Boris Johnson blames Sadiq Khan for Garden Bridge project collapse

Boris Johnson has sought to blame successor Sadiq Khan for the collapse of the Garden Bridge project after coming under pressure over his handling of the scheme.

The former mayor of London said he would have continued with the abandoned project if he were still in City Hall and insisted that "not a single penny of taxpayers' money" was wasted on the bridge while he was in charge.

His Labour successor Mr Khan killed off the controversial plan after a damning report by Dame Margaret Hodge found it could have ended up costing more than £200 million.

But Mr Johnson claimed her probe was a "gimcrack affair" riddled with "peculiarities", as he defended his support for the landscaped Thames pedestrian crossing.

Video grab of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appearing before the London Assembly at City Hall, London to answer questions about the procurement of the Garden Bridge. (London Assembly/PA)
Video grab of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appearing before the London Assembly at City Hall, London to answer questions about the procurement of the Garden Bridge. (London Assembly/PA)

In what was at times a chaotic hearing, members of the Greater London Assembly oversight committee had to raise their voices in an attempt to guide Mr Johnson back on to the topic of the bridge as he repeatedly digressed into praising his own record in office and criticising Mr Khan.

The Tory MP also attacked the current mayor for failing to give the project the political "push" it needed and claimed the Labour politician had spent £9 million on it, adding to the £37 million previous outlay, before cancelling it.

"It was like a bad love affair with Sadiq Khan, you could tell that his heart wasn't really in it but he didn't kill it," Mr Johnson claimed.

"That was the problem with the whole thing, so they went on raising money and spending money and it was really very sad.

"Frankly I hope that one day the whole thing is revived and I think it will be."

Mr Johnson said it could have formed part of Mr Khan's legacy, adding "I don't see much else being done right now", before joking: "I think I might stand again."

A spokesman for the Mayor said: "When Sadiq took over as mayor, huge outstanding issues remained, including spiralling construction costs and a funding gap of over £70 million.

"The current Mayor was simply not prepared to expose the London taxpayer to massive additional financial risk."

Mr Johnson also criticised Dame Margaret's inquiry, saying witnesses were not shown documents in advance of their hearing, and claiming there was "confusion about the transcripts and what had actually being said".

Dame Margaret asked the Foreign Secretary to appear in front of the inquiry but he claimed he held off because it was "odd" and "curiously framed" by not being on a statutory footing.

"It was a fairly gimcrack affair, unlike the Garden Bridge which would have been a beautiful piece of engineering and stood the test of time," Mr Johnson said.

The initiative had been championed by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley but was abandoned amid bitter recriminations over the use of taxpayers' cash.

Mr Johnson was repeatedly pressed by Labour AM Tom Copley on why he had "watered down" the conditions attached to the mayoral guarantee he gave the scheme in April 2016.

Mr Johnson said: "As for my motives at the time, all I can say is they may very well have been the same as the motives of the current mayor when he said that the Garden Bridge was a project to rival New York's High Line and he should certainly proceed with it.

"That, at this distance in time, is the closest I can get to analysing my motives."

He also admitted people involved with the project at Transport for London (TfL) would say it had been "rough around the edges".

But he dismissed suggestions the TfL board was kept at "arms length" from the project.

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