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Boris’s most brilliant wheeze to date was the letter to the Guardian attacking him

Rod Liddle salutes the genius of the Tory mayoral candidate in sending a spoof petition condemning himself and praising Livingstone to the skies to the Left’s in-house newspaper

27 February 2008

12:00 AM

27 February 2008

12:00 AM

Rod Liddle salutes the genius of the Tory mayoral candidate in sending a spoof petition condemning himself and praising Livingstone to the skies to the Left’s in-house newspaper

The battle to become Mayor of London is getting dirty. Someone from Boris Johnson’s campaign team — or maybe Boris himself — put a hilarious spoof letter in the Guardian this week. It purported to be from 100 ‘academics’, luvvies, lesbians and professional agitators, all of them aghast at the notion that the ‘right-wing and reactionary’ Boris might actually win. It was a quite brilliant work of parody — long-winded, witless, sanctimonious and marvellously self-important. What Boris had done, with panache, was exemplify the extraordinary arrogance and naivety of a certain tranche of liberal opinion. After all, who would give a monkey’s that Baldrick from Blackadder and some bloke called Ivor Gaber, the visiting professor of media studies at the Central Polytechnic of Dollis Hill or something, thinks that Ken should win the election? Well, clearly Baldrick and Ivor Gaber.


That was the point — they really do believe that people care what they think. They abide beneath a cloak woven from the most extraordinary self-regard. It was a very clever touch as well to ensure that about half of the signatories to the letter don’t live in London and therefore have no vote or indeed know what the hell they are talking about — the ubiquitous Billy Bragg, for example, who fled to Dorset some years ago, having suffered enough of Ken’s stewardship in the capital. And the Labour MPs for the Gower and North-West Leicestershire. And the crop-headed lesbian feminist member of the National Association of Irrationally Furious Women Against Everything, Bea Campbell — who works in Newcastle. And — showing a great recall for long-forgotten 1970s commie ideologues — Robin Blackburn, a former member of the International Marxist Group and yet another professor of applied Stalinism, or something. At a university in — New York! And of course, the bluestocking bluebottle perched proudly atop the dog turd, the high-born and hypocritical Polly Toynbee herself. She lives in London, sure enough — but not in the sort of London that most of the capital’s inhabitants would recognise; not the London of gun crime, muggings, dilapidated high streets and rotten public transport, still less schools where the majority of pupils do not speak English and there’s a maiming every other day. Polly sent her kid to a nice expensive public school.

Sending the letter to the Guardian was bang on the money, if a little obvious. Aside from Ken Livingstone’s various client groups — radical Muslim imams, black people in search of a quick handout in the form of a GLA grant, etc. — the only people left in London who might consider voting for Ken will be those who read the capital’s regional newspaper, the Guardian. So Boris’s spoof may have swung quite a few more votes his way, as liberal lefties like myself perused the dismal list and decided, for the first time in our lives, to vote Conservative.

The Guardian has form, of course. A noble record of catastrophic interventions in elections based on exactly the same conviction — that hopeless Guardian columnists and liberal luvvies know better than everybody else. It is still believed in some quarters that George W. Bush’s extremely narrow election victory last time around was due to the Guardian’s intervention in Ohio — where electors in this swing state were inundated with letters from the likes of Lady Antonia Fraser imploring them, in tones so patronising they seemed to be satirical, to please vote for John Kerry, as part of the newspaper’s campaign to rule the free world. Needless to say, Ohio swung sharply back to Bush and the local Democratic party activists were furious with the Guardian. I reckon Boris remembered this and then came up with his wizard wheeze.

The preamble to the letter was very cannily worded, too — letting it be known that Boris was rapidly moving up in the opinion polls and might just win. Which isn’t the sort of admission you would expect from Ken’s camp. Also, it added that Ken was a ‘standard bearer for real progressive politics’, which strikes just the right fatuous, faux-revolutionary note and which the older among you will remember from Labour party manifestos of the early 1980s, when they were incapable of winning so much as the Freight Rover Trophy. An empty, meaningless statement which can only be uttered by someone who has absolutely no experience of what real life is like in London for most people. Especially poor people — white poor people and the majority of black poor people who aren’t on Ken’s very generous gravy train.

Rather wonderfully, an awful lot of people seem to have thought that Boris’s spoof letter was genuine — and reacted with some considerable anger. ‘Have you seen the letter from 100 dickheads in the Guardian?’ I read on one website. That, I suppose, was the point of it. Thinking about it, mind, it does seem odd that the parody didn’t allude in some way to the enormous trouble Ken is in right now, what with the police investigating the vast sums of money he’s doled out to various dubious single-issue pressure groups and the like, almost all of them with the word ‘black’ somewhere in the title and most of them involving Ken’s ‘race adviser’, Lee Jasper, who is now suspended from activities. (What does a ‘race adviser’ do, do you suppose? Accompany Ken on trips around London pointing people out and saying: ‘That one’s white, Ken. That one’s black-ish. I think that one’s Jewish…’) The investigations into the enormous amount of Londoners’ money Ken has wasted on these ad hoc organisations that have not always employed the most rigorous of accountants have been described by Livingstone as a ‘racist smear’.

But everybody knows it has nothing to do with racism. Ken has his client groups, and when his munificence towards the self-appointed leaders of these client groups is questioned, he always cries ‘racist’, as if this should forestall all argument. I suppose it is odd that Boris didn’t make rather more of this in his elaborate and cunning little hoax. But nowhere near so odd as to believe that the letter really was written by the people whose names were affixed at the bottom of the page. That’s stretching credulity too far, isn’t it?


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