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The real victims of Boris Johnson's remarks about Muslim women are the people who paid for his Eton education

Johnson’s column is all about intellectual humour. Next week it’ll be: ‘Oh gawd, here comes Abdul and his wife the letterbox. I wonder why they’re walking, is the camel out of order?’

Mark Steel
Thursday 09 August 2018 17:20 BST
Rupa Huq's impersonation of Boris Johnson 'Oh sorry I just shagged your wife'

Boris Johnson has a point when he criticises the ridiculous clothes worn by some Muslim women, because in any sensible society, instead of being made to wear daft garments such as a burqa, people would be practical and wear tails and a top hat or a gown and mortarboard, the sort of everyday attire he wore in his youth.

That’s what these Muslim women need: a couple of years in Boris’s old group the Bullingdon Club to teach them how to behave normally.

The tailcoat that Boris Johnson had to wear as a member cost £3,500. And that didn’t even cover the whole body, so he’s probably worried about the expense of a burqa to Muslim women. All that material must cost double that; he’s simply considering others as usual.

In any case, his comment that women in burqas resemble bank robbers is merely stating a fact. That’s how the gang that carried out the Hatton Garden heist got away with it for so long – everyone thought they were a bunch of women wearing burqas. A photo of Reggie Kray next to one of a woman in a burqa is the hardest “spot the difference” puzzle you’ll ever see – they’re indistinguishable.

Some people suggested Johnson’s comments were racist, so the Conservative Party has shown how to deal with suspicions of racism swiftly and effectively. Whereas Labour continually fudged their problem, the Conservatives have been decisive, by asking Boris Johnson whether he’d like to say sorry before accepting he’s gone on holiday, so we might as well leave it.

It’s true they’re proposing an investigation, and that’ll hold things up because it’ll involve the lengthy process of reading the article in question, and that can’t be rushed.

In any case, the newspapers will deal with it, because they detest racism. The same ones that published headlines such as “Corbyn’s Hate Factory” and agreed Labour poses an “existential threat to Jews” will publish a 32-page summer pull-out called “Theresa’s Hate Factory”, declaring there’s an “existential threat to Muslims”, with a cut-out-and-keep niqab.

Because the press and politicians in this country are always fair. One MP who supports Johnson, Andrew Bridgen, said “Boris was just starting a debate” and I’m sure he’d take exactly the same attitude if John McDonnell said “Jews look like they’ve got a pancake on their head.”

Because how else are you going to start a debate? This is how why all the great thinkers over the centuries have started debates. Aristotle would say, “Plato’s toga makes him look like a screwed-up Kleenex”, and then they could discuss whether they existed or not.

Others have suggested Johnson’s comments should only be seen as part of his comic writing style. And it is easy to see his column as a fine piece of comic writing, as long as he was writing a situation comedy for ITV in 1970. Maybe next week we’ll learn more about the characters, with Boris stuttering, “Oh gawd, here comes Abdul and his wife the letterbox. I wonder why they’re walking, is the camel out of order?”

And this is the most shocking side to Johnson’s remarks, and why they shame the country. Because it means even if you spend £30,000 a year getting your kids educated at Eton, this is the level of intellect they come out with.

There are bankers who go to the trouble of sending their money to Panama to pay for their children to go to Eton, and at the end of their education the little sods are capable of no more than “Heuuugh heughhh they look like a letter box”.

There were kids at my school who would say things like that, so I’m starting to wonder whether my parents lied to me and I wasn’t actually at the local comprehensive; I must have been at Eton.

Or maybe it’s a language you learn there. You’re taught Latin and Greek, and then as one of your options you can take up Advanced Ignorance. So at his graduation, the master beamed: “It now falls upon me to award on behalf of Walpole House a distinction of the highest order, an A* in Ignorance that surpasses all who came before, to Boris Johnson.”

But before we suggest this is a Conservative version of Labour’s problems, we should remember there’s a difference. Almost all the Labour Party is desperate to distance themselves from antisemitism, whereas in the Conservative Party, the members take a slightly different approach, and have made Johnson their runaway favourite to become the next leader.

Obviously it would be unfair to judge the Conservative Party on the basis of a small minority of 50 per cent of the membership who think a man who describes black people as piccaninnies and Muslims as looking like bank robbers, and is treated as an imbecile by every other world leader except for Trump, should be prime minister.

In any case, most of the members who support him say they’re attracted to him because he uses “straight language”. Instead of using elite phrases such as “I don’t think we should insult everyone else from every other country”, he tells it like it is.

And this must be the Conservatives’ complaint about antisemitism in the Labour Party: it’s not plain enough. Instead of tweets that hint at underestimating antisemitic content, they should come out and say: “What the bloody hell do those Orthodox Jews look like?” and the Tories would say: “That’s better.”

Because unlike those politicians who make stuff up in obscure language, Johnson makes stuff up in direct words that anyone can understand, and is happy to see them whacked on the side of a bus.

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