LAST week, London Mayor Boris Johnson hooked one of his Boris being Boris headlines after telling Camden’s man at the London Assembly, Andrew Dismore, to ‘get stuffed’ during a fractious to and fro over fire service cuts.
The two men, however, also jousted that same day over whether Boris should be doing more to eradicate zero hours contracts endured by low-paid workers across the city.
What followed was a classic example of how the Mayor can use his wit to diffuse lines of attack. There’s Andrew Dismore talking about how he was having a breakfast in a “well known restaurant chain” when he overheard staff being sent home, unpaid, because it wasn’t busy.
Boris responds by starting a guessing game as to where Dismore was eating, pretending that the obvious bet would be McDonald’s.
Maybe the Mayor was half-suspecting that Dismore had magicked up an anecdote to meet a simple desire to get the assembly discussing zero hours contracs, but he keeps going: “Are you saying the Big Mac is not at the heart of the Dismore breakfast? I’m disappointed.”
As he tries not to be distracted, Dismore replies: “No, heaven forbid.”
But City Hall is Boris’s circus and the Mayor then takes another upper hand by making merriment of how a paddock of students in the public gallery suddenly get up like a buffalo herd and walk out as Dismore is speaking.
“Andrew WHAT’S HAPPENING,” the Mayor interupts.
Dismore’s joke that they too are on zero hours contracts is almost lost, as the camera pans out to see everyone depart.
And in the end, as the Mayor resumes his guessing game about who Dismore’s ‘breakfast host’ was – “Starbucks? Ok, we’ll get it out of you somehow” – you kind of lose what he is saying.
But in those answers abut zero hours contracts, somewhere he does, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, say: “The question you’ve got to ask yourself is is it preferable to have a job versus no job. That’s the issue very often. I myself would rather make progress on the London Living Wage.”
That’s exactly part of the stress and pressure placed on employees working under those terms that campaigners want to end.