Boris Johnson’s Only Legacy Will be Failed Vanity Projects & a Large Bill
For a man so obsessed with his own image, the outgoing Prime Minister will leave little but a few relics behind him, reports Adam Bienkov
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When’s all said and done, what did he really achieve?
Boris Johnson has been a major presence in British politics for almost two decades and yet when you actually sit down and consider what he will leave behind him, then it’s incredibly hard to actually think of anything.
For a man so obsessed with his own image and legacy, few physical relics will remain. In London, which he led for eight years, he will perhaps be best remembered for the things he doesn’t leave behind him, than the things he does.
The Garden Bridge, which would have been a sort of private park, stroke transport link, stroke corporate venue, which he championed with tens of millions of pounds of public money in dubious circumstances, was ultimately never actually built.
Nor were his plans to build a multi-billion pound airport in the Thames Estuary, which would have been located in the middle of a bird strike zone and adjacent to a sunken ship filled with 1,400 tonnes of unexploded munitions.
Similar plans to build a bridge across the Irish sea, through an even larger munitions dump, were also jettisoned after officials realised that it had the potential to be the most expensive sea crossing in the entire world.
The Boris Bus, named by Johnson fans who spotted his propensity to back any project he could stick his own name on, was later renamed by users as the “Roastmaster” due to its malfunctioning air conditioning system and windows that didn’t open. Even after an expensive retrofit, the buses can still be seen slowly roasting passengers who dare to use them on hot summer days.
The Olympic Village in East London did get built under Johnson, but only after he agreed with David Cameron’s Conservative Government to dramatically shrink the proportion of affordable housing to be built on it.
He did also build a cross-river Cable Car in East London, which was so useless as a commuter link that at one point it was recorded as having no regular users.
The Cost of Boris
As Prime Minister the only real physical legacy he will leave behind him will be in the Downing Street flat itself. A leaked invoice revealed this week that Johnson and his wife Carrie spent £200,000 on renovating the flat, including £7,000 on just one rug, £2,000 on gold wallpaper and £3,000 on a drinks trolley.
Johnson hoped to pay for the flat with help from a Conservative donor but was ultimately forced to pay up himself after the plans were leaked.
Similarly his plans to get a Conservative donor to pay for a £150,000 tree house at the Prime Minister’s official country retreat, ultimately came to nothing after officials intervened.
Of course the one thing Johnson will be remembered for is Brexit. His decision to join the Leave campaign in 2016 was widely credited for swinging the referendum, while his weaponisation of the issue in 2019 helped him win an 80-seat majority for the Conservative party.
But just like the non-existent physical relics of the Johnson era, few British people will notice a single benefit from Johnson’s biggest policy either.
Since leaving the EU, the value of British trade with its neighbours has slumped, growth has stalled, and it has become more expensive and cumbersome for any of us to travel and work alongside our European neighbours.
Johnson and his allies now struggle to explain what, if any, upsides there are to Johnson’s grand project.
Asked recently what benefits the public will see from Brexit, Johnson boasted that we would soon see the return of crown stamps to pint glasses. Meanwhile his Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg boasted that our exit from the EU would soon allow us to change the spacing of emergency exit signs in the Dartford Tunnel.
Had Johnson remained in office longer, it is possible that he would have left behind some other genuine legacy.
His deep unpopularity in Scotland and other parts of the UK, means that the break up of England’s historic Union with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, may ultimately have come to pass.
And if that does still happen, then Johnson and his fellow travellers, will still carry a big chunk of the credit.
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Yet after less than three years in the job, the main legacy of the Johnson era has been the very public trashing of his own reputation and that of the Conservative Government he has led.
As confidence in him collapsed, so too did wider public trust in the political class. The age-old (and ultimately false) public belief that politicians are ‘all as bad as each other’ has only deepened under this Prime Minister, as millions of people who believed that he was somehow different to his predecessors, became rapidly disillusioned.
His serial lies over Partygate, the Chris Pincher scandal and much else, have left a toxic legacy of public mistrust which his successors will struggle to repair.
Of all the relics of the Johnson era, it is perhaps this last one which he will be most widely remembered for.