Boris Johnson should produce evidence for his attack on the AJ’s Garden Bridge journalism or apologise, Andrew Gwynne MP has said
Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, wrote to the foreign secretary and former London mayor in the wake of Johnson’s appearance before the London Assembly earlier this month and called on him to account for his role in the scrapped £200 million project and his comments about the AJ’s managing editor, Will Hurst.
The London Assembly summoned Johnson to give evidence on the project and, during the hearing on March 1, he claimed that Hurst’s AJ investigation – which began in late 2014 – was motivated by a personal dislike of Garden Bridge designer Thomas Heatherwick.
Johnson told the Assembly’s oversight committee that this dislike had caused Hurst to publish allegations and insinuations of corruption involving TfL officers.
He said: ‘The allegations of corruption, the insinuations have been really quite horrendous and they’ve been connived at in The Architects’ Journal, which has published a stream of abuse about these individuals, motivated – to the best of my knowledge – by a dislike that … the [AJ] journalist concerned has – of Thomas Heatherwick, who is not conceived of as being a proper architect and is therefore somehow worthy of abuse.’
In his letter to Johnson sent last Friday (March 16) Gwynne said that Johnson had brought Hurst’s professional integrity into question and said he should withdraw his comments and apologise or put forward evidence for them.
He wrote: ‘Although you did not name Mr Hurst as the journalist in question, it was a very clear reference to Will Hurst, managing editor of The Architect’s Journal, who has written a number of articles about the Garden Bridge, and has won several awards for these stories.
‘It is also worth noting that The Architects’ Journal itself has also regularly praised the work of designer, Thomas Heatherwick, handing him the AJ120 Contribution to the Profession Award in 2015.’
In his letter, Gwynne also said that Johnson should answer questions on ‘the role played by your office in the reckless decision to release public funds for the construction contract’, including a £7 million tranche of funding from Transport for London in February 2016.
These questions relate to Johnson’s claim that he could not remember why one of the conditions attached to the release of this funding – and deemed as having been met by TfL – had been subsequently ‘watered down’ by the mayor in April 2016.
The letter also questioned Johnson’s assertion during the City Hall hearing that the Garden Bridge project had ‘secured every relevant planning permission’, saying this was not the case.