Those with short memories - which appears to include many in and around our free and fearless press - have either not talked about the upcoming £120 million celebration already dubbed the “Festival of Brexit”, or are not calling it out for what it is: an opportunist turkey, another in the already long list of vanity exercises peppering the political career of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
While the Guardian has reported, “It has been mocked and pilloried as a “festival of Brexit”, but the newly appointed boss of the £120m nationwide celebration planned for 2022 has said he is going to embrace the cynics – and prove them wrong. In his first interview as the director of Festival 2022, Martin Green said the aims would be to bring the nation together, showcase British creativity, and on a basic level bring some ‘joy, hope and happiness’”, the omens for this venture are not good.
The last big celebration to be put on by the Government, or on its behalf, was at the turn of the Millennium; there, the then Millennium Dome was bedevilled by overspending, a lack of visitors, foul-ups (like New Year’s Eve VIP guests being left out in the cold for hours as the ticketing system messed up), and subsequent media ridicule.
Also, the Guardian has warned that “figures from arts institutions have privately expressed concern about the project, which some say is likely to alienate remain-supporting visitors at museums and galleries that are expected to take part”. Echoes of the Festival of Britain in 1951, which the Tories decided was a dastardly socialist enterprise. Churchill personally ordered the South Bank site cleared after winning that year’s General Election.
But the most ominous predecessors for the “Festival of Brexit” are all those projects backed by Bozo The Clown which either need not have been proceeded with, or did not even see the light of day - despite all the taxpayer millions lavished on them.
Like the ArcelorMittal Orbit, built to give the Olympic Park “something extra”. It is Britain’s large piece of public art. By October 2015, it was claimed that the attraction was losing more than £500,000 a year. Still, someone else’s money, eh? Which also applies to the Emirates Air Line, the cable car over the Thames which now has precisely no regular users. The Dangleway, as it is derisively called, cost tens of millions. And for what?
You can travel from North Greenwich to the other side of the river. But you can do the same for a lot less on the Jubilee Line and DLR. But at least it got built, as did the New Bus For London, which is not a Routemaster, and which none of London’s bus operators wanted. So TfL had to buy all 1,000 of them. The likelihood of any operator outside London wanting them after they are retired in the capital is not unadjacent to zero.
The buses are overweight, their air cooling systems don’t work properly - hence complaints of sauna-like conditions on Summer days and retro-fitting of opening windows - and their two-staircase design has been rendered obsolete by operational necessity. But yes, there was an end product, unlike the study for a Thames estuary airport that was never going to get built, and the Garden Bridge that was losing so much money that eventually Bozo’s successor Sadiq Khan had to put the project out of its misery.
Don’t bet against the Festival of Brexit going the same way. Spaffed up the wall, indeed.
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