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June 22, 2008

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leon

Oh dear but as Boris Watch said, does Mayor Boris actually know he's resigned? Is Team Bojo starting to unravel already?

Tory Troll

I pop down the pub on a Sunday night and all hell kicks loose.

However, for once I think Iain Dale has got it about right. I don't see anything overtly racist in what McGrath has said and can't understand why he would have resigned/ been forced to go so incredibly quickly. Are Team Boris that sensitive to accusations of racism that they would have forced him out like this, and if so, surely the decision last week to remove the anti-racist message from Rise was the more worrying one?

The obvious charge is hypocrisy. The much repeated Boris quotes are much more controversial than this one from McGrath. The proviso during the campaign was that Boris's quotes were taken out of context, but put into context this quote is nowhere near as controversial as Boris's.

Whichever way you look at it there is no way that Boris made the decision that McGrath should go. At a guess, this was an intervention from Cameron/ head office in order to prevent any momentum from the Rise decision pushing over into a general perception that Boris and his team are racist. Given what McGrath actually said though, it seems panicky and weak.

Maya

Telling black people should go back to their country if they don't like it is the most basic of racist comments. Whenever I got racist abuse in this country, this sentence was always included.

So Troll is not correct on this. It is clearly racist to say so. And it is no defence to say that he was reacting to the provocative comment by Darcus Howe, whose reference to it reflects the fact that people who have been in this country for decades will recognise the election of a Mayor who has made racist comments in the past is a reflection of things going back decades in relation to racism.

Rob

It's actually fairly depressing to see the various contortions by Boris' opponents as they try to work which line to attack him on. Wrong for hiring someone with "these views", or weak for firing someone who wasn't really a racist.

My view is that it wasn't a racist comment. The proposition was put to McGrath - an Australian immigrant himself - that parts of the black community may wish to return to their "homelands". He replied "let them". Not that they "should", but "let them", if that's what they want.

So why was Boris right to accept, or demand, his resignation? Because it is a political reality that comments like this will be misinterpeted - see Maya's comment above - and misreported, such as the BBC who initially paraphrased McGrath on their website as saying "black people who didn't like it here could go back". When you're up against that, I think you have to just act swiftly to try and resolve it ASAP.

So far we know what Consevative Home think, and Iain Dale thinks... still interested in your opinion Dave? And also I suppose the thoughts of Trevor Phillips apposite if we could elicit a statement from him...?

Tory Troll

How is it a 'contortion' to point out the hypocrisy of, on the one hand, defending your own 'out of context' comments as not representing 'what is in my heart' and then going on to sack someone else for making 'out of context' comments that don't represent what is in their heart?

It must also be fairl 'depressing' for somebody who has spent the past year defending Boris against similar attacks of racism, to then not receive the same kind of defence in return.

You on the other hand Rob agree that the comments were not racist, but also believe that it was right for McGrath to have been sacked because 'it is a political reality that comments like this will be misinterpeted.' So basically the people who believe the comment was racist, are wrong, but Boris was right to sack him because those same people believe that they were right?! That's quite a contortion in itself.

Rob

If Boris hadn't got rid of him, I'm sorry to say say I simply don't believe for one second, Tory Troll, that you would have been here saying how brave it was for him to keep McGrath on in the face of those that would use the issue of racism as a political football.

I suspect the line might have been more like "A week after scrapping London's anti racism festival, Barnbrook's favourite Mayoral advisor keeps his job despite insulting London's black communuity".

Tory Troll

Well I can't really do much about what you believe and suspect, but if you actually look at what I have written on this and on the Rise festival you will see that I have not said anything about 'insulting London's black community.'

My problem with Rise was with the political decision and with the fact that Boris apparently had no part in that decision. I certainly did not go down the 'oh look Boris scrapped the anti-racist message that must mean he's racist' line.

In fact if you look at what I have written generally you will see that I have not been among the people who accuse Boris of racism and did not take this 'line of attack' as you put it, during the campaign. Some of the things Boriswrote in the past were offensive but he apologised for them and made it clear that he is not a racist and that his past writing should not preclude him from office. Fine. So why doesn't the same apply for McGrath?

Rob

"So why doesn't the same apply for McGrath?"

I suppose the answer is that in the job he was employed for ("political advisor"), it was his duty to be more aware of the political consequences of the words he was using. Boris clearly has work to do in order to make up for his previous ill-advised comments. By creating the opportunity for a "race row" as some see it, his political adviser helped undermine those efforts and it was enough of a blunder to warrant resigning.

The context of his job is important. If it has been the Mayor's advisor on transport, or the environment (when he get's one), it *may* have been a different story. But political judgement is surely central to a political advisor's role, and I think McGrath failed in that regard on this occasion.

angela

If someone screams at an Indian or Pakistani person just for nothing, go back to your own country, you don't belong here, that is racist and it is disgusting and should be picked up by anyone who overhears the nasty comments, who should then speak up in support of the people being abused.

However, if someone doesn't like the candidate you are endorsing and supporting and they say if he wins, I will just leave this country! it is natural to say,OK, do what you like, leave then and I don't think there is anything at all racist in that.

However, I do agree if Boris Johnson and DC had done nothing, it would have been hung round their necks in a horrible way. What is worse, some innocent Muslims, or Africans, or Caribbeans, might have only heard half of the story. They might just get the tail end of it that someone who worked for Boris had said go home, and been hurt by that. Because of that, David cameron and Boris Johnson had absolutely no alternative but to accept that James McGrath could no longer work for Boris, because everything he is working for to unite London and have us all respect each other would be placed in jeopardy. What Boris is trying to achieve is just too important to be placed at risk, and he had no choice whatsoever.

Maya

Troll, Boris took 8 months to say sorry for the piccaninnies comment and then, it was still a qualified apology (at an Evening Standard debate with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Michael Eboda - I am sure you are aware that Yasmin was racially abused, (told to go back to Uganda, is there a theme here???) at that meeting and Johnson failed to challenge any of it!). In fact Michael Eboda, if I recall correctly wrote a CiF piece about it. So please...

Rob, I am not confused, or have misinterpreted what was said. I, along with others who have heard all this before, know exactly what it means. When faced with a direct question, McGrath defaulted to the usual position. He could have said, Boris will be the Mayor for all Londoners regardless of race, nationality etc... No, he decided to make the oldest racist comment in the book.

This is certainly not about Boris or the Tories being sensitive on this issue at all. The point is, this kind of attitude is embedded in the Tory Party, as old as they are. This is the nasty party coming out.

What of Boris' threat of legal action against the Guardian? He then goes on about how McGrath is not a racist, justifying what his Deputy Chief of Staff said.

So in one week, he gets rid of anti-racism from Rise festival and one of his most senior staff is shown to have racist default position.

This is what I along tens of thousands of Black Londoners voted against and are now shown to have been totally right. De Pfeffel is not fit to be Mayor of London. Period.

scott pollard

As a school friend of James, I categorically deny that James is a racist and anyone who makes such an assertion is only making a fool of themselves. James is a deeply compassionate and thoughtful individual who has contributed immensely to the wellbeing of others.

Politically he and I are worlds apart, but his morality should never be questioned. It may be easy for some of you to sit in judgement, but think how you would react to the constant badgering of what passes for journalism in England.

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