At what point does this become a scandal? I am confused. As Mayor of London and Chairman of TFL, he twisted the procurement process to divert £30 million of taxpayer's money to an old family friend and a favoured designer.
Now he has baldly lied to the London Assembly.
Why is it only Will Hurst who seems to be treating this as the scandal that it so clearly is? The reporting from AJ is brilliant, but c'mon BBC, FT, Economist, etc. Could somebody help him out? Could anyone not currently stalking Michel Platini please turn their attention to the corruption and graft in our own front yard?
First of all, did the AJ not get the memo? It is apparently journalistic law to preface any mention of Thomas Heatherwick with the words 'softly spoken'. Then again, his his carefully cultivated image as the humble genius who empathises with 'normal people' would probably be more believable if he didn't then compare himself to Sir Christopher Wren.
In any event, what I find so strange about this whole sorry episode is the way that people can be so blasé about the way that Heatherwick, Lumley, Johnson and Osborne tried to hoodwink the public to the tune of £60 million.
Heatherwick and Johnson have all but admitted in previous interviews that the Bridge serves no particular purpose other than 'being beautiful', but then they persist in trying to argue some ludicrous transport rationale for raiding the TfL coffers.
I seem to recall this country going into a constitutional tailspin when a minister claimed £1600 pounds on his expenses for a duck house. If someone from FIFA gives someone else a handbag or a watch, the Sunday Times is there in Zurich to live-tweet the 'scandal'. But Johnson and Osborne siphon £60 million (!!!) from our strained transport budget to pay for the extravagant indulgence of a few architects, engineers and celebrities and nobody says boo.
In his latest last gasp sour-grapes approach to salvage the project, Heatherwick has revealed himself to be a petty, disconnected egomaniac who is incapable of comprehending why the manner in which this project has been advanced has so antagonised people. I honestly believe that they could have gotten this project delivered if they had shown a little respect for the general public and worked harder to involve and excite them from the start. Instead, they seemed content to ignore public opinion so long as they had the ear of the few politicians and public officials that they needed to get the thing funded and approved. Now that the whole thing is going pear-shaped, they are revealing their true colours -- and there is nothing 'softly spoken' about the patronising, contemptuous tone of Heatherwick's latest comments.
A brilliant move by Kevin Craig in commissioning a new poll. It puts paid to the "silent majority" claim with which the Garden Bridge Trust has run roughshod over the more vocal objectors.
More importantly, it clearly shows the Trust to be cynical, deceitful and manipulative in its use of data and facts -- spinning and twisting their way through planning and public consultation (such as it was) with a constant flow of lies and half-truths.
It was fascinating to see Thomas Heatherwick alongside Kevin Craig on ITV news. His main argument was that more people questioned in the poll supported the bridge than objected to it. He is rather missing the point. The point is that a garden bridge poll with a facile question found 80% support and the Trust has been trumpeting that from the rooftops. A proper poll with a proper question saw that support cut in half. It reveals the Trust to be untrustworthy, unethical and unprofessional. And Craig is right: it demonstrates that information is poison for this project. The more people know the more that support ebbs away.
He also tried to peddle (again!) the absurd analogy of the London Olympics (I.e. Everyone was opposed but then, when it happened, everyone loved it). Heatherwick, can you not grasp the concept of risk and reward? The London Olympics WAS a massive risk with public money; but it was a risk worth taking because the reward was so great -- the regeneration of a contaminated site in East London. Even the London Eye (another of his favourite analogies) was a risk worth taking when it was approved in the mid-1990s, because the South Bank was nothing like the great place that it is today. Heatherwick, this garden bridge of yours is all risk with no reward.
He really should see the project's impending demise and shrink away with some humility. Watching him on TV trying to sustain the lie and defend these hollow arguments is almost sad and is not doing anything for his reputation.
Thank you, Mr Khan. Thank you, Ms Peck. Let's hope that today's statements mark the beginning of the end of this dreadful project.
No thanks at all to Nick Clegg, whose sycophantic nonsense in the Standard was noteworthy only for its ignorance and inaccuracy and disconnectedness from the prevailing public mood. Caroline Pidgeon almost had me voting Lib Dem. Nick Clegg changed my mind.
As for Bee Emmott's response, above, I can't help feeling that it reads like a ransom note. We have to see through this monstrosity because we are too far committed already? Are we meant to throw good money after bad? That you and your so-called 'charity' -- actually a collection of contractors -- have already squandered some £20 million of taxpayer's money on a project that is not needed and scarcely wanted is hardly a reason to spend a further £150 million.
The Trust's patronising assertions that an unnecessary bridge in central London "doesn't preclude" the construction of other bridges in places where they ARE needed demonstrates a lack of understanding of the basic, BASIC concept of opportunity cost. Emmott's latest statement shows a lack of understanding of sunk costs. Can someone please buy Heatherwick, Emmott, Davies and Clegg a first-year economics text book? I'm tired of reading their absurdities, lies and excuses.
Comment on: TfL grilled over ‘unfair’ Garden Bridge contest
Riveting stuff. Worth watching in its entirety. I thought Caroline Pidgeon and Tom Copely were especially good, as of course was this magazine's Will Hurst. The profession and the general public owe him a big debt of gratitude for his perseverance in bringing this scandal to light. I sincerely hope that he is motivated to keep doggedly chipping away at it.
In fairness to Richard De Cani, I thought he made a valiant attempt to defend the indefensible. He was clearly thrown a hospital pass by the Mayor's office, which is the real culprit here. Leaving aside the politeness of parliamentary procedure, it is now abundantly clear what has happened. Heatherwick and Lumley lobbied the Mayor; he fell in love with the idea of this particular bridge, by this particular designer in this particular location; he instructed TFL to make it happen. Every action that they have since taken has been to twist and bend every process and procedure to achieve the Mayor's desired outcome.
I am frustrated that nobody made this critical point. De Cani kept returning to the idea that the Heatherwick submission best responded - in the round - to the context of the brief. Of course it did. By the audit's own findings, Heatherwick helped to define TFL's perception of the need and context through his pre-contest lobbying of the Mayor, which in turn triggered the competition. It is a completely circular argument. De Cani acknowledged that TFL didn't do any specific work to define the need for a bridge of any description or in any particular location until AFTER this procurement process had been completed. So they could only interpret responses through the prism of an analysis that was previously GIVEN to them by one of the eventual bidders. In effect, Heatherwick wrote his own brief. How in the name of logic and reason can that be considered a fair and competitive process?
The whole thing is an absolute farce from top to bottom and side to side. Val Shawcross's obvious exasperation at the revelation that the 'land of community value' defence is rendered moot by the fact that the eventual land transaction will be between one charity and another spoke volumes. The cynical and manipulative way in which this project is bulldozering any obstacle in its path is simply breathtaking. Unprofessional, unethical and immoral. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.
Keep at it, Will Hurst. Your work is in the tradition of the best investigative journalism. The truth will out if more journalists like you appreciate the true implication of what this project says about what is becoming of London and its government.