Comment: Boris' first Question Time

Boris Johnson delivered his trademark brand of literate ripostes to a fawning audience today during his first mayoral question time, the monthly meeting at which members of the London Assembly hold the mayor to account.

But the new mayor was not given an easy ride by Labour members on the panel, one of which presented him with a bicycle helmet asking him to promise to obey the law and wear it.

To complaints from the chair that the use of props was not permitted, Mr Johnson accepted the helmet, but stressed he would wear one not as a concession to political correctness, but by a desire to be as anonymous as possible.

"If we have any more demonstrations like that I'll adjourn the session," the chair warned.

Another Labour member tried to pour cold water on Mr Johnson's win - and the smug glow of victory emanating from his Tory compatriots around the room - by reminding him that he was not the absolute ruler of London. "You're not Oliver Cromwell," he added.

There were also sustained attacks on the mayor's campaign promise to create a new generation of Routemaster buses. There was some confusion as to whether the new buses would have an open platform so commuters can hop on and off them, and suspicion as to whether Mr Johnson had properly calculated the cost of the project.

Mr Johnson promised to spend £100 million on the plans, partly funded by the abolition of the widely-detested 'bendy buses'.

Those numbers were treated with deep scepticism by some members, one of whom insisted Mr Johnson would have to either cut bus services or increase fares to pay for the new buses.

Mr Johnson promised when he got them running he would "take great pleasure in asking you to eat your hat".

But despite the strong attacks from Green and Labour members Mr Johnson held court with admirable ease, swiping away objections with long-winded witticisms and sly retorts.

And the vast majority of the stuffed-to-the-rafters audience seemed to like it, many of them treating the new mayor as more of a celebrity than a politician. The two women sat next to seemed to hang on his every word as if they were fully paid up members of a comedy night.

"It's like watching a variety show," one of them whispered.

But no-one was as happy to be there as the Tory assembly members. After eight years being manhandled by Ken Livingstone's superior wit and devastating grasp of detail, they seemed ecstatic to be headed by a man with similar talents but more sympathetic allegiances.

"Since your election the sun has shone on London every day," one Tory suggested.


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