Ignore what Boris Johnson says, but pay close attention to his behaviour
You wouldn’t automatically think of London Mayor Boris Johnson as a tireless and principled supporter of an organisation like Stonewall. But this is what he came across as some time back….with ramifications that are only now beginning to be felt. This is odd given that he more often strikes me as the sort of chap who would refer to gays as bum bandits, fudge-packers, uphill gardeners and similarly disparaging descriptions in private.
I will come clean here and say that I find Stonewall a controlling, fascist and generally dissembling organisation that operates along the same hypocritically poliical lines as Greenpeace. It targets people who wish to make their own choices about sexuality, and then bullies them. I dislike its members for the same reason I dislike the odious Peter Tatchell: it interferes in the area of private liberty.
But that’s neither here nor there: facts are more important than my feelings. In 2012, Stonewall ran a Transport for London (TfL) bus-side poster campaign that asserted ‘Some people are gay. Get over it’. Nothing wrong with that, although I fail to see what people need to get over.
But the Christian charity, Core Issues Trust (CIT) took offence. I’m not really sure why, but they did. And they designed a TfL campaign that looked like this:
The issue of whether homosexuality is a lifestyle choice or a genetic imperative is yet another of those either/or forced choice debates where the real answer is “it varies by individual”. Some gays change their minds, as do many straights. Most gay and straight people I’ve known, however, have never been in doubt since the onset of puberty about the nature of their preferences. None of it matters in the greater scheme of things, but that’s not the point at issue here. I may think Stonewall to be a bad lot, and I may think CIT to have suspect beliefs, but both have the right to put their case in public media.
What’s deeply worrying is that the CIT campaign never ran, because TfL banned it. After CIT took TfL to the High Court about the ban, Mrs Justice Lang upheld it. But then, a very interesting thing happened. Following the decision, CIT submitted a Freedom of Information request, and this suggested that Johnson had instructed TfL to ban the ads. Indeed, one specific email from the Mayor’s Director of Communications at the time, Guto Harri, stated that the Mayor personally ordered the Christian advertisement to be pulled. CIT took the case to the Court of Appeal which sent it back to Mrs Justice Lang to consider the new email evidence which she had not seen at the first hearing.
Significantly, Boris Johnson banned the CIT ad campaign just one day before he addressed an election rally organised by Stonewall.
At the Appeal hearing, Justice Lang stated she was “not satisfied” that the Mayor had told the “full story” about the ban and ruled that, “to get to the bottom of this”, she was making an order for disclosure by Boris Johnson and TfL of all relevant documents. But following this, she came to a quite extraordinary judgement. Announcing her conclusions, Mrs Justice Lang declared: “Mr Johnson was not motivated by an improper purpose, namely, to advance his Mayoral election campaign.”
Well of course he wasn’t ducky. Mind you, it would be good to know just whyTF you thought so, given that all the evidence pointed the other way.
Now, one can simply put this down to yet another example of how the judicial and political Establishments look after each other in a way that restores my faith in tribal philanthropy. But rather than do that, I’d like to expand a little here on Boris Johnson’s character in the light of his predictable decision to stand for Parliament in the 2015 election.
Several allegations – supported by thousands of Londoners and dozens of journalists across the piece – suggest that trust in BoJo is far from universal. Meetings with Newscorp at the outset of the Hackgate saga look bad, and hint at him having been complicit with Rebekah Brooks in trying to spike the Met investigation – in return for rewards from Newscorp to do with colleges in London. Mayor Johnson declared – 24 hours after having a meeting with Brooks and Rupert Murdoch – that the phone-hacking accusations were “just a load of left-wing poppycock”. The due process of law suggests that (putting this in the nicest way possible) Johnson was wrong. (Rumours have in turn persisted for several years that the Mayor enjoyed a sexual liaison with Ms Brooks, although he isn’t especially known for his willingness to join queues).
Another ongoing enigma is the way he seems to have dragged his feet when it comes to the Elm House paedophile enquiry. The accusation here is that he suspects the stories of senior Tory involvement in the Rocks Lane riotous assembly may indeed be true, and would rather people like Lord Brittan were left alone to enjoy a quiet retirement.
