- Boris Johnson is the favourite to replace Theresa May as prime minister, with promises to quickly deliver Brexit and cut taxes.
- Johnson is using his record as former London mayor as evidence he will keep these promises.
- Analysis of Johnson’s record, however, reveals a long list of broken pledges.
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
LONDON – Boris Johnson is the overwhelming favourite to replace Theresa May as prime minister after promising Conservative Party members that he will take Britain out of the EU on October 31 “deal or no deal.”
Launching his bid for the job on Wednesday, Johnson said that his party should look at his record as mayor of London as proof that he will deliver on such pledges.
“We said we would do X, and we did X plus 10,” Johnson said.
However, analysis of Johnson’s time at City Hall, and his subsequent actions since returning to parliament, suggests that Conservative MPs have good reason to be sceptical about such pledges.
Promise made: Boris Johnson ran twice for Mayor of London on a ticket of opposing expansion of Heathrow, famously saying that he would lie down “in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”
Promise broken: Not only did Johnson not lie down in front of the bulldozers, but when the House of Commons vote on Heathrow expansion took place, Johnson engineered himself a foreign trip to ensure he wouldn’t be able to take part in the vote. Following the trip, which cost taxpayers some £20,000, Johnson has now reportedly told Conservative MPs that he will not scrap expansion at Heathrow.
Promise made: Johnson has made cutting tax a central part of his campaign for the premiership. However, in 2012, Boris also promised voters in London a tax cut saying that he would put “£445 back in your pocket by freezing the Mayoral share of council tax.”
Promise broken: It later emerged that the £445 claim was based on imagined savings compared to what his campaign assumed Boris’s then rival, Ken Livingstone, would have raised council tax by, rather than a promise for an actual further cut of that amount.
Promise made: When Boris Johnson became mayor he promised to totally eradicate rough sleeping on the streets of London by 2012, saying that “It’s scandalous that in the 21st century London people have to resort to sleeping on the streets”.
Promise broken: Rough sleeping rose by 130% in London over the course of his time in office.
Promise made: In 2012, Boris sent a list of nine promises to every household in London, labelled his “nine-point plan for a Greater London.” Number four on the list was “Making our streets and homes safer with 1,000 more police on the beat”.
Promise broken: The number of police officers in London actually fell by about 1,000 over his two terms as mayor. Pushed on his failure to increase police numbers back in 2013, Boris claimed that any suggestion he had actually promised 1,000 additional police officers was a “wilful misconstruction”.
Promise made: In 2008, Boris campaigned heavily against Ken Livingstone’s plans to close a number of ticket offices on the London Underground, even going so far as to sign a pledge never to close them (pictured).
His 2008 manifesto promised there would “always [be] a manned ticket office at every station.”
Promise broken: Johnson went on to close all of the ticket offices remaining on the London Underground.
Promise made: In 2008 Boris promised to negotiate a “no strike deal” with the Tube unions to ensure that no strike action ever took place again on the London Underground.
Promise broken: Boris did not even attempt to broker such a deal and consistently refused to meet with Tube union leaders while he was mayor. The strikes continued.
Promise made: Boris was first elected mayor in 2008 on a manifesto bemoaning the fact that Londoners “pay the highest fares in Europe,” before immediately introducing a series of inflation-busting fares increases. Despite this record, Boris in 2012 promised to “bear down on fares” adding that “under my approach fares will be lower in the long term”. In a debate on the BBC, he even went so far as to say that fares would “go down in an honest and sustainable way” if he was re-elected.
Promise broken: In the first year after being re-elected, Boris increased fares by on average 4.2% and then raised them in line with inflation in subsequent years. Overall the cost of a single bus fare increased by two-thirds since Johnson was first elected.
Bringing back bus conductors
Promise made: Boris’s most famous pledge in 2008 was to restore the iconic open-platformed “hop-on, hop-off” buses to London. He insisted the buses had been taken off the streets by “health and safety fiends.” His new version of the buses would, he promised, be staffed by a new army of old-fashioned bus conductors.
Promise broken: Boris spent hundreds of millions of pounds commissioning a new fleet of “Routemaster-style” buses. However, safety fears meant that all the promised ‘open rear platforms’ on the buses were fitted with doors. The promised old-fashioned bus conductors were never re-hired due to the fact that Oyster and contactless cards made their job obsolete. Instead, health and safety officers were positioned on the rear platforms. Even these were largely phased out under Johnson due to staffing costs. On most routes, at most times, the rear platforms on the new buses remained shut while buses were in motion.
Promise made: Boris was first elected as mayor on a promise to tackle London’s crippling congestion, by “re-phasing traffic lights, allowing motorcycles in bus lanes and cracking down on utility companies who dig up the roads”
Promise broken: Congestion increased significantly once he became mayor. Average vehicle delays in central London increased by 20% at peak time in the mornings and 38% at peak time in the evenings since 2008, while average speeds decreased by around 9%.
Promise made: Boris was elected on a promise not to raise London’s congestion charge. He told a hustings in 2008 that “I would certainly not allow the congestion charge to go up above £8”.
Promise broken: Boris raised the congestion charge in both his first and second terms.
Bike hire scheme
Promise made: “We will broker a deal with a private company to bring thousands of bikes to the capital at no cost to the taxpayer.”
Promise broken: Boris’s promise to bring a bike hire scheme to London “at no cost to the taxpayer” was not delivered, either in his original sponsorship deal with Barclays, or in his subsequent deal with Santander. The scheme continues to operate at a loss to taxpayers.
Promise made: Boris repeatedly denied he had any plans to cut the numbers of fire engines or fire stations, telling the London Assembly in 2010 that there were “no plans” to remove engines. Pressed on the issue, he told Assembly Members that “I don’t want to get rid of them. What’s the problem?”
Promise broken: Boris closed ten fire stations across London and removed 27 fire engines from service. Fire response times rose in many areas across London.
Promise made: In 2012 Boris also promised to set up a “cabbies’ cabinet” to deal with the concerns of London taxi drivers.
Promise broken: Plans for a formal cabbies’ cabinet were scrapped in 2013. City Hall’s relationship with the London taxi trade continued to deteriorate, culminating in large and disruptive protests both inside and outside City Hall.
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