Is it within the remit of the Mayor's press office to monitor blogs by borough councillors and then to smear those with opinions different to his own as being 'extreme'? Maybe it is, maybe it is not - but it happens.
Councillor Phil Taylor of Ealing Northfield ward blogs and has noted the cost of 'free' travel for the old and disabled as being £213m, and makes the perfectly respectable assertion that "that much of this resource should be re-targeted at the very old who can’t even physically get on a bus. There are few people who are in work or on good pensions who would strongly argue that they should be the recipients of this largesse".
This, plus a comment from the Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Roger Evans prompted a full blown shock and awe press release from the Mayor:
"This attack on the Freedom Pass is the latest of a series of threats to free travel schemes in London. Last month we saw a series of attempts to abolish my ability to guarantee the Freedom Pass. Amendments to my budget on the London Assembly sought last week to abolish the free bus and tram travel scheme for youngsters. The arguments used by those who are threatening the Freedom Pass are increasingly desperate and extreme.....Cllr Taylor’s call for the Freedom Pass to be “retargeted at the very old” is code for huge cuts which would hit hundreds of thousands of London older Londoners and disabled people, many of whom rely on the Freedom Pass to get to the shops and see family and friends".
Note that the Mayor has just opened up both barrels on his own foot in the final clause - 'many of whom' - an admission that there are users who do not rely on the scheme. It should be a matter of considerable concern that a well-funded press office is able to launch attacks on privately run blogs at London council tax payers' expense. I very much doubt that this will be the last time that the press office behaves in this way. Meanwhile blogger Tony Sharp notes that the Mayor has still not seen fit to comment on the surge in anti-semitic attacks against Jewish Londoners.