Monday, 23 June 2008

Boris Johnson's deputy quits post over racism row

Boris Johnson's Deputy Chief of Staff was forced to resign last night after a recording emerged of him saying that immigrants should return to their homeland if unhappy with the new Mayor.

Australian immigrant and Lynton Crosby trained strategist James Mcgrath made the comments in an interview last month with campaigner and journalist Marc Wadsworth. 

Asked what he thought of Darcus Howe's view that the Boris's election could trigger a 'mass exodus' of Carribbean immigrants, he replied "well, let them go if they don’t like it here."

The Mayor and his team initially vigorously defended James McGrath and even threatened the Guardian with legal action if they misreported the story. But after Boris and his team 'consulted' with David Cameron, it was decided that the Australian immigrant should be allowed to head home.

In a statement released last night Boris Johnson said that he didn't believe McGrath to be a racist but did believe that 'crystal clarity' was needed on the issue.


The decision to let McGrath go was immediately attacked by top Tory blogger Iain Dale. In a post entitled 'Boris and his Absent Backbone' Dale wrote that:

'I'm told that McGrath honourably fell on his sword. But I am not sure he was given any choice in the matter. All Boris has done is attempt to appease people who are quite frankly not capable of being appeased. What he should have done is stand by the man who has stood by him through thick and thin over the last eight months. Instead, Boris has hung James McGrath out to dry - apparently either with the connivance of or at the behest of the Party leadership - in the most despicable and and cowardly manner possible.'

Dale also wondered 'why we all bothered' to defend Boris for his 'piccaninny' and 'watermelon smile' comments when nowhere near as much understanding had been shown to his deputy. In an uncharacteristically angry attack on the man he championed for Mayor, Dale wrote:

'get a backbone, Boris. During the campaign, in an interview with me you said you "reserve the right to continue to make gaffes". What's good for the goose, is clearly not good enough for the gander, eh?'

Given Boris and his team's reluctance to let McGrath go, and given the similarly quick decision last year to sack Patrick Mercer for race-related comments, the move appears to have been one sanctioned by David Cameron and the Tory head office. 

Happening as it did after the Rise Festival controversy, Cameron will have wanted to appear decisive and to prevent any momentum gaining behind the perception that Boris and his team are racist.

However, if commentators and Tory activists continue to attack Boris and Dave for this moment of 'political correctness' and outright hypocrisy, it may well turn out to have been one strong-arm tactic too far.



Anonymous said...

Do you think Boris has been told yet?

Chris said...

Boris would have been told, but I can't believe that he wouldn't have stuck up for James over this. By all reports he was doing a good job and the comments themselves were not racist. Why didn't he stick up for himself over this. Is there no decision that he won't delegate up or down the chain of command?

Zanuliebours said...

YAWN. Newsflash we live in BRitain and if you don't like it here then go off to Venezuela with yyour Commy terrorist friends. Boris only sacked because of the whining from you and nuliebour. Perhaps you would prefer to live under Zanu PF? no criticism of your brown friends there.

BenSix said...

I call parody on the above.

The Tory Troll said...

Correctly called I think. Come on 'Zanuliebour'. Say what you really think ;)

Zanuliebours said...


The Tory Troll said...

It's too realistic. Are you getting it from here

niff said...

I think zanuliebours is actually SPECIALRELATIONSHIP in disguise (see Permablog).

The Tory Troll said...

Just received this statement from Ken Livingstone:

'In the context of Boris Johnson's well known past comments, abandoning the central message of Rise as Europe's biggest anti-racist festival, and now this enforced resignation of his Deputy Chief of Staff, the real culture of the Johnson administration is becoming clear - one totally at odds with the needs of London as the most diverse city in the world.’

I have to say that I don't really agree with Ken on this. The decision to remove the anti-racist message from Rise was a big mistake and did show the administration in a bad light. However, the real relation between the two events is in how they have been so badly managed by Boris and his team. The first was done out of political dogma and seemingly without Boris even knowing about it, and the second was done out of political calculation and with rank hypocrisy.

