Boris makes peace with London Irish before election day…

I heard a story recently about the current Mayor of London in some committee where he gave out about people not knowing their Catullus from their Horace (or some such combination of Latin poets/playwrights/philosphers). Apparently the assembled throng did not know where to put themselves.

The third London Mayoral elections are coming up and the boul’ Boris is only just holding his own in the polls against his old rival Ken Livingstone. That race is close, despite a clear and substantial lead for Labour in the Greater London Assembly elections.

Ken Livingston who is no longer the iconic manifestation for radical anger he once has had his bete noir (Andrew Gilligan) from the 2008 election on tail. Gilligan, who ran a wellcrafted muckracking campaign back in 2008 has been digging into Ken’s tax affairs.

Boris on the other hand is seeking to mend some broken bridges with the London Irish community for his intemperate (and inaccurate) remarks on what, was once (but is no more) a publicly funded ‘Mayor’s St Patrick’s Day Dinner’.

As Mark Hennessey notes:

In Downing Street earlier, British prime minister David Cameron had joked with Taoiseach Enda Kenny about Mr Johnson’s part in upcoming celebrations in London to mark St Patrick’s Day, which now run for most of the week.

“I am sure that there will be a good show put on in London this year. I can’t promise that Boris Johnson will dye his hair green, but, you never know, he might do, it’s election year,” Mr Cameron declared.

The Irish in London are much more socially mixed group than they were ten or fifteen years ago when Ken was in his heyday. But Johnson’s belated apology may be an indication that in this May’s contest, every single vote is going to count. Even if that means not rocking the boat with what was 3.1% of the UK capital’s population (according to the last Census).

  • sherdy

    Whatever about Boris’s green hair, hopefully the London Irish will not be so green as to be taken in by this ‘apology of convenience’.

  • Mick Fealty

    I doubt the Irish population are quite that corporate of mind these days.

  • Greenflag

    Red Ken – Gerry’s friend will get 90% of the Irish vote not because they are Labour party ‘loyalists’ but because he is not Boris ., I suspect many Londoners and not just the small Irish minority will have enjoyed Red Ken’s populist policy of ‘hanging a banker a week until they improve ‘ Given that nothing else seems to have worked perhaps there’s a Pierrepoint family member out there who can resurrect the family trade ? All Red Ken needs to win a landslide is to have a photo op with any surviving Pierrepoints and he’s home and dry .

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, except that Ken was an avid defender of the city in his two terms as Mayor… I do think that lag between the party rating and Ken’s notable… It either means Boris is more popular than outsiders think, or Ken’s brand has dipped…

  • Reader

    Greenflag: I suspect many Londoners and not just the small Irish minority will have enjoyed Red Ken’s populist policy of ‘hanging a banker a week until they improve ‘
    Doesn’t it take more than spouting a bit of a rant to make a ‘policy’? Instead, something like, say, the intention to put it into practice?
    So, what mayoral powers does Ken intend to use to achieve anything at all concerning the finance sector?

  • lover not a fighter

    Póg mo thóin Boris.

    Ta Boris an Tásal go hanna mór. (excuse my gaelic, its form my old school days.

    Boris’s plus and minus points is that he is a buffoon. Unfortunatly for him he is also a buffoon at every point in between.

    Except for his public school education he would be unemployable.

    The London Irish will aid his journey out of office,

    Slán Boris,

  • I’m surprised there any Irish left in Kilburn or Cricklewood, never mind the whole city. I was living there from ’79 thru to late nineties and last time I visited the area about three years ago,, all the old haunts had changed hands, [Biddy Mulligans, the National etc]. Johnson must be worried if he’s resorting to apologies now.

  • Greenflag

    The colourful Boris has now taken to speaking in tongues in this case the Latin in an attempt to assuage London Hibernians . In his best bog – sorry Old Etonian Latin – Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has apologised by uttering those oft repeated words spoken by Tory politicians except in this case with a little twist ‘Mayoral culpa -Mayoral maxima culpa ‘

    Whats with the de Pfeffel ? Sounds frightfully German old boy 🙂

    Not to worry Boris like many of these neo conservative nutters will have a future as a comedian

    Ego te absolvo Boris but yer Cockney townsmen may not and the London Hibernians won’t .

