LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson ambushed Nick Clegg on his radio phone-in today, urging him to get his Cabinet colleagues “out of their posh limos” and on to public transport.
Mr Johnson recorded a message for LBC 97.3 radio, posing as listener “Boris from Islington” to demand more spending on London’s transport system.
But Mr Clegg, appearing on his weekly phone-in show, insisted the coalition Government had cut spending on ministerial cars by around 70% and challenged the Conservative Mayor in his turn to make use of billions of pounds worth of Treasury guarantees for infrastructure projects.
In a pre-recorded message, Mr Johnson said: “Hi Nick, it’s Boris here from Islington.
“I just want to ask you when are you going to get all those Government ministers out of their posh limos and onto public transport like everybody else?
“How can we possibly expect Government to vote for increases in infrastructure spending which we need in this city and upgrading the Tube, which we all need, when they sit in their chauffeur-driven limousines - paid for by the taxpayer - rather than getting down on public transport with the rest of us?
“Nick, get them out of their limos! Boris, over and out.”
Mr Clegg had clearly not been expecting the Mayor’s call but immediately recognised his voice.
Told that Mr Johnson was not actually on the line, but had pre-recorded his message, the Deputy Prime Minister responded: “That’s easy for him, isn’t it?”
The Liberal Democrat leader added: “Boris, if you’re listening - and I suspect he isn’t - I think we have actually cut the amount of taxpayer money which is used to pay for the cars and everything for ministers by, I think, about 70%. We have massively slashed it and changed it.
“Clearly, ministers - myself included - drive in cars, but not all the time. I am about to jump into a train to go up to Sheffield this afternoon.
“I think the fact we have cut the bill we inherited from Labour for ministerial cars by, I think, around 70% is a big step in the right direction.”
Mr Clegg told Mr Johnson he was “completely with him” on the issue of infrastructure spending and said that Chancellor George Osborne had made guarantees available to enable big projects to go ahead.
“We should, wherever we can, find whatever available money we can to invest in housing, in transport and in energy, and the kinds of infrastructure we need to create jobs today and help the the economy in the future.
“We have got Europe’s largest infrastructure project - Crossrail - here in London. George Osborne and the Treasury, to be fair to them, have offered £15 billion worth of Treasury guarantees to get infrastructure projects going in London.
“My challenge to Boris is - Is he going to use the Treasury guarantees offered by this coalition Government for infrastructure projects to help Londoners?”
Hearing that Mr Johnson would himself be appearing on the programme with host Nick Ferrari next week, Mr Clegg said: “Tell him to get out of his limo and get the infrastructure projects we are offering moving.”