Mayor's Question Time, at City Hall review
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I went back to City Hall again today to see if I could spot Boris Johnson at Mayor's Question Time. This is the big monthly meeting where all the London Assembly members get to harangue him for a couple of hours. They only hold it once a month and the date changes every month, so it's not the easiest of things to visit. And it's right slap bang in the middle of the day as well (10 AM to 12 noon), on a weekday, but it's well worth doing if you can get the time off work.
I got a bit unlucky with the buses today because it took me half-an-hour to get to City Hall from Waterloo, so when I bundled in past security and up to the second floor (I know where I'm going now) the chamber was already full to bursting. It was only 10 minutes past the start, but the doors were already shut to newcomers. Luckily they still let you stand outside and peer in through the windows, so you can still see the Mayor and what's going on inside. They've got a big TV outside too so the sound is piped out to the nobodies who couldn't get in (ie. me).
I am guessing that there were probably about 250 seats in total, most of which were taken up by students. A good 90% of the crowd looked like they were there for a school lesson... paper pads on knees, biro sticking out the mouths, looking bored and waiting for the playtime bell to ring. The other 10% were made up of photographers, business-type people furiously scribbling into their notebooks, one lady updating her Twitter feed throughout, and another guy who looked like Boris Johnson's long-lost son. There were also a few press-men waiting for a tasty sentence or two for their papers. At one point about fifteen kids from a local primary school turned up and got a mention from the chair. All the politicans turned around and waved at them! (You don't get that happening in the House of Commons.)
Boris looked, sounded and acted exactly as you'd expect him to... all his language and mannerisms were 100% present and correct. His trademark messy hair had a tufty lump of locks escaping out the side of his head. And his flat top made him look dangerously like Donald Trump from a distance. I'm sure it must have taken him ages to get it looking that messy -- it's almost too messy. I think he must have it styled like that by an expensive barber.
The chamber is arranged for maximum uncomfortableness for the Mayor. He is all on his own in a solitary seat at the front, whilst a horseshoe table of politicians stretches out around him. And after that comes the baying crowd, with four tiers of seats like a Roman amphitheatre. Everyone is facing Boris. Every camera is focused on him, and every word he says is amplified out of the three billion speakers that are dotted around the room. They've even got two big TVs off to the side with a couple of close-ups of his face, so there really is no escape. The spotlights are on him. Like a Gestapo interrogation. But let's face it, everyone has come here to see Boris performing. Who cares what all the Lib-Dems and Labour blokes are thinking. All we want to hear is what Boris says.
The view out of the back window is pretty spectacular. Straight across the river is the Tower of London, and towards the left is the Gherkin and the City skyscrapers. The chamber itself is at the heart of the "teardrop", right at the centre of the building. You can see the spiral staircase winding its way around the floors above your head until they disappear out of view. And all the seats are very close to the action too. I am totally useless at judging distances, but I am guessing that I was no more than 50 feet from the big man himself. There is no safety glass between you and the members either (unlike at the House of Commons), so you really get a good view of what is going on.
The meeting overran a little bit so Boris ended up rushing out at 12:45. I thought it would have been fantastic if the meeting ended with him ascending up the spiral staircase to his office at the top, with everyone standing down below applauding and cheering him as he tapered off into the distance, but alas, it was a lot more boring than that. He just scooped up his school rucksack from behind the lectern, roughly stuffed his folders into it, and disappeared out the back in the blink of an eye.
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