  • Greenflag

    Should Boris lose theres a place of refuge for him deep in the Irish countryside where rumour has it the locals will change the name of the village from Borris in Ossory to Boris in the Crapper in an innovative marketing ploy to attract more tourists who have sadly declined in number since the village was by passed by the M7in 2010 .

    They may even offer him the keys of the local crapper and elect him local honorary mayor as a reward for his atonement and his exuberant ways 😉

  • I wasn’t aware how close a finger Mr Fealty had on the collective pulse of political London. Here am I, mere London resident and voter, lacking such Olympian insights.

    I thought the Evening Standard opinion polls were more of a marketing exercise than a serious measurement. I reckoned Gilligan (who concocted all those shock-and-awe assertions last time round, all proven wind-and-water) was a busted flush. And so on, and so forth. Just don’t ask for the Boris Johnson tax-statement. Or a full accounting of his City slicker and hedgefund financiers.

    No Irish in NW2 and NW6 any more? Don’t believe it. But have you looked at property prices in Kilburn and Cricklewood lately? Even if such places no longer exist in estate agent speak: “West Hampstead borders”, anyone? If you had a choice pad in that locality, you’ve probably got the ready for a couple of rustic town-lands in the none-too-wild West.

    Now consider the psephology. In ’08 Labour was lagging badly. Inner London didn’t turn out. LibDems, using SWP sloganeering on the Iraq business, polled very well (as now, they arguably had the best candidate — here again ignored, with no Paddick bells for those who die as cattle). The transfers didn’t fall Labour’s way. And it was still a close run thing.

    So it’s (as Mr Fealty implies) merely a beauty contest, and it all down to the swimsuit round?

    In ’12 all of those considerations may swing in Labour’s favour. Along with the transport fares (the Boris bus is a rare item — last seen as a film prop, and apparently fully booked for more of the same, Bollywood style). Along with the growing doubts about the Olympics (why have the Dubai royals bought up all those social-housing apartments?). Along with one hundred and one grievances that a decent journo (obviously Gilligan) could be publicising.

    Now let’s have a shufty at who’s on the Telegraph payroll … Johnson, Boris; Gilligan, Andrew; and … any other name we might recognise, Mr Fealty?

  • AnAverageGael

    I suspect the “London Hibernians” will forgive Big Boris, I don’t however, see the apology warranting a vote in his direction. It’s good to accept apologies, but when it’s clearly for his greater good and nothing else, then he might have to deploy another tactic.
    The guy should become a comedian, I find him absolutely hilarious which is probably wrong as he usually isn’t telling a joke when I’m laughing ‘at’ him.

    Best of luck Boris, and remember; there’s always the local jobs and benefits office.

  • Mick Fealty

    In 2008 Ken was up against a 21% lag in the polls for Labour v the Tories… against which he made considerable (but not enough) headway… now the dynamic appears to be working in the opposite direction…

    This time Ken’s lagging behind Labour sentiment… My guess is that is partly incumbency at play… Zoe Williams slightly desperate line at the death last time, “We know what London is. Boris is not London.” hit the wall and cannot be used the way it was last time..

    Ken’s been prepping for this almost since day one in May 2008 (I’m on his newsletter list)… But I’m old enough to remember his heyday, the banner slung across county hall shaming Thatcher run Westminster across the river with the rising unemployment figures… the generous funding by ILEA of inner city schools and the miner’s benefit concerts of 84/5…

    But the new Labour generation is represented by the likes of Stella Creasey in Walthamstow who’ve built their power base on local activism… And I am not sure Ken constellates well for that coming generation of Labour politicians…

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not standing upon some athenian height predicting a win for Boris… the fact of an apology he previously said he would not give to the benefit of such a small sliver of the Greater London electorate indicates it’s going to be tight…

    Yet if things were lining up with party fortunes, Ken would be walking home at a canter… Surely even a dyed in the wool party loyalist like yourself can admit that much?

