The man who would be mayor

// 16 April 2008

I have to admit something: I’ve been studiously ignoring Boris Johnson, the Tory candidate for London mayor in the upcoming 1 May elections.

But I was given a bit of a rude shock when I glanced at a headline proclaiming that his lead over Ken Livingstone had been cut in half. It was news to me that he was in the lead at all. Surely it was clear he was a joke candidate when he proposed scrapping the admittedly unpopular but nonetheless almost new ‘bendy buses’ in favour of revamped Routemasters? (A plan that we now learn would cost ¬£100 million – great use of public funds, Boris!)

However, just in case any readers are considering a vote, this report from Compass paints a rather different picture of the man aspiring to be mayor than, say, the BBC. Although the BBC notes his offenses to the city of Liverpool and Papua New Guinea, here are some more quotes:

‘What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is

said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth,

partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of

flag-waving picaninnies; and one can imagine that Blair, twice

victor abroad but enmired at home, is similarly seduced by

foreign politeness.

‘They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s

will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human

flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon

smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white

British taxpayer-funded bird.’ (Daily Telegraph 10 January 2002)

Conservatives: ‘accept that material inequality is inevitable, and

that trouble comes from too zealous an attempt to change

this.'(Lend Me Your Ears p126)

‘We seem to have forgotten that societies need rich people,

even sickeningly rich people, and not just to provide jobs for

those who clean swimming pools and resurface tennis courts.’

‘She [Polly Toynbee] incarnates all the nannying, high-taxing,

high-spending schoolmarminess of Blair’s Britain. She is the

defender and friend of everyone whose non-job has ever been

advertised in the Guardian appointments page, every gay and

lesbian outreach worker, every clipboard-toter and pen-pusher

and form-filler whose function has been generated by mindless

regulation. Polly is the high priestess of our paranoid,

mollycoddled, risk-averse, airbagged, booster-seated culture of

political correctness and ‘elf ‘n’ safety fascism.’ (Daily Telegraph

November 23, 2006)

‘When I shamble around the park in my running gear late at

night, and I come across that bunch of black kids, shrieking in

the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to

pretend that I don’t turn a hair…

If there is anyone reading

this who has never experienced the same disgraceful reflex,

then – well I just don’t believe you. It is common ground

among both right-wingers and left-wingers that racism is

“natural”, in that it seems to arise organically, in all

civilisations.’ (Lend Me Your Ears p210)

‘none was hotter than the shadow social security secretary,

David Willetts. Round and round he twirled, squiring one Tory

filly after another, until flushed and satiated they could take no

more. Around him we moved in our admiring orbits, old

beldames, jigging white-haired captains of industry, but none

was faster than Willetts… Why was the evening such a

success? There is one measurement I hesitate to mention, since

the last time I did, I am told, the wife of the editor of the

Economist cancelled her subscription to the Daily Telegraph in

protest at my crass sexism. It is what is called the Tottometer,

the geiger-counter that detects good-looking women. In 1997, I

reported, these were to be found in numbers at the Labour

conference. Now – and this is not merely my own opinion – the

Tories are fighting back in a big way. ‘ (The Spectator 10

February 2001)

‘Like much of western Europe, Britain faces a demographic

quandary. In the words of a recent UN interview the

populations of EU countries are “melting like snow in the sun”…

No one knows whether this is caused by the

fecklessness of the modern British male, or by women’s

liberation; or whether it is because divorce has become too

easy.’ (Lend Me Your Ears p395)

‘Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to

increase… Indeed, high Chinese culture and art are almost all

imitative of western forms: Chinese concert pianists are

technically brilliant, but brilliant at Schubert and Rachmaninov.

Chinese ballerinas dance to the scores of Diaghilev. The number

of Chinese Nobel prizes won on home turf is zero, although

there are of course legions of bright Chinese trying to escape to

Stanford and Caltech… It is hard to think of a single Chinese

sport at the Olympics, compared with umpteen invented by

Britain, including ping-pong, I’ll have you know, which

originated at upper-class dinner tables and was first called

whiff-whaff. The Chinese have a script so fiendishly complicated

that they cannot produce a proper keyboard for it.’ (Have I Got

Views for You p277).

‘if gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue –

then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be

consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or

indeed three men and a dog.’ (Friends, Voters, Countrymen


‘Notice the way Peter Mandelson is pictured out on the town

with his boyfriend; not that there is anything wrong with that,

perish the thought, just that it would have been unimaginable

before the last election.’ (The Spectator 29 April 2000)

And he’s less of a bigot the BNP candidate that got pulled from the elections how, exactly?

