People of London, hear my voice. It's been a rip-roaring rollercoaster of a year. Economic grimness, houses in Belgravia plummeting in value, the City in crisis, all sorts of terrible and ghastly things. But also a year of celebration. London elected a new Mayor for a start, and I got to wave a big flag in Beijing. So I'm throwing a big party down by the Thames tonight, and 180000 of you are invited.
London's New Year fireworks are the envy of the world. Nowhere else are taxpayers herded prematurely into a waterside enclosure to stand for hours in the freezing cold waiting for ten minutes of flashy pyrotechnics. Nowhere else do annoyingly tall men in bobble hats stand directly in front of you drinking imitation champagne out of plastic cups and blocking your view of the pretty explosions. Nowhere else do citizens turn to one another at ten past midnight and say "Oh, was that it, I suppose we ought stumble home through this enormous crowd and watch it properly on the telly." You really wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
I thought it would be good to have a sponsor this year because big fireworks are terribly expensive. So I asked a fridge manufacturer to give us lots of cash, and in return I'm allowing them to write patronising PR drivel on websites, and plaster their logo across the Embankment, and give out thousands of branded hats in the hope that gullible members of the public will still be wearing them on the train home. Now where's the harm in that? It also saves me having to charge £10 a ticket for spectators (although, hmmm, maybe next year). Oh, and for the first minute of the display all the fireworks will be red and white, because those are the LG colours, but in no way has this compromised the artistic integrity of the event.
And there's one other big change this year. I introduced a new byelaw back in June which bans the drinking of alcohol on public transport, and yes, it still applies tonight. We must feel safe in our capital, and that means nanny knows best. I know under Old Ken things were different. I know swilling down cans of lager on Hogmanay tubes used to be commonplace. I know getting blotto on the bus was once an integral part of everybody's New Year's Eve preparations. I know late night trains on December 31st used to resemble pubs on wheels. But cease your beery singing, because it isn't happy hour on public transport tonight.
Now I like a drink as much as the next man, especially if the next man is the great Roman emperor Pistus Fartus. But it's important to be a responsible citizen this New Year's Eve and not to make our tube carriages a den of vice. By all means get blind drunk before you come up to town. By all means leave a trail of vomit from the bus stop to the tube platform. By all means bring a bottle of bubbly to enjoy in Trafalgar Square when you arrive. But whatever you do don't crack open a six pack on the Circle line and proceed to pour the contents down your throat, because that's now very naughty indeed.
Oh, and I'd be much obliged if you lot could police this alcohol ban amongst yourselves tonight. All the police are going to be extremely busy sniffing for knives in town, and our transport workers have more sense than to confront hordes of drunken yobs on New Year's Eve. Let's keep it dry out there, lest LG's firework sponsorship be tarnished by alcoholic impropriety. Together we can make the end of 2008 just that little bit less enjoyable. And let's see in 2009 with a value-for-money bang.