Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate in next year’s London Mayor elections, is so hard-working that he managed to put up just a single question for last month’s session of Mayor’s Question Time.
That’s more than £1,000 per week.
Or at his current rate of non-productivity, nearly £5,000 per question posed by him at the MQTs session.
The role of London Assembly Members is largely to keep the Mayor in check, and the regular questions session at City Hall is the main opportunity to do so. There is no limit on the number of questions than an AM can ask each month, and as part of their public duty, they may often ask questions on behalf of members of the public, community groups, charities or civic organisations.
Yet Bailey seems to struggle when it comes to trying to hold Mayor Sadiq Khan to account. It is not only in June this year when Bailey has failed to come up with much in the way of questions for the Labour Mayor.
And that’s despite his having the full-time help of two tax-payer funded staff at City Hall.
Bailey was one of the Tories’ “list” candidates in 2016. He was handed the seat at City Hall with a London-wide remit on the basis of the overall vote for the Conservatives across the capital. Which does mean that no one actually voted for him by name.
If his record since being a very well-paid elected representative is examined, it may well be that few voters will choose to support Bailey when his name appears on the ballot paper for London Mayor next May, either.
In the three years since he became an Assembly Member, Bailey has managed to ask just 199 questions at MQT.
That’s an average of little more than five questions per month by Bailey.
That’s fewer questions than any other current Assembly Member, even the useless ex-UKipper Peter Whittle.
Indeed, Susan Hall, one of his Tory colleagues, has asked 273 questions more than Bailey has managed, and she has been an Assembly Member for a year less than the Conservative Mayoral candidate.
“Silent” Steve O’Connell, the Tory Assembly Member for the super-constituency of Croydon and Sutton, last month managed to submit a question to the Mayor seeking crime statistics on his patch for a transport service that doesn’t actually exist – the Tube in Croydon.
But if we set that non-question to one side, O’Connell has asked 1,090 other questions in his time at City Hall – that averages out at more than eight a month over the past 11 years.
Even that’s close to being downright idle.
Caroline Pidgeon, the LibDem Londonwide AM, was also first elected in 2008. She has asked nearly six times as many questions as O’Connell (6,075), and averages 45, or nine times more questions each month than Tory Bailey.
Green Party AM Caroline Russell has submitted 877 questions in the last three years, for a monthly average of 24 (all of them on recycled paper, you’d hope). And Labour’s Fiona Twycross, another London-wide AM as well as being a Croydon resident, has managed 2,070 questions in her seven years at City Hall, also averaging 24.
So the averages of Tories like O’Connell, and especially Bailey, fall well short of what might be considered to be “busy”, or “hard-working”.
If you look at the overall record of Assembly Members, there is a trend for London-wide AMs to ask more questions than constituency Assembly Members.
And that puts Bailey’s record in an even worse light.
He is supposed to represent the whole of London. He is at liberty to take up any issue and to probe the Mayor on any matter that takes hhis fancy. It’s just that, well… he’s not doing that.
The next Mayor’s Question Time is on July 18, so quite soon more questions will be submitted by Assembly Members. Of course, there is an argument that the important thing is the quality of questions, as opposed to the mere quantity, but as one City Hall observer told Inside Croydon today, “I am hard pushed to think of anything Shaun Bailey’s limited questions over the last three years have revealed.
“I don’t think they have been particularly probing.”
Take the single question that Bailey managed to slog over, carefully crafting for June’s MQT session, as an example.
Question No 12328 of 2019 was entitled “Street racing”.
Bailey asked: “Would the Mayor commit to delivering a permanent solution to the on-going street racing problem on the A10 Great Cambridge Road in Enfield that is continuing to cause much distress to Londoners?”
We haven’t checked, but our guess is that, having been put in such a tight corner by Bailey’s QC-level of questioning, Mayor Khan might reasonably have answered: “Yes.”
Of course, many of the other 24 London Assembly Members have been at City Hall much longer than Bailey, with one or two having been first elected in 2000, when the institution was established.
But none has asked so few questions, on average, each month.
It does raise the question: what, exactly, is £56,000 per year Assembly Member Bailey doing for his salary?
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