That, as London Mayor, he favoured the taxis manufactured by his political ally Tim Yeo is a claim I must confess I find hard to dismiss from my mind. Mayor Johnson gave taxi emissions evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee that was, shall we say, equivocal….as a result of which hundreds of cab drivers were forced to buy Yeo’s taxis – although they were even more pollutive than the existing vehicles.
Then there is his alleged brokering of a deal with a UAE wealth fund for Barclays Bank, and the Barclays sponsorship of Boris Bikes that followed it…with of course, BoJo’s usual fulsome support of the ghastly Bob Diamond – who later turned out to suffer from Libor memory lapses that even the Treasury Select Committee found hard to accept.
Others still allege that Mayor Johnson’s motivation for Fire and Police Station closures – and the closure of Earls Court Centre – was to enable lucrative property deals. Also that harassment of Earls Court rental residents at the time was widespread in a bid to ensure their compliance.
And going back many years, Johnson admits that he promised his Eton chum Darius Guppy he would “deal with” some heavies who were after Guppy as a result of an insurance claim. (Guppy’s claim was later proved to be bogus, and he went to prison – a sad victim of the Rule of Law which was still in operation at the time).
Some aspects of Johnson’s behaviour are a matter of fact. He made Rupert Murdoch his Guest of Honour at the London Olympic Games….at a time when Murdoch’s motives and actions were under close criminal scrutiny. He is also to be seen hugely embarrassed during and after an interview with Eddie Mair in which he was forced to agree that he had made up quotes as a journalist, and blatantly lied to his Party leader David Cameron. The interviewer Eddie Mair suggested to Boris that he is in fact “a nasty piece of work”, and for once Boris was tongue-tied.
So it is with a heavy heart (but little shock) that I view Lord Ashcroft’s latest survey report on Boris Johnson’s inexplicable level of broadly-based popularity.
His survey of the Uxbridge & South Ruislip constituency where Johnson will stand showed a Tory lead of 14% increasing to one of 29% in the light of a BoJo candidacy. The tumescence apparent in his every word, Ashcroft notes that ‘the results show Boris’s unique ability both to galvanise Tories and appeal to supporters of other parties….The basis of his appeal, as I found in my research on the Boris phenomenon last year, is that for most voters in the constituency (53%), including a substantial proportion of those who would usually vote for other parties, Boris is “different to most politicians, and in a good way”. Only 7% said he was different “but in a bad way”.
Given Boris Johnson’s track record, this strikes me as prima facie evidence in favour of the immediate suspension of democracy in the UK. Because if people have lost the power of discernment to the degree these figures suggest, quite frankly I wouldn’t trust them to vote on the electoral appeal of Ed Miliband’s adenoids.
The aim of the London Mayor has always been to suggest that he is a bumbling, loveable, and generally jolly sort of chap with his finger on the pulse of the voter on the Clapham android. This is complete tosh: ask any opponent of this dangerous man how he responds to obstacles in his way, and they will tell you without hesitation that he becomes foul-mouthed and aggressive at a remarkable speed. Take one look at his background, and it becomes immediately obvious that the only reason he’d ever have to feel the pulse of someone in Clapham would be to check that he wasn’t about to commit the offence of necrophilia. Piece together his career, and even the most dim-witted hack would spot pretty quickly that he has form when it comes to perversion of justice, pragmatic abuse of influence, and courting the powerful.
Boris Johnson acting on behalf of Us? Don’t make me laugh. He acts on behalf of Them: the bankers he insists we should learn to love, the shadowy unelected fiends like Lord Ashcroft and the Barclay Brothers, the gargoyles within the Newscorp empire, the fascists of Beijing and Saudi Arabia, and indeed anyone who has the munneee to oil the wheels of his ambition. These are the circles in which he preens, performs, and percolates his plans to make the neoliberal nightmare his dream ticket.
And if the activist nutters at Stonewall can help, he’ll recruit them too. This is the man who, it seems, can do no wrong: the more one shows what an utter turd he is, the more voters insist he is really the Messiah.
They are the same folks who unwisely voted for Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and Clegg. But then, as Plato pointed out, “the quickest route to a dictatorship is an uninformed and distracted electorate”.