Comments From You

chem_fem // Posted 16 April 2008 at 1:24 pm

I comfort myself a little that the flip-side of him possibly winning the mayoral election is that he may be given enough rope to finally hang himself.

I’m likely to be called out on my naivet√© though.

dawn // Posted 16 April 2008 at 1:37 pm

i’m in a hurry so i’ll only comment on the first quote from te telegraph article, i’ve seen this brought up by loads of people who just seem to be scanning the page for offensive words and not reading the actual article, it’s clearly satiricle, its clearly poking fun at Blair whilst making the serious point that he is clearly seeing himself as some sort of glorified colonialist leader who can just wade in and fix Africa’s problems for the poor Africans who are powerless without his help and leadership. Its satirizing the fact Blair in many ways didn’t seem to understand that the empire was over, hence the use of crude colonialist language, the very repelent nature of which is what helps highlight Blair’s absurd position in thinking that he is still ‘the big chief’ who can tell African nations what to do.

Jess McCabe // Posted 16 April 2008 at 2:12 pm

Perhaps if this was a one off incident. But if you read the report, you will see it is filled with example after example after example of hideous, racist, sexist, homophobic, ignorant statements.

The tone was meant to be satirical, perhaps, but the racism he is apparently attributing to Blair runs through plenty of his own statements.

And the images he invokes – the racist details – are so vivid, they can’t be justified in the name of satire.

Kimberley // Posted 16 April 2008 at 3:09 pm

That last is getting a bit circular. Satire is more effective when it is vivid. So I’m actually prepared to give Boris the benefit of the doubt on that one. But not on the rest. Didn’t the Tories have anyone better they could’ve put forward? This is embarassing.

What I did think was interesting was that Boris has promised 3 new Rape Crisis Centres. Though that would probably come out of the same imaginary pot of gold as his new Routemaster buses.

Lindsey // Posted 16 April 2008 at 3:25 pm

Is it just me, or is there a trend of supposedly affable buffoons hiding a vast array of disgusting beliefs under a thin veil of apparent harmlessness?

It does depress me when the general public comes out in force to vehemently support these people, perceived by them to be underdogs but actually in positions of great privilege and power. Like when 30,000 people signed the online petition to make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister – fair enough join the facebook group if you think it’s a laugh – but to hijack the actual government petition website with this shit really pisses me off (and in my opinion shows how stupid these people are).

Boris Johnson might act like he’s not serious about anything but mayor of London is a serious position, and I wouldn’t like to see what he’d do with that power…

Sian // Posted 16 April 2008 at 3:46 pm

I had to look up what “picaninny” meant.

Thanks for posting this. I knew that Boris was a right-wing nasty, but I didn’t realise how racist he was-I’m shocked.

Feministy // Posted 16 April 2008 at 3:46 pm

I still can’t decide if the man is a complete idiot with a propensity for putting his foot in it at every available opportunity, or someone who is extremely clever, and good at manipulating public opinion. After reading some of these comments, I’m inclined to go with the latter.

Cruella // Posted 16 April 2008 at 3:58 pm

Personally I always liked the bendy buses. I mean the movement to keep them was mainly nostalgia I think – if that’s your perspective, bring back pound notes and hanging – just for old times sake. And they have kept a few on “heritage” routes. But they required twice as many staff because of the conductors (who were often rude and unhelpful in my experience). They were slower due to having only one door which took ages to get people on and off at every stop and most importantly they were totally inaccessible to wheelchairs. Ken has made the buses cheaper, faster and more spacious.

The one thing that was better on the Routemaster was that you could jump off into moving traffic if you felt like it. However you can do just the same on a bendy using either of the following methods:

a) Pull the emergency door release button above the door.

b) Inform the driver that you are about to puke through his/her little perspex grill.

dawn // Posted 16 April 2008 at 5:01 pm

read the rest of the comments through again, and while the comments about a totometer are crass and cringe worthy, and the his seeming attempt to compare gay marriage to beastiality is crude (although the article doesn’t mention his actual support for gay marriage or not?) the rest of the comments seem perfectly reasonable in the context that they are written in.(which doesnt off course justify those other comments)

Jess McCabe // Posted 16 April 2008 at 5:36 pm

The word is “bigoted” not “crass”. Those comments that I listed are chosen because they are offensive and unacceptable – as I said, it would be no surprise to see similar stuff coming out of the mouth of the BNP – or betray a far right politics that I think would be noxious to most of our readers.

How is it “perfectly reasonable” to make sweeping and ignorant statements about Chinese culture, designed to denigrate that culture and imply that western culture is superior? Or make snide remarks meant to imply that under the Tories gay politicians would have remained closeted and that’s a good thing (and, after all, if he really believes “not that there’s anything wrong with that” then why is he making the point – I’m sure he’s not meaning to say that Labour did something right! That would certainly be out of character).

