Boris Attacks Ken Over Sultan’s Elephant, Which He Said Was Brilliant

By jamesup Last edited 73 months ago
Boris Attacks Ken Over Sultan’s Elephant, Which He Said Was Brilliant

Today’s Times (paywall, p.17 of the dead tree edition) reports that Mr Johnson has condemned Mr Livingstone for “‘squandering’ money on ‘harebrained schemes’”, using information obtained under FOI from the Livingstone years. The Mayor singles out the 2006 performance art piece ‘The Sultan’s Elephant’ — which received a grant of £33,000 — for criticism.

The Times reports: “Mr Johnson said that his office had smashed the culture of waste and profligacy of the previous administration, which included ‘harebrained schemes like £33,000 on an elephant parade’.”

Be in no doubt, The Sultan’s Elephant was awesome, and £33,000 is 0.4 pence per Londoner — we think it might be one of the best value bits of public art the city ever saw. But that’s just our opinion. What did Boris think of it?

We suppose when he used it as the front cover of his Culture Strategy three years ago, that was because he didn’t like it, and wanted to draw attention to bad examples of public waste?

Boris hates this, so put it on the front of his Culture Strategy in 2009.

And, we guess, he was criticising it when he told the company that brought it to London that:

"...Artichoke have been responsible for some of the most astonishing and talked about events of the last few years. Artichoke exemplifies Britain's creativity and ability to shock, surprise and tantalise."  Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

And, just to be clear, he really thought it was terrible:

“Who can forget the brilliance of the Sultan's Elephant – it seemed to weave a magical spell as it brought central London to a standstill, as thousands of strangers came together, bewitched by its slow parade”.  Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

So that’s sorted — he thought it was brilliant in 2009, but in 2012 it’s a shameful waste of money...

Boris — as you know from your Cable Car, Bus, and Cycle Schemes, all of which you said would cost us nothing, all of which have cost us considerably more than £33,000 (around 200 times that actually) — awesome things don't come cheap. So lay off the elephant; if given the chance we'd give it our vote.

Last Updated 13 April 2012


boris is a massive twat. end of

Frank Norman

Yes, the Sultan's Elephant was absolutely amazing. The way it unfolded from nothing, and attracted so many people to view it after only minimal publicity was extraordinary.  And this in pre-Twitter days too.


The elephant was phenomenal. One of the best things I have, or will ever, see on the streets of London. Unfortunately Boris's comments are just idiotic politics.

Dave H

Attacking a fairly modest subsidy for what was probably one of the greatest pieces of performance art that London has seen in decades is a pretty significant cock-up. Not impressed.

Gaspard Winckler

Bonus idiocy: he appears to be conflating the Sultan's Elephant (which happened under Ken) with The Elephant Parade (http://www.elephantparadelondo..., which took place under his watch.


yes, sultans elephant was awesome. but i got completely soaked....


It was absolutely amazing and magical. I agree - one of the best things I have ever seen in my life. Every time I walk down the Mall I see it - and remember the faces of everyone, young and old, with expressions of amazement and wonder on their faces. 0.4p per person? Definitely worth it I think!

ASLEF shrugged

Boris also gave us the Mittal Tower, cost to taxpayer £3.1m with the first £6m of any revenue generated going back to the Mittals.