Caroline Pidgeon writes…Who is the real Boris Johnson?

Just who is the real Boris Johnson? 

Is it the man who for eight years was the Mayor of one of the world’s most multi-racial cities, or instead the man who in his 2002 Daily Telegraph column included racist insults against black people, citing “regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” in the Commonwealth and referring to “the tribal warriors… [who] all break out in watermelon smiles”.

Is it the man who now argues in favour of a no deal Brexit, or instead the Boris Johnson who declared in his Daily Telegraph column: “It is also true that the single market is of considerable value to many UK companies and consumers, and that leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty.”

Or indeed the Boris Johnson of 2012 who stated that whenever he considered the prospect of Britain leaving, he always came down “narrowly” in favour of Britain staying.  And the Boris Johnson who took full advantage of the cheap lending from the European Investment Bank to fund London’s transport infrastructure.

Within a few weeks Conservative party members will be making a decision on whether they want Boris Johnson as their leader. They have to make a decision over a man whose views over the years have had more twists in them than a corkscrew.

Yet examining his contradictory and insulting statements on so many issues only gets us so far.  In contrast the actual record of Boris Johnson is clear cut.  

As someone who witnessed and scrutinised his activities at City Hall for eight years I have a clearer recollection of events than the Conservative MPs now scenting the chance of a ministerial post.

When examined in the round, his record was one of inactivity, missed opportunities and an immense waste of public money.  Always putting himself before anything else. 

Yet his supporters, such as Jacob Rees Mogg and James Cleverly are now peddling the idea that his record of Mayor of London was that of unbridled success and huge achievement.

It is said that a lie can get half way around the world before truth has even got its boots on.   

We now run that risk with some of the fanciful claims being made by Boris’ supporters will start to be believed.  We cannot allow that to happen.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games

Incredibly some people seek to credit Boris Johnson with the overall success of the 2012 Games.  His contribution to their success was in fact minimal. The hard work and the groundwork at the Olympic Park started long before he arrived at City Hall.  London won the bid for the 2012 Games in July 2005, three years before he became Mayor. There was a huge amount of work undertaken in preparing our bid in the years before that.  His biggest contribution was waving the flag at the opening ceremony.


It is claimed during his time at City Hall that great progress was made in tackling crime. The reality is that there was serious rioting across the capital in the summer of 2011, wrecking many high streets and small businesses. His supporters also overlook the fact that knife crime was increasing in the last two years of his office.


Boris Johnson’s record on delivering affordable housing was also far from impressive and in his second term as Mayor he actually delivered fewer affordable homes than in his first term.  He delivered 55,000 affordable homes in his first term, and then 45,000 in his second term.  Given it is estimated London needs around 60,000 homes a year, it is a drop in the ocean.

Use of public money

Over £53 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on his pet project – the Garden Bridge. The procurement process was somewhat dubious, and public money was recklessly thrown at something that was simply not needed.  There is of course nothing to show for the public money that was spent.

In his arrogance he further thought that he alone could determine UK aviation policy and set about proceeding with plans for a four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary. This obsession cost the taxpayer a further £6.2 million pounds.

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 the stadium is currently costing the taxpayer £30 million a year, with each football game by a Premier League football team being heavily subsidised.  Additional legal bills have also had to be picked up by the taxpayer, adding a further £4 million.

He also decided to have his own bus designed and to then spend millions of pounds buying these buses – at great expense.  He then had to retrofit these buses as they did not have windows that could open and were like a sauna on wheels.  Retrofitting them cost a further £2 million of public money.

He also threw public money at the Thames cable car, which is barely used by the public.

And of course he thought London should have water cannon, despite the fact that they are not licensed to be used in mainland Britain.  These cost an astonishing £322,000 and have now been scrapped.

But apart from being reckless with public money, Boris always acted as though he was born to rule us all; he had an absolute right and did not respond well to scrutiny.  When I asked him tough questions about the garden bridge, he described me as having a “Taliban-like hatred of objects of beauty.”  He also patronised and spoke down to female assembly members, routinely mocking what they said.  

Look at his real record and then ask the question of whether this person is fit to be Prime Minister. 

My mind is clear, the answer is no.

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

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  • William Fowler 16th Jun '19 - 9:10am

    Surely Boris’s ability to twist and turn, not really mean what he says, and use his charisma to get out of trouble is just what the country’s needs if it is to get out of the Brexit mess… hint, quite likely he will turn around and say a second referendum is the only way forward, albeit no deal v remain.

