Boris Johnson urged to reimburse taxpayers after failing to honour game of ‘whiff whaff’

May 20th, 2019

Boris Johnson MP has been asked to pay back over £3,000 out of his personal pocket, after taxpayers were left to pick up the tab for a fundraising gift he didn’t deliver. The prize was for a game of ping-pong with the former Mayor of London and was bid on as part of a fundraiser for the failed Garden Bridge project. Londonwide Assembly Member, Tom Copley AM, wrote to Boris Johnson to ask him to reimburse taxpayers after they were left to pick up the tab.

The full scale of the cost of the Garden Bridge to the taxpayer was unveiled in March when it was revealed that £43 million of public funds had been wasted. This included £21 million spent on contractors, despite the necessary land not being secured, and £9.5 million on designer fees. At the time, Mr Copley publicly called for the Garden Bridge Trust to pay back the costs.

Writing to Mr Johnson today, Mr Copley said “As we unpick the mess left behind [by the Garden Bridge], we have uncovered that the taxpayer has been asked to pay back £3,200 for a game of table tennis with you (or “whiff whaff” as you call it) that was bought by a Garden Bridge donor.  Due to your failure to honour the game, and because the Garden Bridge Trust folded, taxpayers have had to pick up the tab. This will sting taxpayers already angry at the amount of money – which could have been allocated to more vital needs – that has been squandered.”

Mr Copley urged the former Mayor to refund the public purse, reminding him that as he claimed his £250,000 (now £275,000) annual salary for his Telegraph columns was mere “chickenfeed”, it seemed likely he would be in a position to do so.

He added, “Your personal determination for this endeavour to see fruition was apparent for all to see. However, when you advocate so strongly for a project which bears such a significant cost to the public purse, you bear significant accountability. Therefore, I urge you once again to do the right thing and pay this £3,200 back to Londoners.”

The London Assembly is continuing its scrutiny of the Garden Bridge project and has set up a working group, chaired by Mr Copley.

Londonwide Assembly Member, Tom Copley AM, said:

“The Garden Bridge was Boris Johnson’s baby – he was the driving force behind this disastrous project and must be held accountable.

“Taxpayers are rightly furious that such huge sums of their money have been frittered away, particularly at a time when austerity has had a crippling impact on other areas of public spending.

“Boris Johnson bragged that his £250,000 Telegraph column was mere ‘chickenfeed’, so I can’t possibly see any reason as to why he wouldn’t be able to pay back this amount.

“There are many more questions to be answered about Boris Johnson’s, and others, role in this doomed vanity project – but there’s an opportunity here for him to do the right thing. I’d urge him to take this first, small, step towards making amends.”



  • A copy of Mr Copley’s letter to the Mayor can be found attached;
  • The proposed repayment for the £3,200 bid for ‘Table Tennis with Boris’ can be found here (see page 13);
  • Boris Johnson has previously referred to the game of table tennis as ‘whiff whaff’;
  • In February, TfL published the full scale of the public cost of the failed Garden Bridge – £43million;
  • This included £21million for contractor costs and £9.5million for designers;
  • Boris Johnson previously referred to his Telegraph column, for which he was paid £250,000 per year, as ‘chicken feed’;
  • Last year it was reported that Mr Johnson was receiving £275,000 year for his column with the Telegraph;
  • Tom Copley AM is a Londonwide Assembly Member.