‘Do you think you need more powers?’ Lord Harris of Haringey asked the Mayor of London in a committee room at the House of Lords.
‘Of course!’ Boris bellowed.
It was about an hour into a discussion about the Olympic Legacy that Johnson made his megalomaniacal admission. Earlier I had thought I was late to hear him answering questions, however as I arrived at committee room 3 I heard a voice behind me boom happily, ‘Bang on time!’ I looked round to see Johnson lumbering along the corridor, carrying a black rucksack and a white cycling helmet.
‘No Olympic city has done better,’ Johnson informed the committee before listing various statistics that may or not have supported that argument. Stratford had become a rail hub, new businesses were flowering from Shoreditch to Hackney. House prices near the stadium were going up, which he seemed to think was a good thing. The changes so far had been colossal. Yet Johnson predicted that given ten more years they would be even bigger – although he didn’t know if he would still be mayor.
Johnson had a colleague sitting next to him, handing him documents and pointing to figures for him to quote. A more serious and sensible-appearing fellow it would be hard to come across. Yet on the floor by his feet was a Mr Bump umbrella. I mention this merely in passing, make of it what you will.
Baroness Williams asked the mayor about the legacy of the Olympics in less affluent areas south of the river.
‘If you’re talking about Greenwich,’ Johnson began.
‘I’m not,’ the baroness said firmly.
‘Greenwich was south of the river last time I looked.’
‘I’m talking about the Mitchams, the Mertons,’ she said.
‘Ah, the South West,’ said Boris and proceeded to quote some figures about Battersea, before telling us about Greenwich anyway.
The Lords were concerned that no matter how many jobs the Olympics had created, the levels of unemployment had remained the same in the four boroughs that hosted the games. Johnson said an effort had been made to get the long-term local unemployed into jobs, with Westfield, which now has a bigger footfall than Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. Of course focusing on footfall suggests that the shopping centre is not as profitable as its sister, otherwise that would be the figure shouted from the rooftops.
At one point Boris started coughing violently.
‘You’re not all going to get SARS,’ he said when he had recovered, admitting he was unwell. Lord Wigley handed him a large pill, which took ages to unwrap and looked unlike any sweet I have seen before.
‘What is this?’ Boris asked, popping it in his mouth.
‘A cyanide pill,’ Baroness Williams said, but it wasn’t, or if it was the effects take longer to appear than in TV detective programmes. On the ongoing sporting benefits of the Olympics Johnson claimed ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc – we’ve won the cricket, the rugby and qualified for the the World Cup. Can I claim them as an Olympic benefit? I don’t know, but I’m going to try.’
With talk of amongst other things, West Ham’s tenure of the Olympic stadium, the Hackneyfication of East London and London’s position as the biggest city in Western Europe the meeting ended. But not before Johnson had claimed Stratford’s regeneration has inspired China, announced he ‘would love for all kids to have mandatory sports everyday for two hours’ and Baroness King of Bow had badgered him to visit a Tower Hamlets sporting project for 45 minutes sometime in the next six months. She seemed genuinely pleased when he eventually agreed.