Boris Johnson: Goodbye to the Piffle Tower

We already have microseconds, milliseconds, and the interval between the traffic light going green and the bloke behind you honking his horn. Now, however, there is a new yardstick to measure an incredibly brief period of time. Let’s call it the “piffle moment”.

On October 25, older readers may remember, it was reported that Boris Johnson was planning to build a “394-foot structure resembling a cross between a pylon and a Native American totem pole” at the Olympic site. Partly because of its slight similarity to the work of one Gustav Eiffel, and partly because of Boris’s famous “inverted pyramid of piffle” denial of his affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt, but mostly because it was quite a decent joke, it was swiftly dubbed the Mayor’s “piffle tower.”

Well, all of 17 days later, tucked away unnoticed in a story by my former Standard colleague Katharine Barney about the candidates for Boris’s proposed Olympic edifice, we find the following:

A design for an iron construction that would have been six times taller than the Angel of the North has not made the shortlist of finalists.

The proposed monument featured a translucent structure with viewing decks above the Olympic Park.

The piffle tower, it turns out, is yet another of those wheezes that have poured from Team Johnson, only to last about as long as the edition of the newspaper they appear in. Remember the “living bridge”, a “new Thames crossing for London, packed with shops and flats?” Remember Cycle Fridays, a series of “escorted cycle rides” which served a few dozen people? What do you mean, no?

Some things Boris’s opponents attack as vanity projects don’t really qualify. Growing more food on London rooftops is a nice idea. The new Routemaster will be London’s first green bus, desperately needed in a city whose highly polluting, all-diesel bus fleet lags decades behind other capitals’.

But there are too many silly little initiatives coming out of City Hall. The endless quest to be seen to be doing things is taking time and energy away from actually doing things – and will ultimately also irritate and annoy the voters. New Labour learned that the hard way. Let’s hope Boris doesn’t have to.

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