mayor Johnson. And a thank you from me.