Sadiq Khan has proudly been proclaiming that “London Is Open” recently – one of the most repeated slogans of our mayor who isn’t shy of a soundbite. He has had a curious relationship with the Garden Bridge, constantly repositioning himself to get political traction from who he needs when he needs it. But now the time has come for him to remember he is Mayor and take some leadership on the matter rather than constantly pass the buck.
And while he refuses to answer or address serious questions on the Garden Bridge, exactly what is he saying “London Is Open” to?
Let’s have a look at Sadiq’s constant repositiong on the Garden Bridge:
In his election campaign Sadiq Khan said he would scrap the Garden Bridge if elected. He was resolute about this and declared that the internal TfL probe into the project’s procurement was a “whitewash“.
THE SLIGHT SHIFT
A few weeks after that and Cllr Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council, turned £20m of the TfL funding to a loan with incredible capped-at-2% inflation terms repayable over fifty years. Obviously, that repayment is dependent on the Garden Bridge Trust receiving enough income each year to pay for these debts, which is hugely unlikely as Dan Anderson’s dismantling of their Business Plan outlines.
Despite Lib Peck at the time stating Sadiq Khan wasn’t involved in these discussions, he appeared to be happy to take ‘credit’ for this semantic shifting of public payment and as the SE1 website pointed out that he was “boasting” about it. In this interview he also made the first outing of this much repeated claim:
U-TURN FOR THE STANDARD
The Evening Standard is owned by Evgeny Lebedev. While it is considered that he ‘saved’ the Evening Standard when he bought it for a quid in 2009, its journalistic quality has deteriorated rapidly and its reputation from the past is now nearly lost. But as a tool for offering him a seat at the bigger establishment tables, which is why it is thought he bought it, the tactic has worked well for the oligarch. Throwing the weight of the Evening Standard behind Boris Johnson’s vanity bridge was a simple gift for him to do and when the then-mayor has higher office Lebedev would be remembered favourably. That’s how elite connections work, and he even used his paper to proclaim himself deeply rooted in the Garden Bridge project:
The Standard were backing Zac Goldsmith to win (who at least had the manners to meet opponents of the Garden Bridge, as opposed to Sadiq Khan who refused to then and to this day continues to ignore). Sadiq knew that the Standard’s influence could be key so worked hard playing their tune to soften their partisan stance and as it got closer to the vote were hedging their bets and offering far more balanced support for both candidates.
In April, three weeks before the vote, in an exclusive interview to them he:
FINALLY LAUNCHING THE INQUIRY
A number of journalists and Garden Bridge opponants had raised queries with officials at City Hall as to why Sadiq had gone quiet on the much-promised independent inquiry. Will Hurst of the Architects’ Journal got so tired of waiting for the Mayor to stay true to his word he wrote this damning editorial entitled “Where’s the sunshine, Sadiq?”, including:
SADIQ’S TWO FACES
After becoming Mayor Sadiq constantly fudges the Garden Bridge issue. When he speaks in public he says he supports an “iconic” project but sources state that in private he says quite the opposite.
Sadiq Khan admits deciding whether to carry on with the Garden Bridge is "a dilemma". Sources say he's much more scathing in private. https://t.co/uJpmXQxpAC
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) October 18, 2016
The fact that Pippa Crerar, “political hack” for the Evening Standard, is saying this is telling in itself. Over the last couple of months the Standard have been far less gung-ho on the Garden Bridge, even once slipping in an actual news piece on it which wasn’t tainted by spin and lies. It’s also noted that Pippa and other Standard “hacks” have been subtly positioning Sadiq as the future Labour leader through tweets, little comments in articles and editorial pieces. One suggestion could be that Sadiq is simply using the Mayor’s position to step out of parliament while Labour go through turmoil only to re-enter with full backing of the Evening Standard, and through it offering Lebedev a new route to the establishment table.
But part of that deal may have been cooling off on the Garden Bridge, which as Pippa points out Sadiq appears to deeply dislike. Other reporters including Hannah Barnes of Newsnight and Adam Bienkov of Politics.co.uk also have sources suggesting Sadiq is being somewhat two-faced about it all:
Concerns remain over Sadiq’s weak play on this. He constantly pushes that the Hodge inquiry is to “learn lessons” for future projects and not to call a halt on the Garden Bridge itself, though even if you subscribe to the view that Sadiq is “killing the Garden Bridge by stealth” this is a dangerous game which is likely to only add more and more to the public debt as he delays making the inevitable call. He needs to show leadership and finally press the stop button on it, just as he promised right at the start of his campaign to be mayor.
With every week that he delays the more damage that is caused to his reputation, to trust in democratic process and the greater the risk over public debt.
#LONDONISOPEN TO CORRUPTION
Sadiq proudly proclaims that “London Is Open”. But while he continues to let the Garden Bridge carry on, he is stating:
#LondonIsOpen to corruption
#LondonIsOpen to greenwashing
#LondonIsOpen to destroying heritage
#LondonIsOpen to slogans over leadership
#LondonIsOpen to concreting public parks
#LondonIsOpen to publicly funded vanity
#LondonIsOpen to forgiving fixed procurements
#LondonIsOpen to ignoring communities
#LondonIsOpen to doing what celebrities demand
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