  • John Nicholson 16th Jun '19 - 11:39am

    Of course Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister. But then, in my experience, the ordinary members of the Conservative Party are not fit to make the decision on behalf of all of us. It is the unspeakable electing the unworthy, and will surely end in tears.

  • They may just crown Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, saves asking the membership.

    After seeing this lot, I can see why you might not trust them to vote. Remind me again why anyone thought it was a good idea to associate with this lot of reactionaries.

  • Mr Johnson also savagely decimated the Safer Neighbourhoods Police in London and closed down our local police stations leaving personnel so short they are now struggling to cope with the increase in crime and anti-social behaviour affecting all parts of London. They do a great job of course despite the limited resources but my local ward SN police team was cut back from 6 to 3 staff and that’s with a Sergeant sharing to Police services.

  • Christopher Haigh 16th Jun '19 - 1:22pm

    Johnson could become the most mentally unstable prime minister since William Pitt the Elder.

  • Gwyn Williams 16th Jun '19 - 1:49pm

    In North Wales, over the years as Mr Johnson’s career has waxed and waned there is a surprising correlation with the number of people who recall that he lost as the Tory candidate in Clwyd South in 1997. It could even be said that the then Labour MP for Clwyd South’s best contribution to British political life was to delay Mr Johnson’s political career by 4 years.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Jun '19 - 2:48pm

    The article from Caroline does give some indication of this ludicrous character.

    But as the Liberal Democrat group leader the proximity is at a certain level , useful as it obviously is to give a political or professional, as well as a partial personal insight.

    I urge everyone to read Max Hastings and Jeremy Vine accounts of the man, personal encounters of such a sort one the former, a critique so remarkable, the other, the latter, an anecdote so hilarious.

    Both concur with Caroline, lead me to declare too, Bojo the clown, unfit to be PM!!!!!

  • Since at least 2010, most Conservative Associations with retiring MPs selected Farage-lite PPCs. Anyone serious about getting selected had to sing the hard Brexit song whether they believed it or not. The people who selected them are the electorate for choosing the new leader of the party, who for an unknown period will become Prime Minister. Behind a thin blue line of Conservative MPs there will possibly be an anti-Johnson majority. For the good of the country they may have to lie through their teeth and tell their local party they voted for the man without actually doing it – not a pretty sight but sometimes necessary.

  • Boris Johnson is the political equivalent of the 4×4 road hog who ignores road traffic signs and leaves car crashes and fuming drivers behind.
    It says so much about how low the morals of his party have sunk as, when confronted with his gaffes, a shrug and, “It’s just Boris being Boris”, is deemed excuse enough.

  • Worth pointing out why they may not want to go to the membership. Be a bit embarrassing fessing up to how few their are.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Jun '19 - 4:37pm

    @ Caroline Pidgeon,

    You could also have mentioned the closure of ten fire stations and the removal of twenty seven fire engines having repeatedly denied that he had any plans to close fire stations or cut numbers of fire engines, telling the London Assembly in 2010 that there were ‘no plans’ to remove engines.

    Or there were the appalling comments that he made regarding gay marriage , that I cannot bring myself to repeat.

    Or comments about a foreign leader, sex and a goat. His intervention in the case of Nazanin Zaghari -Ratcliffe. This from someone who was considered worthy of the role of Foreign Secretary.

    One could go on. To call him a clown or a buffoon, is too mild for someone with his character flaws, but more shocking than that, there are those who would vote him into power.

    How much lower can we stoop as a country?

  • bernard aris 16th Jun '19 - 5:19pm

    In talking to Dutchmen (and -women) who have lived and worked in London, I keep hearing the complaint that the bike lanes Boris was proud to lay down invariably end up in the middle of a big roundabout with cars whizzing around you. And there are many other complaints about the usability and practical qualities of his bike facilities; that makes any “Green” laurels het puts on his own head questionable (apart from starting a great big third or fourth airport).

    Also, he has done nothing to educate British children and car drivers about respect between bikers and car drivers, not even when his party leader Cameron was riding his bike to the Commons (or is the content of London schools education outside his formal remit? When has that ever stopped Boris from barging in and opininionating about anything?).