NAAR said...

Regarding the enforced resignation of James McGrath, Boris Johnson's Deputy Chief of Staff, the National Assembly Against Racism issued the following statement:

'The fall of Boris Johnson's Deputy Chief of Staff as a result of offensive comments regarding black communities to a journalist is no surprise.

'Johnson stood for Mayor of London with an appalling record of comments describing black children as 'piccaninnies', Africans with 'watermelon smiles' and xenophobic remarks about the Chinese people.

'One of his first actions in office has been to cut anti-racism from the GLA's Rise festival.

'Now the enforced resignation of his Deputy Chief of Staff indicates the real culture of the Johnson administration which is totally at odds with London as the most diverse city in the world.'

London Assembly Labour Group said...

A Labour group spokesman said: "You have to question Boris Johnson's judgement first in appointing someone with these views and second by only acting against him when pressured to do so. It is clear from events yesterday that the Mayor's natural inclination was to defend his adviser, and even now he merely blames his remarks on a "silly" and "hostile" journalist.

"Given the sensitivity with which some of his previous comments have been received, Boris should be going out of his way to make it clear that people of all ethnic backgrounds are welcome here, not waiting to be told whether these offensive views were aired in the right context. In what context is it acceptable to tell Caribbean people to go home if they don't like their Mayor?"

asquith said...

You are aware that I am a solid foe of Boris and the fucking cunts, such as Munira Mirza, that he has surrounded himself with.

However, I don't think this is much of a story. It was stupid to ask him such a question, in a blatant attempt to wind him up. I'm sure his policies are utter bollocks, so surely we should be exposing them rather than a statement which actually isn't racist.

Yes, he should have said something along the lines of "These people should be reassured that BoJo will make London a better place & they will be pleasantly surprised: a knee-jerk reaction would be a shame & a mistake". But who really does things like that in reality?

You will doubtless wish to flay me alive now :)

The Tory Troll said...

Don't worry there will be no flaying.

I actually agree with you Asquith. This would and should have been a complete non-story if he had just explained and or apologised for it. However, for whatever reason Cameron/Tory HQ decided to sack him.

After a year of Boris telling us that his own 'out of context' statements did not represent 'what was in my heart' it now seems incredibly hypocritical to sack someone else for an 'out of context' statement that does not represent what was in his heart.

In this respect I think Dale has for once got it right. Boris and Cameron have set a rod for their backs on this and it will be much more difficult for them to wriggle out of any 'lapses of judgement' that they make from here on in.

The fact that Boris wasn't going to sack him but then did after 'consulting' Cameron also ties in with the impression that everyone but Boris is making decisions at City Hall.

So yes, not the most important story from the last month or so, but it's all part of the picture.

angelneptunestar said...

I agree with Asquith and Tory Troll on this, but I am probably even more strongly against the way this has been interpreted.

A man screamed at the Pakistani family who run our Post office last week because he was fedup with the queue and said "Why don't you go home, you bleep bleeps, you don't belong here!" THAT WAS RACISM. I yelled right back at him how dare you speak to these people like that, apologise or leave! And kept forcefully repeating it until he said sorry.

What James McGrath said was different. People were implying criticism of the candidate he was supporting and saying if he got in, they would go, so it is sort of natural to say do what you like, just go then, and you would say that to anyone nothing to do with colour just as an automatic reaction.

However, DC and BJ are supersensitive to hurting peoples' feelings on this issue, and if they had done nothing, loads of people would have held it against them for ever, so they had no choice in the matter. The BNP would have been touting it as another fictitious "victory". My view is, bad luck James McGrath.

asquith said...

When you put it like that, I see your point (though what I said earlier still stands...).

Yes, it's meaningless "get tough" rhetoric trying, & failing, to mask the real problem which he has no intention of even trying to solve.

