Caroline Pidgeon writes…Boris Johnson: Has the mask slipped?

Boris Johnson seems to be rarely out of the news.

Whether it is his comments about the burka or taking part in a photo opp mocking Theresa May’s running through fields of corn – there seems an insatiable media interest in him.

And if he puts forward a proposal, such as building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, his comments are extensively reported, irrespective of how feasible the policy is.

His treatment by the media is unlike almost any other politician, past or present.

His profile, combined with his immense ambition, has even fed speculation that he will one day be the Prime Minister.

However, could it be the case that his mask has now fallen off?   That perhaps some people are seeing him for what he really is?

That might seem a startling claim but there are some signs that this might be the case.  

Take for example all the media hype about his attendance at the Conservative party conference. 

The reality is that his base within the Conservative party, especially amongst those that know him best (Conservative MPs) is diminishing.

As the respected political commentator Paul Waugh said:

“He just can’t help himself, but can he help his party?

“Boris Johnson’s scripted spontaneity achieved his aim of dominating the headlines for much of the week.  Yet in the process he has alienated many of the key selectorate he needs to win round more than any other: Tory MPs.

“True, he has a small, loyal band that includes newer backbenchers like Ben Bradley and Andrea Jenkyns, plus slightly older hands like Conor Burns. That won’t be enough to get on the ballot paper in any future leadership contest.”

The views of his former boss at the Daily Telegraph are also worth noting:

Writing in The Times, former Daily Telegraph editor-in-chief Max Hastings said about him: “It is a common mistake to suppose Johnson a nice man…He is a man of remarkable gifts, flawed by an absence of conscience, principle or scruple.”

And indeed, that is the point about Boris Johnson.   It is those who know him best who have the lowest regard for him.

I have been a London Assembly Member since 2008 and for eight of those years I saw first-hand how he operated as Mayor of London.

I can assure you that there is far more to him than the mischievous and amusing character that some people perceive him as.

In his eight years as Mayor of London he made some truly disastrous decisions, some of which are only now coming to light.

He wasted money buying water cannon, when their use on mainland Britain is not licensed.

He oversaw £46 million of taxpayers’ money spent on the Garden Bridge.  The procurement process was scandalously rigged, and public money was recklessly thrown at a project that was simply not needed.  There is of course nothing to show for the public money that was spent.

In his arrogance he thought he alone could determine UK aviation policy and set about proceeding with research into a four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary.   This obsession cost the taxpayer a further five million.

And then there was the fiasco of the Olympic stadium.   Under his watch a decision was made to lease the stadium to West Ham for 100 years.  The deal was so appallingly negotiated that every game now played means the taxpayer loses out.  Millions of public money has also been spent on legal fees arguing over the minutia of the agreement!   

Far from a Conservative Mayor delivering value for money, we have seen millions of public money wasted on vanity projects.

There is much more that could be added about Boris Johnson’s other wasteful and disastrous decisions.

When you look at the real actions of Boris Johnson a very different face appears.

Most Conservative MPs have already clocked that.

The public are not far behind.

* Caroline Pidgeon is the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee

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  • Jack Graham 13th Oct '18 - 9:42am

    “And if he puts forward a proposal, such as building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, his comments are extensively reported, irrespective of how feasible the policy is”

    Speaks volumes about the defeatist mentality, parochial thinking and lack of vision across our politics. It explains why other countries are leaping ahead, because they don’t defer to the idea of ‘”how feasible the policy is”, but work to the idea of how high do we have to climb to reach the top of the mountain.

    What has happened to us, we wrote the book in this country on large scale engineering and infrastructure projects across the world, and now this “how feasible the policy is ” thinking has become endemic amongst the particular type who migrate towards politics, and it diminishes us as a nation.

    As a matter of interest building a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland would be 12.8 miles, there are numerous bridges over water across the world, much longer. China opened one over 26 miles long, nearly a decade ago.

  • Peter Watson 13th Oct '18 - 10:43am

    @Jack Graham “Speaks volumes about the defeatist mentality, parochial thinking and lack of vision across our politics.”
    I think that is a very important point that extends far beyond just our politicians!
    As a nation, these days we do seem to have a broadly “can’t do” attitude (with perhaps Brexit being a notable but very very polarising exception!) and politicians from all parties look much happier to shoot down the ideas of their opponents immediately rather than look for the good bits and build upon them.

  • Building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland would indeed be challenging. The shortest route would hardly be ideal – and there are a number of other factors to consider, such as the required height it would need to be for shipping to not be affected.

    For those who believe otherwise I suggest taking a look at this:–1453026/

    However, I think a further point is that Boris Johnson is no civil engineer or indeed with any real expertise on this issue, and the article is of course about him and his record in public administration. Indeed his record over bridges has been a total disaster, involving the serious loss of taxpayers’ money.

