Blunderer Boris told to say sorry across the Mersey

Click to follow
Indy Politics

When you walk through a storm hold your head up high, and you'll never walk alone - unless your name is Boris Johnson and you're heading north to apologise to Liverpool.

When you walk through a storm hold your head up high, and you'll never walk alone - unless your name is Boris Johnson and you're heading north to apologise to Liverpool.

The misfortunes of Boris - magazine editor, writer, broadcaster, entertainer, old Etonian and sometime Tory MP - took a new turn yesterday when he was ordered by his leader, Michael Howard, to go north and say "sorry" in person to all the Liverpudlians he has offended.

Mr Howard, who first stood as a Tory candidate in Liverpool Edge Hill in 1966, said yesterday: "I cut my political teeth in Liverpool and have long had great admiration and affection for its people. I have asked Boris Johnson to visit Liverpool next week and to apologise in person."

This was in line with the warning contained in the Tory leader's conference speech, earlier this month, that any minister in a future Conservative government who fails to deliver will be sacked. One of the roles undertaken by the multi-tasking Boris is that of Shadow Minister for Culture.

A contrite Mr Johnson, who has already issued one apology from his constituency of Henley-on-Thames, added yesterday: "I have been stunned by the hurt this article has caused. I will be going as soon as I can next week to apologise in person, and to listen in a spirit of complete humility to local people."

Often tipped as a future Conservative Party leader, Mr Johnson is now fighting for his political life amid the fury roused by an unsigned editorial in the current issue of The Spectator magazine.

Commenting on the murder of the British hostage Ken Bigley, who came from Liverpool, the anonymous writer claimed: "Economic misfortune and an excessive pre-dilection 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."

The writer went on to accuse "drunken" Liverpool fans of being partly responsible for the 1989 tragedy at Hillsborough stadium, where 96 people died (not 50, as The Spectator claimed). This allegation was originally made in The Sun, whose circulation in Liverpool has never fully recovered since.

Kelvin MacKenzie, The Sun's editor at the time, said he had published the allegation because of what he had been told by a Tory MP. This helps to explain why Liverpool now has no Tory MPs or councillors. The allegation was rejected outright in the subsequent official inquiry.

Though Mr Johnson did not write the offending article, he has accepted responsibility for it as editor of The Spectator. The magazine is owned by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who also own the Littlewoods retail business, one of Liverpool's oldest firms.

Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, suggested Mr Johnson would have to consider his position as Tory culture spokesman, as Liverpool is bidding to be the European City of Culture.

"I don't know what sort of reception he will get here," Mr Kilfoyle said. "People are very civilised in Liverpool. They may treat him with studied contempt, or with courtesy."

<</preform>

Comments