Former Brexit secretary David Davis called Boris Johnson’s failed garden bridge project a ‘single mistake’ as he defended the leadership favourite.
Davis, having initially backed Dominic Raab in the leadership race, has switched to Johnson as the candidates’ list slims down.
He said that the £43 million of public money wasted on the garden bridge during Johnson’s time as mayor of London was a “tiny amount” in the “order of things”, comparing the amount to the national budget.
“If you want me to point out the waste under every single government, every single prime minister, because a project did not work … By focusing on tiny little things – and they are tiny in the order of things – how big is the country?” he said.
“How many billion does the country come to? How many trillion? You’re talking about 0.001% of our economy. And it’s a single mistake. So what?”
He said that the economic benefits Johnson was going to bring will make the garden bridge waste look “tiny by comparison”.
The comments came after the BBC Today programme’s Mishal Husain had asked him – twice – if he thought the next prime minister should be responsible with public money.
He was also asked – three times – whether the prime minister should be a person of their word.
When pressed, Davis paraphrased the famed George Orwell quote that if freedom means anything, it means telling them things they don’t want to hear.
“And I’m going to tell you one thing that you may not want to hear,” he said. “Boris would be a very good prime minister.”
Not only would Johnson deliver Brexit, he would give an “upbeat turn” to the country. he said.
“We’ve had a year, two years of people … doing the country down,” he said.
Online, commentators noticed the chutzpah of using the quote to dodge tough politicial questioning.
“A moment of pure 100% proof Brexit on @BBCr4today as David Davis reads out this Orwell quote on the BBC entrance, there to inspire journalists not to be lied to by politicians,” tweeted the Independent’s sketch writer Tom Peck.
On Brexit, he said that Johnson had told him that the country will be leaving the EU no matter what, even though the former foreign secretary had refused to commit to that in the leadership debate.
Davis would not be pressed on the details of how Johnson’s promise to him would be kept. “It will happen,” he said. “[…] only a fool goes through the tactics in detail in advance.”
He had decided to support Johnson in the race because Johnson had been supportive of Davis in cabinet.
When asked why he initially backed Raab, Davis said that he hoped Raab would be PM one day and that we are “lucky” to have so many good people in the race.