Magazine article The Spectator

My Bad Mayor Day

Magazine article The Spectator

My Bad Mayor Day

Article excerpt

New York

`THAT GUY Jeremy, he wrote a book, didn't he?' Bill, the limo-driver, was inquiring about his current charge. Actually, Jeffrey Archer is not in Manhattan to sell books, but to become mayor of London. He is in New York to learn from arguably the most successful civic leader in recent years, the Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

`It's a learning process, it's a listening process, it's a watching process,' Lord Archer explained to me in the lobby of the Marriott hotel, mere blocks from City Hall. He was spending three days `watching the great man in action', as he put it. It was 9.15 a.m. and Giuliani's City Hall speech was scheduled to start in 45 minutes. Lord Archer very kindly said I could go with him.

But he insisted: `You really must disappear into the background . . . I don't want to cause trouble . . . If anyone says "Who's that blonde with?" [that is, me], then we've lost that battle....' Sounding, as it did, like dialogue from an Archer novel, this clandestinity was necessary because (a) a female feature writer from the London Times was also going with him, was unaware of my presence and was under the impression that she had exclusive access to the would-be mayor, and (b) the real mayor's regard for The Spectator had been somewhat modified by Taki's observations about New York's Puerto Ricans, who tend to have votes in the forthcoming mayoral election.

The Times representative underwent a severe facial transformation on my introduction. It culminated in an impressive lipcurl. As seven of us, including the former state senator Phil Robertson, piled into the town car, I sat almost on top of my broadsheet nemesis, creating an intimacy belying the fact that she was about to smack me.

We drew towards City Hall and a cop peered in and shouted, 'Whadya doin' here?' to which Archer replied in fantastically clipped imperialist tones, `I'm English. I've come to see the mayor.' I expected David Lean to shout `Cut!' but instead, the gates opened. And here my day with Rudy abruptly ended. Sadly, I was never to meet the mayor, though I'm sure we'd have got on famously. The truth is, an `unnamed source' had informed the mayor's office of this 'Spectator girl', and a grim-faced woman approached Lord Archer's aide: 'I understand someone from The Spectator is here.' I could not now witness the 4.30 p.m. wedding of Police Officer Patty McVeigh or the 6.45 Centre for Educational Innovation reception at Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence.

Later, Lord Archer explained to me that he had always favoured an elected mayor for London. 'I backed it from the beginning - but then I sat on the GLC.' `As did Tony Banks,' I pointed out. `As did Tony Banks,' he echoed curtly. I continued, `Richard Branson has . . .' `He's not running,' Lord Archer insisted.

What was he learning from the real mayor he had come to watch? Giuliani's `zero tolerance' regime was 'a classic example of why we're here'.

On what qualities he could bring from his background: 'I think it's a question which can't be answered two and a half years before [the referendum of Londoners on whether they want an elected mayor].'

Similarly, when I asked him what sort of reception he had had in London to the idea of his becoming mayor, Lord Archer replied he knew quite a lot of people, had lived there for over 30 years, and reiterated that he had, `in fact . …

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