Even Boris Johnson can’t beat this one. As rogue mayors go, Toronto’s trumps London’s.
Rob Ford, leader of Canada’s largest city, emerged from a lift at city hall yesterday evening to make a startling admission. “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine.” He added, probably not doing himself many favours: “There have been times when I’ve been in a drunken stupor. I want to see the [video] tape. I want to see the state that I was in.” Asked by reporters why he had vehemently denied the allegation when it was put to him before, he said, audaciously: “I wasn’t lying. You didn’t ask the correct questions.”
I remember being shocked, on taking over a newspaper gossip column as a relative innocent, that politicians and entertainers would lie to you without flinching. (I know, I know... but I preferred not to be completely cynical about human nature.) One television family man even obtained my mobile number and called to drop the £2 swear-word, despite later admitting that I was right and he’d been trying it on.
On Toronto’s Mr Ford: well, you’d hope such slipperiness (not to mention substance abuse) would see a public official step back from civic life. But then this is the same politician who said of dead cyclists “it’s their own fault at the end of the day”, and on health, “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get Aids probably, that’s the bottom line.” A real charmer.
But I think Bill Clinton probably still just about surpasses all that. In grand jury testimony following impeachment, questioned about his, er, cigar-smoking habits, he infamously quibbled: “That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”