“The Scotch – what a vermin breed! “; “It is time for Hadrian’s Wall to be re-fortified, to lock them up in a ghetto on the other side”; “The nation deserves not only isolation, but complete extermination.”
These are just a few of the lines from a poem published in The Spectator in 2004 that circulated the web over the past week – but what was Boris Johnson’s role in relation to them?
Some of those who shared the quotes online have labeled them as straight from the pen of the leader of the Conservative leadership… which is not entirely true. But he certainly approved of them.
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The quotes come from a “satirical” poem by James Michie, titled “Friendly Fire”.
It was published in The Spectator magazine in 2004 – and Johnson was the publication’s editor at the time.
The full poem says:
The Scotch – what a verminous breed!
Canny, arrogant, chippy, they are everywhere, showering us with false bonhomie, polluting our stock, undermining our economy.
Down with sand-colored hair and knotty knees!
Eliminate Tartan Dwarves and Wee Frees!
Ban the kilt, the skean-dhu and the sporran
As a provocateur, offensively a stranger!
It’s time for Hadrian’s Wall to be re-fortified
Lock them up in a ghetto on the other side.
I would go further. The nation
Not only deserves isolation
But total extermination.
We must not shrink from a solution.
(I’m awaiting legal action.)
The poem is not available on The Spectator’s website.
It wasn’t the only article published under Johnson’s editorship that sparked controversy that year.
Also in 2004, a column of The Spectator with an unspecified author – rumored not to be Johnson, but under his direction – attacked Liverpudlians.
He was critical of Liverpool’s so-called “victim status”, following criticism in the city of Tony Blair after the terrorist murder of Ken Bigley in Iraq. He also cites the Hillsborough tragedy and claims “drunken fans” could be the cause – echoing The Sun’s debunked claim for which he has since been forced to apologize.
The article read: “The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley’s murder is fueled by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a beautiful city with a tribal sense of community. A combination of economic woe – its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union – and an excessive predilection for welfarism created a peculiar and deeply unattractive psyche among many Liverpudlians.
“They see themselves as victims as much as possible and don’t appreciate their victimhood, but at the same time they indulge in it. Part of this flawed psychological state is that they can’t accept that they could have been. contributing to their unhappiness, but instead seek to blame someone else for it, thus deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society.
“The death of more than 50 Liverpool football fans at Hillsborough in 1989 was undoubtedly a greater tragedy than the death, horrific as it is, of Mr Bigley alone; but this is no excuse for Liverpool to has failed to recognize, even to this day, the role played in the disaster by drunken fans in the back of the crowd who thoughtlessly tried to force their way into the ground this Saturday afternoon. to allude to the broader causes of the incident.
Asked later about the article, Johnson said, “I think the article was phrased too sharply, but we were trying to assert the sentimentality. It’s a kick in the pants for me.”