  • Yes Jack you can build a bridge and you can wave a little flag and feel so proud, but you would improve the lot of the average Joe or Joette by using the money and resources to improve the failing infrastructure they have to live with. I appreciate that gives you much less chance to thump your chest and wave a flag but it would actually make people’s lives much better than a bridge to nowhere.

  • The bridge to Northern Ireland would be a lot more use than HS2 but Sinn Fein and our establishment would not want it because it would symbolise the British connection with Northern Ireland which they are anxious to end as soon as possible despite what they say in public although they believe, probably correctly, that most Britons would be more than happy to see that happen because of all the problems and money it costs. The EU issue is probably a first step in that direction. Do many people care ? I have not heard anyone say so except politicians.

    Boris Johnson wasted millions scrapping serviceable buses with years of life in them and replacing them with the expensive Boris Bus which no longer allows you to get on and off wherever you like.

  • You can see a letter from a engineer that appeared in the Sunday Times last week, at this link. A person somewhat better informed than Boris Johnson on this issue:

  • You can read in full an excellent letter that appeared on this subject last week in the Sunday Times. From someone who I think we can safely say knows more about bridges than Boris Johnson ever will:

  • frankie: A bridge to NI would actually improve quite a lot of people’s lives. Ferries are not very pleasant especially in bad weather and we already have plenty of underused railways. Sadly usefulness for ordinary people has never persuaded our politicians to do anything – they prefer to spend our money on the things they like such as HS2

  • @Frankie

    Shhhh pet!!

    I think you mam is calling you down for your dinner, its your favourite, low calorie Sugar Puff sandwiches and Perrier Water in your special cup.

  • nvelope2003 ,

    Northern Ireland has a population of 1.8 million. The cost of a bridge has been estimated to cost about £15bn. While I can see the building of such a bridge would give people a warm fuzzy feeling and politicians a chance to grandstand I believe the money and resources would be better spent improving the existing railways and roads. An interesting article on this very topic is on the BBC, in it we can see the appeal to the heart

    “It would send out a dramatic marker in aspiration for the country going into the 21st Century.” Prof Alan Dunlop

    battling a warning to the head

    Economics expert Vicky Pryce agrees: “You would have to do a proper cost-benefit analysis and from the sound of it, it doesn’t suggest it would pass the test.

    “There would have to be other reasons why one would be pushing for building it.”

    I must say though I’d rather have a “Bridge to No Where” than the present government policy of doing nothing. At least the “Bridge to No Where” would provide work and lead to a development of skills that will be useful going forward, which is more than the present governments policy provides.

  • Jack Graham 13th Oct '18 - 4:08pm

    “P.S if you are going to imply I’m a snowflake it would be granola not suger puffs”

    Well there you go, not a lotta people know that !

  • Alex Macfie 13th Oct '18 - 4:10pm

    The break of gauge issue is actually fairly easy to solve. There are trains running between France and Spain, the latter having a wider gauge. There’s dual-gauge operation across the border.
    It’s all the other difficulties mentioned in the comments that make the Scotland-NI Bridge proposal a non-starter.

  • I should clarify that I think the policy of the present government is

    “Neglect and Penny pinching” which is the worst possible policy, but one they seem wedded too.

  • nvelope2003 14th Oct '18 - 6:03pm

    Alex Macfie: There were changes of gauge between France and Spain but I understand that the new high speed trains in Spain are standard gauge.

    frankie: Denmark and Sweden are separate independent countries with relatively low populations but they have a bridge between them and I believe that a bridge either has or is being built between mainland Denmark and the islands. If it is technically feasible I would not oppose building a bridge to Northern Ireland but I do not think it will happen because Sinn Fein would consider it as putting an obstacle in the way of Irish unification. I think it is patronising to ridicule such a bridge by people who would not use it. When I was a boy I lived in a tiny village but it had a road to the next villages which must have been totally uneconomic but essential to our life. This was the case all over Britain so a bridge to N. Ireland is just another step to a better life for its people and those Scots who need to go there. I think many people here see everything through Metropolitan or big city eyes. We still need rural Britain for the things it produces which we cannot get from cities. However I agree that money needs to be spent on the existing railway system for the same reason – a better life.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Oct '18 - 5:38pm

    Consider a link between the north of France and the south of England. There would be plenty of time to debate exactly how it would work.
    Consider the Roman Empire building a link across the Danube into Dacia.
    Consider the emperor Napoleon wanting to cross in into England. A tunnel might be better if well ventilated.
    How about two tunnels? both ending at the Isle of Man, but with no constitutional change. One from England or Wales, the other from Ireland, funded by the usual methods.

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