  • There is a word for him but I can’t write it here.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Jun '19 - 3:38pm

    A contribution from would also be welcome.
    I watched Mayor’s Questions many times on tv and sympathise for the chair.
    The broadcasters used to interview the relevant deputy mayor instead,
    leaving an impression that the elected Mayor of Greater London was delegating a lot,
    as he was known to have done when he was a magazine editor.
    Conservative MP Ken Clarke said “We are looking for a leader (pause)
    who is capable (pause)
    of being seen by the public (pause)
    as a Prime Minister in waiting (pause)
    and, boy! have you kept me waiting!”
    What were the audience members thinking during the pauses?
    They did not elect him that time,
    Despite multiple approaches he is not standing this time,
    According to his own memoirs “A Kind of Blue” the learned MP stood three times and decided once not to stand, because he was too pro-European for the Tory Party
    (previously led by Ted Heath).
    The Observer reported on 16/6/19 that he is willing to bring down the government if necessary, by voting against it in a vote of confidence, although he does not know how many other Tory MPs feel the same way.
    Speaking in the Commons Dominic Grieve threatened something similar.
    When Margaret Thatcher decided to see her cabinet one by one, Ken Clarke told the others what he intended to do. He was in first and told her she must resign.
    He was also in last with the same message.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Jun '19 - 3:58pm

    ISBN 0 00 719590 7
    Harper Collins 2004 336 pages £17.99 in hardback, cheaper when remaindered.
    Reviewed by David Smith in he Observer
    ” like listening to a seasoned raconteur holding court
    rather than reading a work of literature.”

  • Antony Watts 18th Jun '19 - 9:47am

    The Tory party cannot face up to the truth of what it’s done (A50), so it’s sending for the biggest liar of them all. Can you blame them? Theresa May was unable to escape reality, so they destroyed her. de Pfeffel can’t do it either, but he says he can, and that will certainly do for now…

  • Richard Underhill 18th Jun '19 - 6:09pm

    John Major’s party chairman Chris Patten was invited on to Politics Live to give his views on Hong Kong, which he did.
    Asked about the Tory leadership election the former MP for Bath said “Do we have to?”
    “If I had a vote I would back Rory Stewart because he is the only one telling the truth.”
    George Orwell said or wrote:
    “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”
    which must be right because it is on my Liberty mug.
    Viewers on Catch-up
    RAAB OUT. He was the most extreme and least flexible candidate.
    ERG chairman Rees-Mogg is backing Boris Johnson.
    The threat of a mass exit to the Faragists seems to have disappeared.

  • Another mistake made by Mayor Johnson was replacing the single deck bendy buses by the double deckers with several doors including an open platform at the back. I saw a woman fall off the open platform while the bus was in motion and only a miracle prevented her being run over by a following vehicle. This was not the only occasion. The bendy buses were effectively scrapped at great cost allegedly because of fare evasion but the new double deckers also encourage fare evasion and squads of inspectors accompanied by the police have to make periodic checks which cause delays to passengers.
    People who find climbing stairs difficult would prefer the bendy buses, especially those who have been thrown down the stairs when they lurch around corners.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Jun '19 - 1:11pm

    I am reluctant to comment on what the SNP leader in the Commons said on 19/6/19.
    He was reprimanded and cautioned by the Speaker, but continued in the same vein.
    He spoke before BBC tv curtailed coverage of PMQ and returned to Politics Live.
    I do not know yet how much of this will be in Hansard.
    The SNP MP said that Boris Johnson is unfit to be Prime Minister.
    Theresa May said they all are.
    Personally I love Scotland. I met my wife there. We travelled extensively.
    We checked into a bed and breakfast house and unpacked. The owner put his head round the door and asked whether we would like some tea.
    We had not contracted for it, but, yes, a cup of tea would be nice.
    We found that we had been invited to a meal in front of a fire, without being asked to pay.
    We were told about the pile of wet peat being used on the fire.
    It was a Sunday. No alcohol was offered.
    Liberal Democrat federal conference has taken us to Scotland repeatedly before 2104.
    I went to the 2014 referendum and agree that “We are better together”, which is another reason why I regret what was said in the Commons today.
    The Speaker did the minimum necessary, but did not reprimand Ian Blackford’s further comments. Perhaps the Speaker thought that excluding an MP from the chamber for a day would only exacerbate the situation.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Jun '19 - 3:13pm

    Dennis Skinner MP (Labour) was carefully keeping his face off camera.

  • @ Richard Underhill

    I live in Scotland and just loved the way you describe our 1745 life style. Can’t comment much more on your piece at the moment. Have to go out to cut some peat, shoot a haggis for tea, dance an eightsome reel to get warm and then hang up my kilt to dry….. If you’re ever going past I’ll save you some short bread. What is true is that in general it is much more civilised up here.

