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Defender of the arts: Boris Johnson celebrates the Story of London festival at Hampton Court (PA)

Amid all the cheering and shouting during the recent election for Mayor of London, both Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone sought to emphasise the differences between them. Neither of them had much motive in pointing out the extent to which the Livingstonian legacy at City Hall has been left intact.

We have had two Boris Johnsons. There has been the one in his weekly Daily Telegraph column, trenchant in denouncing non-jobs such as Diversity Awareness Co-ordinator. Then there is the other Boris Johnson who, as Mayor of London, retains the services of 11 of them at City Hall. The "equalities policy" devised by Ken Livingstone remains largely in place in the Greater London Authority — the empire over which the Mayor presides and which encompasses policing, the fire brigade, transport in the capital, and much else besides. Some of the previous regime's cronies have walked, but many others, perhaps to their surprise, find themselves still in post. Adherence to quotas, interest groups and racial separatism, remain unchallenged as the City Hall orthodoxy. The "stakeholder engagement class" remains in post. This might be described as a waste of money. But it is worse than that. They are the gatekeepers who confer access and legitimacy to chosen groups. I am sure that Boris is a true Conservative who believes in judging people on merit and is privately contemptuous of all the box-ticking papers he finds his desk swamped with. But if so, he has unfinished business. The question is whether Boris will use his second term in office to implement what he believes.

One of Boris's less commented-upon roles as Mayor is his cultural one. There are festivals in Trafalgar Square and other parts of London, and schemes and funding to promote the arts. Under Livingstone this was politicised. There was no such thing as a music festival: there were anti-racism music festivals, peace music festivals, or gay rights music festivals.

The Rise anti-racism festival cost £500,000; it involved Billy Bragg singing protest songs and pro-Castro leaflets being handed out from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign stall. The content and organisation of mayoral events reflected political patronage. Thus, the self-appointed "community leaders" of the Muslim Council of Britain determined what took place at events with a Muslim theme.

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Philip Arlington
July 24th, 2012
10:07 PM
This is not a place where I expected to read the false claim that a GCSE grade C represents a "Good" standard of achievement. It represents a miserably low standard for an average or above average child, and we need to stop pretending otherwise. The constant repetition of the "Good GCSE" mantra encourages teachers to put all their efforts into converting Ds in Cs at the expense of children elsewhere in the ability range.

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