Ollas Ostentare – an adage for Boris

Ollas Ostentare – To make a display of pots.
Adage 1140, Desiderius Erasmus.

I was reading Erasmus’s “In praise of Folly” last night.* It struck me that the peculiarly classical rhetoric but policy vacuum of the Mayor Johnson administration, as outlined by the likes of  Dave Hill, Boris Watch and Tory Troll, makes “Ollas Ostentare” an apt commentary on the the first year of Boris. (Mind you, it could go for a lot of modern politics. Johnson is merely a skilled exponent of the trend)

Here we are, a year into the reign of the philosopher-Mayor, and what have we got?  Johnson’s main platform for re-election is that he has held down the GLA precept. This is somewhat undermined by the large increase in fares that makes travelling around London more expensive for most residents. Funding for rape crisis centres is postponed to some later date. The congestion charge is not to be extended westwards. As Stephen Shakespeare says, this is a pudding in search of a theme.

On the other hand, we have a fine display of pots to admire. There’s the slow death of the Bendy bus, where one bus route has been converted from one type of bus to another, at great expense and with no discernable increase in bus capacity. There’s allowing motorbikes in cycle lanes and there’s the minimally enforced “no drinking on the buses” rule. Oh, and some towers have been approved, and some others opposed.

Johnson talks about these steps as if they were great triumphs. Here he is on the latest step on the Bendy Bus saga “These writhing whales of the road have swung their hefty rear ends round our corners for the final time. Pedestrians that leapt, cyclists that skidded and drivers that dodged from the path of the 507 will breathe easier this weekend.” The fact that this will cost more, seat fewer, pollute more and make no difference to saftey is beside the point. Mayor Johnson has some pots he needs to display. Ollas Ostentare, or perhaps in this case – Pilentas Ostentare Omnibus.**

Of course, there is one area of his administration where no pots are displayed. When it comes to his staffing, Mayor Johnson clearly prefers cracked pots.

*God, that sounds pretentious. It’s not quite that bad. My girlfriend got to the nub of the matter when she saw it – “ah, that’s your new send-you-to-sleep book” quoth she, in which role it replaces such classics as “Daily life in Ancient Rome” and “Byzantium – the Early Centuries“.

The reason for all this autodidactic reading is that I am slowly trying to make up for my failure to learn anything much during my degree. I spent three years at university scrubbing for votes. Learning came there none. I remember going to see a tutor and admitting that I had not read a single book, article or cliffs notes for his term long course, and knew absolutely nothing about the subject bar the title (English History- From the beginning to 1330, as I recall). As Finals were six weeks away I felt it was time to amend this lacunae and asked said tutor to kindly supply me with a reading list and a list of three topics I could use to bluff the examiners. Topics were given and bluffing was assayed. My confidence in examination systems was forever dented when I emerged from that particular exam with one marker judging me worthy of a first. Thankfully the other demurred and I got a 2:1 in that paper.

** Being an ignoramus, I am sure I have the latin horrifically messed up. I was trying to play on the meaning on Omnibus in Latin, to say “to display coaches for everyone..” but I willingly accept all corrections. Even from the Mayor.

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