Boris Johnson, the Tory MP and Spectator editor, faced the full force of Liverpudlian indignation yesterday after his publication accused the city of wallowing in "victim status" over the murder of Ken Bigley and the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster.
Boris Johnson, the Tory MP and Spectator editor, uncharacteristically backtracked last night after the Conservative leader Michael Howard added his voice to Liverpudlian indignation over an article accusing the city of wallowing in "victim status" over the murder of Ken Bigley and the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster.
In an extraordinary leading article, The Spectator spoke of the "extreme reaction" to the death a week ago of Mr Bigley and compared it to Hillsborough a tragedy for which police had been a "convenient scapegoat".
Mr Howard, who has been known to visit family in the city after trips to watch Liverpool FC, said: "I totally disagree. I have nothing but the greatest admiration and affection for Liverpool and its people. [The article is] nonsense from beginning to end."
Mr Johnson, who had initially defended the publication, said: "I think the article was too trenchantly expressed but we were trying to make a point about sentimentality. It's a kick in the pants for me."
The article, unsigned but which would have been written under Mr Johnson's direction, repeats the allegation made by The Sun 15 years ago that "drunken fans" might also have been to blame for Hillsborough.
The Liverpool Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle demanded an immediate apology for the article, which said more than 50 fans had died at Hillsborough (the final figure was actually 96) and delivered the unfounded view that some had "fought their way into the ground".
Mr Kilfoyle, constituency MP to Mr Bigley's mother, told last night's Liverpool Echo: "It is inaccurate. It is outrageous and bigoted and it is the responsibility of the man who presumes to be shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport. To single out Liverpool as somehow being psychologically flawed is absolutely outrageous. He should immediately apologise for this disgraceful comment about Liverpool, and the tragedy at Hillsborough and the implied insult to the Bigley family."
The leader of Liverpool City Council, Mike Storey, described Mr Johnson as an "oaf" who had "lost all sense of reality".
The article spoke of "the mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood". It pointed out that there had been two minutes' silence for Mr Bigley in Liverpool, the same respect offered annually to the million and a half British servicemen who had died for their country since 1914.
It continued: "The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley's murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community.
"A combination of economic misfortune its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. "They ... see themselves, whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status, yet at the same time they wallow in it.
"Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society."
For much of Mr Bigley's time in captivity, Liverpool's response waslow-key.
Mr Johnson is not the first commentator to challenge the city's response to Mr Bigley's death. Last Sunday, Dr Anthony Daniels challenged Liverpool's feelings for an estranged son "whose attachment to Liverpool was so great that he was planning to live in Thailand".