Following on from my recent UKWatch article on the likely Conservative candidate for London mayor, Boris Johnson, its immensely gratifying to see that the tide of revulsion at Johnson's candidacy is gathering pace. Here's Chuka Umunna at the Guardian
"His writings on race and black people reveal the mindset of an old colonialist ......... In 2002, here he is on Tony Blair's then imminent visit to the Democratic of Republic of Congo: "no doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird." In 2003, he is reported cheerily remarking to Swedish Unicef workers and their black driver in Uganda, "right, let's go and look at some more piccaninnies". These are just a few snippets but you get the flavour."
Here's Johann Hari at the Independent, reminding us of Johnson's reaction to the London police's notorious handling of a race-hate murder in 1993, for which it was accused by an inquiry of "institutional racism":
"After the London police treated Stephen Lawrence's family with contempt and let his murderers walk free, it was essential for all London politicians to press the Met to reform itself to root out these attitudes. Boris did the opposite. He attacked "the PC brigade" for "punch[ing] a hole in the Metropolitan Police". He damned the sensible Macpherson reforms as "hysteria" and "a witch-hunt", even comparing them to the tyranny of Nicolae Ceausescu. If Boris was mayor, the pressure on the police applied by [current mayor] Ken Livingstone to treat all Londoners equally would be off."
Lawrence's mother, Doreen, reacted forcefully to news of the Johnson mayoral candidacy. The Guardian reports:
"Ms Lawrence, who does not normally become involved in party politics, said she had been moved to make the criticisms by her anger at Mr Johnson's attitude to the Macpherson inquiry in 1999 into the Metropolitan police's failure to bring her son's killers to justice 14 years ago. [She said:]
"Boris Johnson is not an appropriate person to run a multi-cultural city like London. Think of London, the richness of London, and having someone like him as mayor would destroy the city's unity. He is definitely not the right person to even be thinking to put his name forward.
"Those people that think he is a lovable rogue need to take a good look at themselves, and look at him. I just find his remarks very offensive. I think once people read his views, there is no way he is going to get the support of any people in the black community.""
And black London MPs Dawn Butler and Diane Abbott have added their voices to the rising crescendo. The BBC reports that:
"Ms Butler highlighted a 2002 article in which Mr Johnson referred to the Queen being greeted in Commonwealth countries by "flag-waving piccaninnies".
Ms Butler, whose Brent South constituency is the most ethnically diverse in the UK, said:
"These are disgraceful comments that shame Boris Johnson and shame the Conservative Party.
"This is the most offensive language of the colonial past and it shows that the Tory party is riddled with racial prejudice.
"No one with such views can be the mayor of a city with the largest black population in Britain.""
London is a long way from perfect, but there are a great many things that can be said in its favour. One of these is that it brings together one of the broadest ranges of cultures that can be seen in any of the world's great cities, and that it does so in a way that is, for by far the most part, enormously successful. Nothing could be less representative of multinational, multicultural London than Johnson's casual racism. But if we are not careful, his current image as a lovable rogue could swing enough second preference votes for him to sneak through to victory. In politics, these possibilities should not be written lightly. I recall perusing the range of US Republican presidential candidates in the summer of 1999 and dismissing, in between bursts of laughter, the prospects of one of the candidates: a semi-literate, recently alcoholic, apparent nepotism-beneficiary Governor of Texas by the name of George W Bush. Well no-one's laughing now, are they?
So if you're resident in London, please stand up for your city by making sure you're registered to vote now, in preparation for next year's election.