McGrath is the unfortunate victim of Johnson's entire career of utter shyte. But I'm sure he'll go & make a fortune somehow: these types never seem to end up on the dole :)

BenSix said...

“Cameron says James McGrath, the adviser who resigned, is not a racist. But he committed a “lapse of judgment”.”

The Tory Troll said...

He also said that politicians should take the consequences of those lapses of judgement. I wonder if anyone has told Boris that.

angelneptunestar said...

Has anyone thought that Boris Johnson agreed for James McGrath to go because he didn't want people from other races upset by this? They might have heard only half the story. They then might have thought he would accept racist behaviour, even though this was not racist behaviour at all.

He has learnt the lesson, from the way people were upset when he wrote satirically (NOT SERIOUSLY) and it was misinterpreted, that things can be misunderstood and people do get hurt when that happens.

BJ is obviously determined that that will not happen again. He won't run the risk of upsetting anybody living in the capital, BECAUSE YOU KNOW HE HATES UPSETTING PEOPLE, so he was prepared to let McGrath go, rather than run the risk that vulnerable people might suffer. I bet I am right. GOOD MAN, BJ, WELL DONE.

barry rochford said...

Well, I could ask the obvious: does Boris now that he's sacked James McGrath yet, or was that delegated too, and he''s not aware of it.
Let's be straight about this: what McGrath said was perfectly in line with Tory HQ thinking, it's just that no one told him taht he wasn't to make these comments till after the general election as otherwise people would think (correctly) that the nasty party were back after all. We couldn't have predicted how Boris's agenda would unfold in terms of race, but it is becoming apparent in no time at all.
It's not his heart that's evident but his core policies that think that challenging racism doesn't matter.

Francis said...

Sorry angelneptunestar but Boris Johnson did not make derogatory racist comments purely 'satirically'. There is nothing satirical whatever in the following:
'The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more... Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. ... the British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right... If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain. You never saw a place so abounding in bananas: great green barrel-sized bunches, off to be turned into matooke. Though this dish (basically fried banana) was greatly relished by Idi Amin, the colonists correctly saw that the export market was limited... The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.' - The Spectator 2 February 2002

'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.

angelneptunestar said...

Such appallingly painful inhumanity is demonstrated in parts of Africa that Boris Johnson has describing how utterly helpless onlookers feel in the face of such crimes. It is understandable that someone would be forced to extreme solutions and extreme hyperbole, which would be understood by the specialised audience who read Spectator articles. Other articles he has written are pure satire and it is wrong to indicate otherwise.

Boris Johnson is a very humane man and it is unfair to him to keep repeating these paragraphs out of context. Anyway, he was voted Mayor by a good majority after these articles were printed, so obviously the general public weighed everything up and decided he was right for the job.

I repeat, I am sure he and DC are considering the feelings of the most vulnerable members of society by accepting the resignation of James McGrath.

eric ray said...

Angela come off it - would he have been elected if the evening boris would have spent even half the time attacking Boris's racist histroy as they did attacking Ken for anything they could dig up?

angelneptunestar said...

Eric, you haven't got that quite right. Boris has no "racist history" and the satirical articles he wrote in the Spectator were quoted out of context a zillion times. Not only that, they were thrown at his head on several of the London Mayor debates, the BBC programme with David Dimbleby dragged them all up, that was the main thing Boris's opponents fixated on, but it didn't work. Londoners obviously had more sense than to believe the articles were intended maliciously, but don't pretend nobody tried, because they never stopped trying.

There were just as many publications supporting Ken as supported Boris, probably more. The Londoner supported Ken, so did the Guardian, so did the Daily Mirror, loads of websites supported Ken..... One of the main things was, Ken had had two terms, and people thought it was fairer to let someone else have a chance and that is what it boiled down to. The Standard could have attacked Boris until they were blue in the face, and Ken still wouldn't have got back in.