Boris Johnson

The promises Boris Johnson has broken as mayor

The promises Boris Johnson has broken as mayor

As Boris Johnson prepares to leave City Hall, eyes inevitably turn to his record as London mayor.

However, anyone wishing to check that record will find it difficult. Almost all of his manifesto commitments from both 2008 and 2012 were almost entirely wiped from the web, as was most of his campaign literature. 

Despite this, we've managed to dig out just some of what is still available. So how has Boris fared?

A quick look through the documents suggests that much has been achieved. Big investments in cycling and the Tube have been delivered as have his commitments to scrap the Western extension of the congestion charge and build a "new Routemaster".

However there are many other promises that Boris has reneged on. Let's go through just some of them.


Promise: When Boris Johnson became mayor he promised to totally eradicate rough sleeping on the streets of London by 2012, saying that "It's scandalous that in 21st century London people have to resort to sleeping on the streets". 

Result: Rough sleeping has doubled in the past five years alone.

Ticket Offices 

Promise: In 2008, Boris campaigned heavily against Ken Livingstone's plans to close a number of ticket offices on the London Underground, even going so far as to sign a Nick Clegg-style pledge never to close them. His 2008 manifesto promised there would "always [be] a manned ticket office at every station."

Result: Boris has since closed all of London's ticket offices.

Tube strikes

Promise: In 2008 Boris promised to negotiate a "no strike deal" with the Tube unions to ensure that no strike action ever took place again on the London Underground.

Result: Boris did not even attempt to broker such a deal and has consistently refused to meet with Tube union leaders while he has been mayor. Tube strikes continue to take place every year in London.


Promise: Boris was first elected mayor in 2008 on a manifesto bemoaning the fact that Londoners “pay the highest fares in Europe,” before immediately introducing a series of inflation-busting fares increases. Despite this record, in 2012, Boris promised to "bear down on fares" adding that: "under my approach fares will be lower in the long term". In a debate on the BBC, he even went so far as to say that fares would "go down in an honest and sustainable way” if he was re-elected.

Result: In the first year after being re-elected, Boris increased fares by on average 4.2% and then raised them in line with inflation in subsequent years. Overall the cost of a single bus fare has increased by two thirds since Johnson was first elected.

Bringing back the Routemaster

Promise: Boris’s most famous pledge in 2008 was to restore the iconic open-platformed "hop-on, hop-off” buses to London. He insisted the popular old buses had been taken off the streets by “health and safety fiends.” His new version of the buses would, he promised, be staffed by a new army of old-fashioned bus conductors.

Result: Boris spent hundreds of millions of pounds commissioning a new fleet of “Routemaster-style” buses. However, safety fears meant that all the promised ‘open rear platforms’ on the buses were fitted with doors. The promised old-fashioned bus conductors were never re-hired due to the fact that Oyster and contactless cards made their job obsolete. Instead, health and safety officers were positioned on the rear platforms. However, even these have been largely phased out due to staffing costs. On most routes, at most times, the rear platforms on the new buses now remain shut while buses are in motion.


Promise: Boris was first elected on a promise to tackle London’s crippling congestion, by "re-phasing traffic lights, allowing motorcycles in bus lanes and cracking down on utility companies who dig up the roads"

Result: Congestion has increased significantly since Boris became mayor. Average vehicle delays in central London have increased by 20% at peak time in the mornings and 38% at peak time in the evenings since 2008, while average speeds have decreased by around 9%. After a decade in which London bucked the national trend of rising traffic levels, overall traffic levels have also started to rise again in the city.

Congestion Charge

Promise: Boris was elected on a promise not to raise the congestion charge. He told a hustings in 2008 that "I would certainly not allow the congestion charge to go up above £8".

Result: Boris raied the congestion charge in both his first and second term. It now stands at £11.50.

Bike hire scheme

Promise: "We will broker a deal with a private company to bring thousands of bikes to the capital at no cost to the taxpayer."

Result: Boris's promise to bring a bike hire scheme to London "at no cost to the taxpayer" was not delivered, either in his original sponsorship deal with Barclays, or in his subsequent deal with Santander. The scheme continues to operate at a loss and there are no plans to remove TfL's subsidy.

Fire service

Promise: Boris repeatedly denied he had any plans to cut fire engines or fire stations, telling the London Assembly in 2010 that there were "no plans" to remove engines. Pressed on the issue, he told AMs that "I don't want to get rid of them. What's the problem?"

Result: Boris has since closed ten fire stations across London and removed 27 fire engines from service. Fourteen of these were removed permanently and the remaining 13 are currently being considered for permanent removal. Fire response times have risen in many areas across London.

Police Officers

Promise: In 2012, Boris sent a list of nine promises to every household in London, labeled his "nine point plan for a Greater London. Number four on the list was "Making our streets and homes safer with 1,000 more police on the beat".

Result: The number of police officers on London's streets has not risen. Pushed on his failure to increase police numbers back in 2013, Boris claimed that any suggestion he had actually promised 1,000 more police officers was a "wilful misconstruction".

Council tax savings

Promise: In 2012, Boris promised to put "£445 back in your pocket by freezing the Mayoral share of council tax".

Result: I later discovered the £445 claim was based on imagined savings compared to what they assumed Boris's then rival, Ken Livingstone, would have raised council tax by. Despite this, the £445 claim continues to be used in Zac Goldsmith's campaign leaflets for the upcoming mayoral election.


Promise: In 2008 Boris promised to end what he called the "culture of cronyism" at City Hall, explaining in his manifesto that: "We believe that all appointments should be based on merit, and not on personal patronage. Our administration will seek to recruit the right people for London who have the experience and the skills to deliver our agenda for change."

Result: Since being elected in 2008 Boris has hired a number of old colleagues and supporters, including his cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan and the former editor of the Evening Standard Veronica Wadley, without any competitive recruitment process. Wadley, who was a former colleague of Boris's and a fervent supporter of Johnson while at the Standard, was handed a £95,000 a year job as Boris's "volunteering czar" despite admitting to having almost no volunteering experience. No other candidates were considered for the job.

Cabinet-style government

Promise: In 2008 Boris promised to introduce cabinet-style government to "strengthen the decision-making process in City Hall". According to his manifesto "The Cabinet will meet on a regular basis, formal minutes will be taken, and the full agenda papers will be put on the Mayor’s website."

Result: No mayoral cabinet was ever set up.


Promise: In 2012 Boris also promised to set up a "cabbies cabinet" to deal with the concerns of London taxi drivers.

Result: Plans for a formal cabbies cabinet were scrapped in 2013. City Hall's relationship with the London taxi trade has continued to deteriorate in the past five years, culminating in large disruptive protests both inside and outside City Hall.

Boris has developed a reputation for "straight-talking" over the years. However, when it comes to his record as mayor, not everything he has done is quite as straightforward as it seems.