The London mayor's upcoming trade-promoting visit will be worthwhile if resulting economic growth benefits Londoners as a whole. But will it?
Mayor Johnson is off to India this weekend to tell its brain boxes and business chiefs what a marvellous place London is to live and invest in. When asked for details about the excursion - the airfares, the hotels, the company the mayor will keep - his media minders presented it as an exercise in lissom frugality compared with the shocking bulk and outrageous cost of a trade trip to the same nation led by Ken Livingstone five years ago. But the really telling fact is that it's happening at all.
At a KPMG-hosted hustings during the 2008 mayoral election campaign, the then candidate Johnson roundly denounced such grandiose excesses, only for one of the dignitaries of London commerce who'd accompanied "Red Ken" to the sub-continent to tell him from the floor what an excellent initiative it had been. The horrid lefty, it appeared, was in this respect keener than the free market-loving Conservative on greasing global capitalism's wheels, but then Livingstone always was a more variegated political beast than Ken-hate cranks want you to think.
For the record, the current mayor will be travelling with his chief of staff Sir Edward Lister, his communications chief Will Walden, four Greater London Authority staffers and representatives of Transport for London, London and Partners and Film London. The mayoral party will number 12 in all, and the cost will be a discounts-minded 20 grand. The Mayor is flying business class but, I'm assured, that's because the business big cheeses who will be going with him - and paying their own way - were never going to sit anywhere other than in the posh seats, and taxpayer value will not be guaranteed unless Good Old Boris is sipping mid-air champagne with them. The members of this industry "delegation" have not yet been ...[view whole blog post ]