Knight on a Shining Bicycle

Date 11th Nov 2009

Yes it is true, the Mayor of London did rescue me from some feral kids*.

When the history of why we failed to act on climate change is written, Boris Johnson beating Ken Livingstone to the job of Mayor of London will get a headline slot. Ken's team had developed a comprehensive city-wide strategy called "The London Plan" which was going to cut London's emissions by a whopping actually-tackling-the-problem 60%. Stuff like the congestion charge, low emissions zone and free buses were the first stages of the mega-plan being rolled out. As we were filming Stupid between 2004 and 2008, climate experts were forever telling me that Ken's plan not only made London the world leader, but was also inspiring other cities to finally start taking climate change seriously.

Boris to The Rescue! (of Franny Armstrong)
An oil painting of the incident. No, really. We have no idea who/how/why. 

Then the stupid people of London voted Ken out because Boris has better hair. As soon as he got into office, Boris dumped most of Ken's plans, put London back 20 years and pretty much derailed the whole cities-tackling-climate-change train. It really was that significant, imho, as without one city leading the way, the others started floundering again. And with the vast majority of humans living in cities, we are either going to succeed or fail to solve climate change in our cities. 

None of which is to say that I wasn't extremely pleased to meet Boris for the first time as I was walking home last Monday night. The situation went from shocking (as I was ambling along the road, texting Lizzie, and suddenly got pushed against a car) to funny (when I looked up and saw that my attackers were three small hoodie girls straight out of a cheap BBC drama) to pretty damn frightening (when they started waving their long metal bar around) to utterly bizarre (as Boris Johnson cycled up and shouted some Borisness (not "oiks" as the media likes to say, but something along those lines which I unfortunately can't remember)) all in the space of about 40 seconds. Ten minutes later - when he'd returned from chasing after them on his bike - we had a good old chat about Copenhagen (yes he's going), cycle lanes (he thinks they shouldn't be segregated, as "all the road should be for cyclists"), 10:10 (going to be hard to cut 10% of the tubes' emissions as there's no AC) and London's bike hire scheme starting next year (beautiful blue bikes - so much better looking than Paris's). Obviously I signed him up to 10:10 and gave him the tag from round my neck as a thank you. F: "You can only have it if you're definitely going to cut your emissions 10% next year". B: "I will, I will". 


Skip to two mins in... 

Having been wandering the streets of London for 30-odd years without ever either getting mugged or bumping into the Mayor, for both to happen at the same time was...

.... the best thing that could've happened for breaking 10:10 out of Guardianland. The 10:10 crew wouldn't countenance my suggestion that we keep the whole thing quiet on account of being utterly sick of my ugly mug in the media, so they put the story out at 4pm the next day and when I popped home at 5.30 there were already notes from journalists stuck through my door. How the F do they get someone's home address so quickly?!? I headed off to the Grierson Awards (where we didn't win, but the Yes Men did, hooray) and came out three hours later to find 41 voicemails, 24 texts and 100+ journo emails - plus messages from everyone I've ever worked with and even family members who'd been called by the Daily Mail. By the time I got home, the papparazzi were camping outside my house (well, they were sitting in their people carriers fiddling with their laptops), which was about 100 times more scary than the hoodie girl gang.

Friends in Dubai, then Beijing, then Sydney, then Auckland texted over the next few days as the story spread round the world. Boris's heroics made it into Time magazine to the main TV news on BBC and Sky to pretty funny satires like this and this to cartoons in tabloids to discussions on the Today prog to 300 comments in the Daily Mail to a discussion on Have I Got News For You (anyone got a copy?). Think this is my favourite, though funny to read that I said "Oh mein Gott, es ist Boris Johnson" in this one. Didn't think my German was that good. Oh and does anyone have copies of the cartoons which were printed in various papers? Would love to see them. Or the animation that was apparently on the ITV news? [please email]

So anyhow, I can confirm that Boris does indeed have fantastic hair and a great knack with a soundbite - "It's a slight mitigation of my heroism that the assailants turned out to be 12-year-old girls". As to whether I'll be voting for him next time - as all the press keep asking - the answer is: Boris for SuperHero, Ken for Mayor. 

They meet again... at the Copenhagen climate summit

* Quite a few people wrote saying that I shouldn't have used the phrase "feral kids". Yeah, I agree, it wasn't really strong enough to describe small children who go around attacking people, was it?