Last Wednesday's question time was the last until September and a holiday mood might have been expected. Instead Boris found himself under pressure from all sides - including his own. The Conservative Group are quite an independent minded bunch and colleagues often raise matters of fundamental disagreement during questions. On occasions several difficult subjects coincide on the agenda and the Mayor gets a difficult time - this was one of those occasions.
With cost cutting now on the agenda throughout the country, tough budgetary decisions loom ahead and they featured in the initial questions from all three groups.
First off was Labour's John Biggs, demanding to know if Boris supported George Osborne's budget. Of course he does, generally - but what about the parts the threaten London's public services. Here Boris made his promise to fight a robust defence, particularly of Crossrail and Tube renewal. John found this circle hard to square, but really it's not that much of a struggle - not to anyone who watched Ken fighting London's corner against New Labour (then campaigning for their re-election). London needs a Mayor who will stand up to - and a little way apart from - governments of their own political hue. Westminster, with its hordes of MPs from the provinces, is always suspicious of the capital. Ken managed the balancing act and so does Boris, a Mayor not known for always agreeing with David Cameron.
Mike Tuffrey's turn next, and he sought to get some early indicators of the fares decisions that are traditionally made over the Summer. Boris wasn't being drawn, so I shouldn't have been optimistic when I pressed him on council tax. Would there be an unprecedented freezing of the precept for the third year running? Again the Mayor refused to make any commitments, so we will have to wait until next year's budget round for an answer.
Andrew Boff piled in on the Olympic stadium. He is concerned that the site will prove to be a white elephant when the games are over. The problem is that nobody wants a stadium which has a running track separating the crowd from the on pitch action - well nobody who isn't called Seb... Boris reassured us that the games would be fantastic and all the venues would subsequently be put to good use.
Andrew came back on the vexed matter of the Olympic Village. Current plans are likely to result in rich block and poor block housing after the games - a phenomenon that Andrew refers to as Social Apartheid. Again we were reassured that housing would be available for people from different backgrounds to form a mixed community.
Then Victoria Borwick raised the contentious matter of Oxford Street and its bus jam. Boris tells us that some services have been moved, clearing space in the street, but Victoria believes that more can be done. The opinion of traders in the street is hotly contested and there was a robust exchange of views. On Sunday the east end of the street was moving freely but road works mean that some buses are currently diverted so my own observations may not be typical.
I flagged up the Romford incident and asked for clear guidance to be issued to police officers. The public should be free to take photographs of events in London without fear that they are breaking the law. Unfortunately Boris was not in the mood to make many concessions by now, and an earlier question had flagged up some of the more basic guidance given to officers as a waste of time. The Mayor was sure that matters could be left to the discretion of individual officers. At one time I would have agreed with him, but having seen the evidence of heavy handed policing of photographers I'm not convinced.
I tried a new tack - perhaps the sections of law making it an offence to photograph police officers should be repealed as part of the government's welcome review of civil liberties. Boris brushed this suggestion aside, preferring to rely on the common sense of police officers.
I was disappointed because I suspect it is only a matter of time before another Jules Mattsson type episode occurs. I will be writing to the Home Secretary making the case for a change in the Law.