Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Why I Hope Boris Proves Us Wrong

There is a connection between London's new right-wing Mayor, Boris Johnson, and Uganda. It was here that he uttered one of his 'amusing' asides:

"Right, let's go and look at some more piccaninnies*." Reported remark, while visiting Uganda, to Swedish Unicef workers and their black driver, the Observer, 2003.

* Offensive, a small Black or Aboriginal child [perhaps from Portuguese pequenino tiny one]

The new Mayor is, though, one of the rare politicians who seems to be able to do and say anything he wants and get away with it due to his 'funny' hair and bumbling way of speaking. Contrast this with US politics where in the Democratic Primary race Obama's far less offensive 'bitter' remark was almost enough to knock him out the race, and Senator Allen's comparable 'macaca' comment lost him Virginia at the last election. For Teflon-Boris though, he is able to not only get away with slandering the whole of Liverpool and Portsmouth, but also registering in print his insulting, colonial-minded comments about Africans:

"No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, 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."· In 2002, on Tony Blair's visit to the Democratic of Republic of Congo, Daily Telegraph.

However, I think on balance Boris is probably not a racist. Lacking any understanding of London's multicultural mosaic, yes, stuck in the British upper-class mindset of Prince Phillip and co, yes, but racist, no. Furthermore it is clearly incorrect to label the million-odd people who voted for him racist either, especially considering the many flaws of the incumbent.

I also don't agree with the legions of Labour supporters who want to see him fail. The job is too important for that. Personally I hope Boris proves us wrong, works hard to remedy his pariah status amongst London's ethnic minority communities and does a competent job for London. That won't stop me being the first in the queue to boot him out in four years time though...

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