While many in the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press, including management at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, continue to present London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as some kind of leader in waiting, the evidence continues to stack up showing that he is not fit to be in charge of any enterprise that routinely dispenses other people’s money.
The roll of shame from his time at City Hall was already an ignominiously long one: the vanity cable car that no longer has any regular users, the vanity Arcelor Mittal Orbit now gently rotting in the Olympic Park, the vanity buses with which Transport for London is saddled for the next few years and which will have no sell-on market as no operator wants them, the vanity water cannon that never saw service, all come easily to mind.
But the most glaringly reckless Bozza waste of money was surely on the Garden Bridge that never was. Eventually cancelled after Bozza’s successor Sadiq Khan declined to throw more money at it, it did not even have the chance to become a white elephant. Because construction never started. But spending most certainly did.
As the BBC has now reported, “A failed plan to build a bridge covered with trees and flowers over the River Thames in central London cost a total of £53m, it has been revealed. A Transport for London (TfL) inquiry showed the Garden Bridge Trust spent £161,000 on a website and £417,000 on a gala for the abandoned project. The design of the bridge cost more than £9m and the charity paid its executives £1.7m”.
So far, so wasteful, but the number that will cause Bozza real trouble came next: “Around £43m came from the public's pocket, TfL added. Doubts began to surround the project, overseen by Boris Johnson, after it lost the support of London Mayor Sadiq Khan in April 2017. It was officially abandoned in August of that year after a review recommended it be scrapped”. That’s £43 million of taxpayer funds sprayed up the wall.
And Labour AM Tom Copley knew exactly where to point the finger. “It's galling to see the costs of Boris' botched Bridge continuing to escalate for London's taxpayers. David Cameron needs to answer why, in his eagerness to see Boris Johnson's scheme go through, he intervened to overrule the advice of senior civil servants in order to extend the underwriting for the Bridge”. The principal culprit is Bozza.
No doubt Joanna Lumley will get some stick for zealously promoting the Garden Bridge even when it was clear the project was, if not dead, then certainly dying. But the elected politician who got the money released to throw at the exercise was Bozza. And all that we will hear from him will be the usual bluster and deflection.
That’s not good enough. Nor is the silence from organisations like the so-called Taxpayers Alliance, normally so keen to call out any waste of public money - because the politician who wasted the money is one of theirs. A Labour Mayor would not have been so favoured.
So there is, whisper it quietly, a case for Bozza to face some kind of sanction for the fiasco. Like a surcharge. After all, it was our money, and he made the decision to spend it. It’s about time that he learnt to take responsibility for his actions for one.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at