Nor is it merely “crude” to make derogatory statements about black people and women. It’s racist and sexist. He directs just as much sexism towards women in his own party (oh, sorry, do they prefer to be called “fillies”?) as he does towards anyone else.

His world view is characterised with a comfort with the status quo which anyone interested in social justice will have difficulty swallowing; he believes the rich are meant to be rich, the poor should be grateful to them for giving them menial jobs. He believes racism is natural and inevitable, and that it’s OK to perpetuate racist stereotypes for giddy satirical effect and in earnest. He is openly sexist and homophobic. End of story. I suggest you read the full report – I’ve taken only a tiny selection, almost at random.

Ugh. I really didn’t think I was going to need to explain why these comments were offensive :/

fliss // Posted 16 April 2008 at 6:18 pm

True but then Livingstone’s known for his crass comments too, like the concentration camp jew and the muslim taking a ‘shi’ite’ in the station …

Danny // Posted 16 April 2008 at 6:30 pm

I initially thought – hoped! – that Boris Johnson was indeed a joke candidate. Now my fear is that a lot of people will vote for him because they regard him as a laugh and a ‘bit of a lad’. He might look like a dopey dog that needs to shake the hair out of its eyes, but his sexist, xenophobic, racist comments are nothing to laugh about!

I don’t think he has a clue what the job of mayor would entail, and cares less. He just thinks it would be a good platform for him. Or a springboard to other scary ambitions he may be harbouring….

Anne Onne // Posted 16 April 2008 at 8:04 pm

I always wondered how people like him manage to pass these things off as a slip of the tongue. I had never heard of these words and images before reading about them when they happened. I’m young, admittedly, but these words aren’t exactly common usage. Maybe they are in people his age, but I doubt it. It’s astounding that he could just say things like this publicly, and not realise they were offensive. I mean, there’s pleny of sexism etc in the media, but a lot of it is more subtle than his comments.

Seriously, I fear what kind of buffoonery he would get up to if elected. Ken says very stupid things, but at least not at the frequency of Boris.

We need a Feminsit Candidate.

And I personally love how he considers Russua to be Western when he wants to make a point about China, when the rest of the time people consider it to be a completely different planet and part of that Eastern Europe thing over there. I have NEVER heard of Russia being considered the West before (because it’s teh Eastern Europe, which is a strange universe populated with vodka-drinking aliens!!1one!) , but when it comes to their academic achievements, the West is very quick to claim it as part of the West. Because admitting the West doesn’t have a monopoly on academia, or culture would kill them.

Abigail // Posted 16 April 2008 at 11:11 pm

What worries me abour Boris is not that he might eb an idiot, but that he might not. People do not graduate from Oxford and rise to the top of the Tory party if they are total idiots, but he always seems to be – so what is he trying to hide? What would he do if elected mayor – other than make a big fuss about bringing back old and outdated public transport to replace the newer, disabled friendly, faster to load buses that are used on a handful of routes?

Cara // Posted 17 April 2008 at 5:43 pm

Boris is no doubt a racist, sexist, homophobic, obnoxious, ignorant, bigoted, thick, overeducated typical Tory twat.

Lindsey – no, it’s not just you. Agree – it is scary how many people think misogyny is “just a laugh” and quaint and outdated. Er, it’s not funny. And yes…what is that seeing poor little white upper-class men as victims, I do not understand how anyone in their right mind cannot see that they still have a disproportionate amount of influence and power.

(I work in the civil service; my colleague, who is a fast streamer, was telling us how at a team-building event the other fast streamers all wanted vintage port to drink…jeez!)

But yes. Boris. NO NO NO NO NO.

I was off work sick yesterday with flu. I could barely move without aching, was shivering as if in the arctic with about 3 jumpers and heating turned up to sahara levels but dragged myself out to hand in my voter registration so I can NOT vote for Boris (vote for just about anyone else, that is).

Oh and he has a poster up near where I live…I am very, very tempted to deface it. A Hitler style moustache seems appropriate. I am scared, however, as I have never been in trouble with the police (I am a nice girl, you know) and knowing my luck, would get caught. Any ideas?! Anyone harder willing to come round and do it for me?!

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 17 April 2008 at 8:02 pm

The first two quotes sound like something out of Thomas Carlyle’s disgusting pro-slavery essay “An Occasional Discourse on the N***** Question”, which was written in the 19th century. I think Carlyle used the phrase ‘watermelon smiles’. Gross.

Anne Onne, Lindsey German seems to be a feminist candidate in this election.

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