Friday Ephemera
A Firm Hand

The Horror

I wasn’t going to comment on Boris Johnson becoming the next mayor of London, but I couldn’t resist airing a few reactions to that prospect from the pages of a certain newspaper.

A breathless Zoe Williams writes

God alone knows what this moneyed creep would get up to… He despises gays and he despises provincials… and he despises Africans. He despises them, and he despises those of us who would hold such judgments to be bigoted and inhuman.


He despises people who are not of his class because he is a snob.

An ironic statement, one might think, coming from a Guardian columnist, especially one whose own elitist affectations have entertained us so. This denunciation of snobbery is almost immediately followed by,

We know what London is. Boris is not London.

So no snobbery there.

Williams’ piece concludes with some quotes from notable Londoners. The actress Arabella Weir, daughter of former British ambassador Sir Michael Weir, offers this:

How do we trust a guy who says he knows about London, when he’s just taken three of his kids out of state school and put them into private schools?

Then there’s this, from fashion designer Vivienne Westwood:

Boris as mayor? Unthinkable. It just exposes democracy as a sham, especially if people don’t vote for Ken.

Ms Westwood appears to have difficulty grasping the concept of democracy, which generally entails the possibility that other people – perhaps a great many of them – will have preferences that differ from one’s own. Still, there’s an almost charming megalomania to the implication that a system which allows people to vote on those preferences must be a “sham” when the people doing the voting disagree with Vivienne Westwood.

It’s a safe bet that the Guardian’s imperious dowager in residence, Polly Toynbee, won’t be too chuffed either. Toynbee famously said of Johnson,

Perhaps because he was not born to great wealth… he revels in everything elite - intellectual, social or monied.

Unlike Polly - a member of the rather grand Toynbee family and descendant of the Earls of Carlisle - who was born into wealth. As Guardian readers will know, Polly’s peeves include private education and other people’s money:

He earned more than £400,000 last year in journalism and after-dinner speaking on top of his MP’s salary.

Oddly, while Toynbee makes a point of announcing the earnings of others, supposedly on principal, she refuses to disclose the details of her own salary and extracurricular income; though one might assume her Guardian salary alone is comfortably within six figures. And it’s worth noting that Johnson earned less than Polly’s employer at the Guardian, the privately educated Alan Rusbridger, who last year was paid £520,000.

Johnson’s reply to Toynbee is worth reading in full, but here’s a taste:

She joins the usual Labour snarling against fee-paying education, and selective education of all kinds. In reality, of course, she is the beneficiary of a highly selective education and also sent her own offspring to one of the most expensive public schools in the country, an establishment way beyond the means of most people. Of course there will be those who accuse her of monstrous hypocrisy, and wonder… how on earth she can insist on imposing a one-size-fits-all comprehensive system on the rest of the country, and close down the opportunities of so many poor but bright kids, when she has so ruthlessly maximised the opportunities of her own children…

Then there will be those who complain that it is hypocritical of Polly to have her lovely second home in Italy, to which she doubtless repairs on so many cheapo flights that she has personally quilted the earth in a tea-cosy of CO2; to which I say, yes, it probably is wrong of Polly to keep calling for higher taxes when that would put such opportunities - for air travel to second homes - beyond the reach of millions slightly less fortunate than her. But never mind the hypocrisy: look at the fundamental Tory behaviour. At least she's renting the villa out at pretty keen rates.

For that alone, I’m quite pleased Boris is London’s new mayor. And besides, what could possibly go wrong?