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.
- A statement from Ken in the comments.
- NAAR puts out an almost identical statement to Ken
- Conservative Home on how Boris 'should' have responded.
- Labour think Boris shouldn't have minced his words.