As Boris Johnson wafts through his final days in power at City Hall – much like the manner in which he has wafted through the previous 2,922 days in office – WALTER CRONXITE tries to find what the Tory Mayor has achieved for the capital and Croydon
Tomorrow will be the fifth time Londoners have had the opportunity to vote for a Mayor for our city. The past eight years, at least, will have confirmed what many people suspected – that it is a extra tier of government, at extra costs, that we really don’t need.
That notion has been reinforced amply by Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the epitome of the blundering part-timer, who has cruised through his two terms in office doing little and achieving far less.
But then, Johnson is from that part of the Conservative Party that always maintained that London does not need a Mayor. So his being half-hearted and half-cock about the role may have been deliberate.
The Evening Boris published its last pre-election poll last night, and buried the results on an inside page of the commuter’s evening paper, probably because they offered such bad news for Zac Goldsmith, the man that they have backed to succeed Johnson. It also spared the Standard‘s Johnson-absorbed editor from the chore of having to declare that the Mayor of London has regularly accepted holidays paid for by the newspaper’s owner, sometimes twice in a year.
But further findings, from pollsters Opinium, were proof positive of a triumph of style over substance. Or, put another way, that Boris’s bullshit has baffled brains.
The poll showed that 54 per cent of Londoners felt that Johnson has been a success as Mayor of London. Yes, really.
Asked what they thought Johnson’s achievements had been as Mayor, they put at No1 the staging of the Olympics in 2012, which Ken Livingstone’s office had backed, despite outright opposition from London’s Tories, and which in the event had little input from Johnson beyond his regular demonstrations of buffoonery.
Next among his achievements was listed “Boris Bikes”, which Johnson promised he would deliver at no cost to the tax-payer. Eight years on, and the bike hire scheme thrives, largely thanks to a on-going and generous public subsidy.
Then on the list of “achievements” came the Night Tube. Which in case the readers of the Evening Boris had not noticed, has not yet been delivered, and is running more than a year late, not least because of Johnson’s appalling approach to industrial relations.
And finally, on the list of Boris’s Big Achievements, comes the Boris Bus, the new Routemaster, something that he is entirely responsible for, and which have proved to be poorly designed, not-fit-for purpose and another expensive multi-million-pound burden on London’s tax-payers.
If anyone needed any further proof of what a wasted eight years London has endured with Boris Johnson as Mayor, then they should go online and read the Conservative manifesto which first got him elected in 2008. Except that you can’t, because its been wiped from the interweb. As, too, has Johnson’s 2012 little book of promises and most of his other campaign literature. Anyone would think that the Tories have got something to hide over their record in the capital.
That’s because they have.
Here in Croydon, Johnson has inflicted much damage in the past eight years.
- He promised a tram extension to Crystal Palace. Three times (including during the 2010 General Election) he said he would do it, and he has not delivered a single extra metre of track.
- To his abiding shame, the London riots happened on his watch in 2011, including in Croydon. And he then promptly cut police numbers and closed police stations.
- He brought together Hammerson and Westfield to partner a massive retail and residential scheme in central Croydon which now, four years later, has created a planning blight in the town centre and appears as remote as ever.
- His office waved through the strategic planning decision to build an industrial-scale waste incinerator on Metropolitan Open Land at Beddington, which could potentially blight the health of south Londoners for generations to come.
- He handed over the site of Cane Hill to house-builders Barratt’s, at a massive publicly funded subsidy. Barratt’s are progressing with their scheme for 700 large homes, which will doubtless be highly profitable, but which may not offer much for the homeless of Croydon nor to Coulsdon residents who wish to down-size. And he’s left the local authority with a mess to resolve over the access roads.
- He tried to hand over one-third of Crystal Palace Park to a Chinese businessman for one of his vanity projects, and got his mate Seb Coe to put forward plans to bulldoze the National Sports Centre. Both schemes collapsed.
- And he was the star turn at the launch of Tory MP Gavin Barwell’s costly re-election campaign. And we all know how well that’s worked out…
Adam Bienkov, on politics.co.uk, has managed to unearth some of Johnson’s election promises, and set them against his record while at City Hall.
“Big investments in cycling and the Tube have been delivered as have his commitments to scrap the western extension of the congestion charge and build a ‘new Routemaster’,” Bienkov writes.
And then there’s a “but”. A lot of them. As there always is with Johnson.
Johnson promised to eradicate rough sleeping by 2012 (he needed to, to make the streets more acceptable to the blazerati of the International Olympic Committee and the world’s media). Before he was elected Mayor, Johnson said: “It’s scandalous that in 21st century London people have to resort to sleeping on the streets.” Yet rough sleeping in London has doubled in the last five years.
Indeed, there was a Johnson promise to build 55,000 homes in London per year. House-building in the capital has never got any where near that target at any time during the Johnson Mayoralty.
In 2008, Boris campaigned against Ken Livingstone’s plans to close a number of ticket offices on the London Underground. Johnson’s 2008 manifesto promised there would “always [be] a manned ticket office at every station.” Since then, Johnson has closed all London’s ticket offices.
Eight years ago, Johnson said he’d establish a no strike deal with the Tube unions. He has refused to meet Tube union leaders for eight years, and the London Underground is regularly disrupted for millions of commuters because of the poor industrial relations with the Mayor-controlled Transport for London.
In 2008, Johnson campaigned on a promise to do something about Londoners paying the highest fares in Europe. And he did: he introduced as series of annual, inflation-busting fares increases.
By 2012, he had adapted his position to say that fares would “go down in an honest and sustainable way” if re-elected. Once he was back in City Hall, fares went up by an average of 4.2 per cent, and in line with inflation since. Bus fares in London have risen by 66 per cent since Johnson was first elected.
Another of Johnson’s populist promises eight years ago was to tackle congestion (clue: cutting fares and improving public transport is often a good way of achieving that…). In 2016, average vehicle delays in central London have increased by up to 38 per cent in the evening rush hours. Livingstone’s Congestion Zone had been effective, reducing the number of vehicles in central London over the course of a decade.
Johnson scrapped the western extension of the C-Zone; overall traffic levels are beginning to rise again in the city, with all that that means for air pollution, delays and inconvenience. And whatever you do, don’t mention Uber in the hearing of a black cab driver.
Johnson maintained he had “no plans” to close fire stations. Since telling that to the London Assembly in 2010, he has closed 10, taken 27 fire engines out of service, and overseen fire response times across London rise. But Johnson did manage to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a couple of water cannon vehicles which he is not allowed to deploy on the capital’s streets.
It’s been a similar tale with the other major public service under his command, the police. In 2012, just a few months after the scarring riots, Johnson leafleted Londoners’ homes promising “1,000 more police on the beat”. Bienkov writes: “The number of police officers on London’s streets has not risen. Pushed on his failure to increase police numbers back in 2013, Boris claimed that any suggestion he had actually promised 1,000 more police officers was a ‘wilful misconstruction’.”
Overall, it is an abysmal record of lies, hypocrisy, bluster and deceit, all adding up to eight wasted years for London. What Boris Johnson has assuredly achieved is to make a very strong case against having a Mayor of London. Or at least, another part-time Mayor like Boris.
But for him, it was always just a line on his CV, the next step on his career ladder.
And to think that many Conservatives still think that Boris Johnson is the best choice to be this country’s next Prime Minister.
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