    Not all of what Mr Blackford quoted was written or said by our outstandingly diplomatic and trustworthy BoJo….. it was a poem he allowed to be printed in the Spectator when he was Editor. The rest, I think, he did say. Lovely chap, and tactful too.

    And if de Pfeffel Johnson actually does become our new PM and takes Scotland out of the EU against its will then the Scottish Lib Dems ought to do a bit of head scratching about the Union. If Bojo can achieve a seamless Irish border then it strengthens the small is beautiful case in Scotland.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Jun '19 - 4:48pm

    ISBN 0 00 719590 7
    Vice President Spiro Agnew was to the right of President Richard Nixon.
    Time magazine reported on his use of language, such as “Close your sphincters”. Journalists needed to check with their dictionaries before they could report on what he said.
    Boris Johnson reports verbal abuse in detail, including alleged obscenities in Arabic.
    He also uses his large vocabulary to prevent effective communication. If someone has a death-wish he could say so in English, for those who are not fluent in Ancient Greek. Roy Jenkins wrote that Gladstone was the last PM with that skill.
    Panic was the name of a Serbian PM, but Boris omitted the acute accent over the c.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Jun '19 - 4:58pm

    Boris Johnson says he does not comment on “loved ones”, but he did when a woman said he got her pregnant and informed a tabloid newspaper. Boris denied it and told his party leader “Back me or sack me”, so he was sacked by the unelected Michael Howard (Prison Works! (now a peer).

  • Richard Underhill 13th Jul '19 - 5:18pm

    The last vote by Tory MPs by secret ballot included two spoilt ballots. They all voted, so who would have had the motivation to do that but a candidate frustrated by his/their exclusion/s? We can deduce that there was no space on the ballot paper for abstention.
    We have seen Andrew Neil’s interviews with the two contenders for the Tory leadership.
    Andrew Neil is an alpha male, both candidates emerged as damaged goods, but where is the third option? What should a voter do if s/he thinks that both candidates are wrong? Do they really both think that a general election would lead to an overall majority for Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn? If their membership were given more choice it would not be necessary for their MPs to filter out their other candidates. We can show them how.
    Both candidates failed by not answering questions for which they should have been prepared.
    Winging it?
    ‘None of the above’ is the view of many members of the public. Sadly it is obviously not an option on their ballot paper.
    This was the party that previously had a choice between John Major, Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd, although only MPs could vote and then only by FPTP.
    Numerous careers will be ended.
    There might be a few comebacks by retreads.
    Some people may become politically homeless.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Jul '19 - 5:39pm

    on 17/7/19 Peston’s programme on ITV interviewed Boris Johnson, but did not give equal time, or indeed any time, to Boris’s rival, the Foreign Secretary.
    Boris went on to make headlines at the Excel before the Tory membership, but treated Peston with unusual respect.
    Peston had asked an Etonian student (aged about 15) what he thought about Boris becoming Tory leader and Prime Minister. The response was “20!” a number which may be in circulation in that school. No mention of Harold MacMillan’s cabinet, nor of David Cameron as PM, just a number.
    Boris referred to Peston as also coming from Balliol, then regretted doing so.
    This respect for Peston presumably derives from his time at the BBC, knowing lots of economic numbers and what to do with them. His job at ITV is partly political and does not always require numerical ability. Boris seems to have decided that he could not gloss over some serious problems, such as NO DEAL, such as Prorogation and did not attempt to do so with Peston, although he did with the Tory membership later that evening.
    On Labour Peston departed from his journalistic role and became a player, talking about his father, also Jewish, and what had happened in his life.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '19 - 7:10pm

    17th Jun ’19 – 3:58pm. This book is full of lots of irrelevant detail.
    The plot is dependent the cumulative effect of lots of minor failures.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '19 - 5:31pm

    17th Jun ’19 – 3:58pm ISBN 0 00 719590 7
    The author wrote (page 301) “Death to the middle class”
    “Applications to be the next Tory leader, please take one” written on the bog roll dispenser.
    The Daily Telegraph is quoted on the book jacket “Effortlessly brilliant page-turner”.

    It should not be lightly tossed aside.

  • Richard Underhill. 18th Nov '19 - 10:22am

    Boris is “as shallow as a paddling pool” Jennifer Acuri BBC tv 18/11/2019

  • Richard Underhill. 18th Nov '19 - 10:23am

    Jennifer Arcuri

  • Richard Underhill. 18th Nov '19 - 12:00pm

    “In some ways Boris is right”

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