How Sadiq Khan Is Transforming Boris Johnson's London Legacy


Written by Dont Panic
28 Friday 28th April 2017

It's almost a year since Labour's Sadiq Khan replaced Tory Boris Johnson as mayor of London, who'd been in the role from 2008 to 2016. Khan's pragmatic, straightforward style is a world away from Boris' gregarious, bumbling public persona, with the former brought up on a Tooting council estate and the latter emblematic of Oxbridge privilege. Khan was a key figure in the Remain camp during the EU referendum, while Johnson was an arch Brexiter; both have been mooted as possible leaders of their parties in the future. From their political styles, you get the sense of one leader keen to leave his mark on London with a string of vanity projects and the other dedicated to improving the day-to-day running of the city.

News has recently broken that Khan has withdrawn his support from the Boris-approved Garden Bridge. A key backer of the project was actor Joanna Lumley, who convinced friend Boris to proceed with the scheme despite a weak business plan and its location on a congested part of the Thames. What followed was a murky procurement process (tilted towards architect Thomas Heatherwick and construction firm Arup), tens of millions of public funds wasted and Boris' refusal to testify at Margaret Hodge's inquiry into the affair.

We've had a look at Boris' other projects which Sadiq has scrapped:

Boris buses

Boris buses were a flagship element of Johnson's travel policy, as he sought to banish Ken Livingstone's bendy buses and replace them with a range which would put a stylish, modern twist on the classic Routemaster design. As with the Garden Bridge, the New Routemaster was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and was as blighted by problems as the mooted bridge. The rear door was often unstaffed, leaving them closed permanently; temperatures could reach 37 degrees due to a lack of windows; a cramped upper deck and an inefficient diesel engine paired with an often faulty green battery. Future orders of the buses were cancelled in 2016. Should've stuck to the bikes, Boris.

Water cannon

In 2014, as a response to street riots and fears of future disturbances, Johnson purchased three 25-year old water cannon from German federal police for around £200,000. Boris gave the purchase the green light without gaining prior approval and offered to be blasted by the cannon to demonstrate its safety and efficiency. However, then Home Secretary Theresa May blocked the cannon's use on London streets after reports found they could cause serious medical injures; she later publicly mocked Boris' acquisition as proof of his negotiation skills with Europe. Consequently, the machines have been stored and used in training exercises in Kent, as Khan seeks a buyer for the third hand cannon.

AFC Wimbledon

League One football team AFC Wimbledon aims to build a new stadium near Plough Lane, a site with historical links to the club. In December 2015, initial plans for a 11,000-seater ground (which has since grown to 20,000) plus hundreds of new homes, parking and amenities were approved by Merton Borough Council, but in March 2016 Johnson 'called-in' the plans. This was neither an approval or cancellation of the team's plans, but gave the mayor the power to put the plans back to consultation, with Johnson concerned about the added strain on local services, match day traffic and cycle parking. However, Khan has now handed the final say back to Merton council, who previously approved of the plans, a stark difference to Johnson's undemocratic approach to planning projects. 

London City Airport

In 2008, early in his spell as London mayor, Johnson backed the construction of a six-runway airport on an artificial island in the River Thames estuary; the official name was to be London Britannia Airport, but many in the media soon called it Boris Island. Johnson stood firm to his proposal - even after it was criticised in a 2014 report - and preferred it to the expansion of London City Airport, which he said would increase noise for many Londoners living under flight paths. In May last year, Khan allowed the purchase of land to allow the airport's expansion, citing the need for new employment in the area.

All in all, in just under a year, Sadiq Khan has significantly impacted Boris' London legacy... apart from the lingering filthy air, expensive rent, white elephants like the Emirates cable car, and Brexit's forthcoming shit impact. Boris Johnson, the gift that keeps on giving...

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