Just back from The Gymnasium in Pancras Road via the Number 56, a brisk walk from Hackney Downs and the chip shop. I found the occasion more low key than I'd expected. We got 20 minutes or so to read the document (pdf) - Getting Londoners Moving - before Ian Clement, Tory leader of Bexley Council got proceedings underway. I was struck by Clement's stress on the need for change and his belief that Boris can "knuckle down" - just in case we were worried about that, or anything.
Johnson's address was strong on detail and on jokes - I liked his reference to "enigmatic holes" in the capital's highways - and displayed the same internally logical, Cameronian caring-Conservative elements as his crime manifesto. Much talk of being on Londoners' side, persuasion being preferable to compulsion and spending less on mayoral self-promotion.
To hear Clement, followed by a suburban commuter introduced simply as "Rebecca" - not a Labour Party member, I don't think - and then Johnson CLICK HERE. I think the quality's OK.
After The Blond had finished Tory shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers MP spoke - she too said she thought Boris would "knuckle down" - but there was, in the end no appearance by Brian Cooke, Chairman of the independent London TravelWatch. There's a bit of a story there, which I'll get back to.
Then came a few - a very few - questions from journalists. The Standard's Pippa Crerar asked about the pledge to negotiate a non-strike agreement with the transport unions. Did he really fancy his chances? I was wondering the same thing. Imagine Boris and Bob Crow in a confined space. Now there's an encounter I'd like to have on tape. I asked the last question, which was about the difference between Johnson's estimate for the cost of conductors on a new "21st century Routemaster" - £8 million - and Livingstone's, which is £70-£80 million. He replied:
"It's perfectly true there is a dispute between myself and the mayor about the cost of getting conductors once again on the 337 new Routemasters that we will be introducing to replace the bendy bus, and the mayor says that it is ten times our calculated cost of eight million pounds a year. I haven't seen the mayor's figures, I don't know quite how he arrives at that statistic. I am told that it would only cost eight million pounds. I prefer to think that Londoners will want to go with the candidate with a can do approach and a bit of optimism about getting conductors back on new Routemasters, rather than the miserable, ah, niggardly approach of the current Labour, ah, mayor, who seems determined to frustrate a very good suggestion by spouting questionable statistics. I will look at his figures. And what I will say, is that I'm sure the people of London..."
I tried and failed to ask a supplementary. Then he got in his "conductors rather than consultants" soundbite and everyone cheered. To hear that and the whole of the second half of the press conference CLICK HERE.
UPDATE: Pippa Crerar's report for the Standard.
UPDATE 2: The Guardian's report, by Hélène Mulholland.