Politics 19 November 2018 | 15:42

Boris Johnson’s vanity just cost the taxpayer £300k

19 November 2018 15:42

In the latest of the catalogue of errors that make up Boris Johnson’s life, he’s just cost the taxpayer £300,000. At a time that the UN has just concluded that, thanks to the Tories crippling austerity measures that disproportionately target society’s most vulnerable, 14 million people in the UK now live in poverty. We may have the world’s fifth largest economy, but an increasing number of our citizens are now so poor that they cannot afford basic essentials.

In 2014, Boris (then the mayor of London) was determined to introduce the use of armoured water cannons on the streets of London. A public tug-of-war between him and the then home secretary, Theresa May, ensued. May was worried about safety issues surrounding the crowd-control vehicles, Johnson clearly saw May’s protest as a strike against his over-inflated ego.

So, Bo-Jo did what Bo-Jo would do: He went ahead and bought three second-hand armoured water cannons from Germany, despite knowing that they didn’t have a licence to be used in England and Wales. At a cost of £322,000 to the taxpayer, it wasn’t a small purchase. But a totally useless one: Theresa May promptly banned their use rendering the whole thing an expensive waste of time.

Now, four years later, the current mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has been left to clean up the mess. Initially, he wanted to try and claw back some of the money, but that hasn’t worked so he has been forced to scrap them at a loss of over £300,000 to the taxpayer. ‘For too long, London taxpayers have had to bear the brunt of Boris Johnson’s appalling botched water cannon deal,’ Khan says. ‘This has been another waste of taxpayers’ money by Boris Johnson. Londoners continue to live with his vanity.’

Water cannons are not something that should be used as a pawn in Johnson’s political games. They are lethal weapons and should be treated as such. Being indiscriminate, they target whole crowds, not individuals who are breaking the law. The press, Saturday shoppers, innocent people exercising their right to take part in a peaceful protest, it doesn’t matter who is there – if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’re getting blasted.

The implications of being on the receiving end of a water cannon can be devastating. In 2010, the very same piece of kit was used by police, in the German city of Stuttgart, against a group who were protesting the redevelopment of a railway. One protestor, a 69-year-old retired engineer named Dietrich Wagner, was blinded when he was hit in the face with the powerful stream of water produced by the cannon. ‘His eyelids were torn and some of the bones around his eyes fractured, causing his eyeballs to fall out of their sockets,’ the BBC reported. His eyeballs fell out – that’s how serious this approach to public order policing can be.

Johnson may look and act like a clown, but his actions are calculated and have very real consequences for the people of this country. His political career is a litany of calamitous mistakes – he ploughed £46m into a scrapped ‘garden bridge’ project, spent £300m on buses that weren’t fit for purpose, £10m on plans for ‘The Estuary Airport’, which was never going to be viable, and let’s not even go into his role in duping 52 per cent of the voting public into leaving the best union in the world.

I guess we’ll add this latest £300k figure to the ever-increasing bill of having anything to do with this politically toxic man. A man who, when appointed to a political position, doesn’t use the responsibility to benefit the public. He just uses it as a launch pad for his narcissistic ambition.