Having enjoyed a huge PR success (and intensely annoyed Downing Street in the process) yesterday with the announcement of an Olympic parade, Boris Johnson is about to make a move which on the face of it will be seen as a setback, but in reality will demonstrate that he is really getting to grips with his job.
In about an hour's time Boris will formally announce that the First Deputy Mayor Tim Parker is to step down from his job and also as chairman of Transport for London. Boris will now chair TfL himself. Parker will not be replaced as First Deputy Mayor. I am told that there has been no falling out and that the decision is mutual.
Tim Parker is a protege of Francis Maude and was brought in to "help" Boris by the transition team headed by Nicholas Boles. The subtle impression given was that he there to stop Boris being Boris and be the day to day business manager of the adminsistration. My reading of his formal departure (although he will continue as an adviser) is that this is a crucial decision, and means that Boris is putting his stamp on his own administration. TfL is crucial to this, as he has now (finally) come to understand.
Boris's next move should be to fire Peter Hendy, the chief executive of TfL. Hendy has made a convincing show so far of appearing to carry out Boris's wishes, but the reality is very different. He has been running his own show, in his own way and resents any "interference" from the Mayor's office. He must go, and sooner or later Boris will come to understand this.
No doubt Boris will take some media flack today for losing a third senior figure in his team after less than four months, but in my experience, if you decide someone is not working out it is better to grasp the nettle sooner rather than later. It's a good thing that he has not let it drag on. In May Tim Parker told The Times: "“You have to try to understand what you have to do in the first 100 days or so if you possibly can. If there are big changes you want to make, you have to try and get on with them.” Indeed so.
I guess one big advantage for Boris in this move is that he can finally cock a snook at those who believe his adminstration is being run from CCHQ. With the departure of James McGrath, then Nicholas Boles and now Francis Maude's friend Tim Parker, there are few CCHQ appointees left. Boris can now truly be his own man.
UPDATE: London Says has the full statement HERE.