  • Malcolm redfellow. ‘West Hampstead borders?’ Swiss Cottage and Golders Green could count as that. I see the Spotted Dog in Willesden is gone as well. Is nothing sacred?

  • BluesJazz

    Kilburn/Norf London I remember as sort of a pseudo Irish colony but not now. It’s muslim. And the last few Irish bars- 15 years ago- were struggling. Tooting, which had a sizeable Irish community has passed to the mullahs.
    The Irish (middle class) intregated into London (middle class) and are now off the horizon, Those that dindn’t make it, many, are well……

  • separatesix

    Why can’t they just be Londoners, other nationalities integrate into the society. Why do the Irish have to separate themselves off, hankering after the “old country” i.e Australia or London hanging around Irish theme pub’s. Boris didn’t mean to cause offence.

  • Note the huge roadside poster along the Norf Sirkala, by Brent Cross. Very much like the running banner Slugger and others are paid to carry.

    The Boris-types went negative and ad hominem from the start. Not surprising: what have they got positive? Buses @ £1.5 million and bikes @ £12K apiece?

  • Mick,

    Why not just come out with it and say you and your London Tory mates support Boris.

    Johnson in his statement is not making peace with London’s Irish, he is trying to hoodwink them, we both understand that, so less of such crap. He is a class prejudiced toff who masquerades as a good old boy, but not being anything of the sort, he often trips over his own feet and then he comes out with insincere tosh like this insulting mockney apology, which you describe as making peace with the Irish.

    Was Liverpool so long ago?

  • I live in Kilburn at the minute – while the Irish population is certainly nothing like it was, you’ll not have to walk up and down the High Road long before hearing a Paddy accent.

    For the current wave of Irish coming to London, Clapham seems to be the spot.

    The Irish Post was pretty damning of Boris last week, can’t see too many being taken in by his half hearted, very late apology.

    In addition, once again, he’s also not attending the Paddy’s Day celebrations this year.

  • Jimmy Sands

    It’s only anecdotal, but one of Ken’s problems is a large swathe of the party is just fed up with him now and will sit on their hands as far as the top of the ticket is concerned. I’m not in the least surprised he lags behind the party. He should have taken the hint after being turfed out last time. Oona would have beaten Boris. Ken won’t.

  • Mick Fealty


    Did you even read the opener? Some electoral pitch.

    I’m arguing that he’s trying to put out a fire in a contest in which every single vote is going to count!

  • Mick

    A neat way to sidestep my point, but are you really saying readers would have realised from your header that in this contest every single vote is going to count! (By the way I thought that was taken as read, it certainly is in the Livingstone camp)


    Ona is a lightweight, I doubt she would even have been able to get the Labour vote out in core inner London constituencies.

    The problem with left wing politicians like Ken is they almost never groom a viable successor, and overstay their welcome. Having said that if I have to choose between Johnson or Ken, it is Ken all the way. After the coalition I doubt many voters will even poke the Lib dem with a very long stick.

    Ken has a proven track record and was a successful mayor, Boris is offering what? More of the same and for most Londoners it has been pretty thin gruel.

    His proposal for an airport in the Thames estuary is an outrage, a regurgitation from another age, one which I doubt, and hope will never be built. With the high speed train link to Birmingham, any new airport should be in the midlands as it would help lift the economies of the north, etc and shift the balance away from the south east.

  • Mick Fealty


    I realise you have a campaign to fight, but after all these years on Slugger can you not make the even slightest effort to distinguish between ball and man? What’s wrong, misleading or partisan about the analysis above?

    As it happens, I was working at the Daily Telegraph office on polling day in 2008. I was also working for the Guardian at that time (they wanted something on NI) so I had peculiarly unique view of the atmosphere in two different news rooms on the same day. Unsurprisingly one was euphoric and the other down in their boots.

    Boris went out to wreck Ken that year. Ken for his part mistakenly took Boris for an idiot. He did have some pretty poisonous crap coming from the Evening Standard. But now he’s fighting Boris’s incumbency and the fact that Ken still feels like he’s been around since year dot.

    Issues should be youth crime (aka knifes, remember that?), transport, housing and the growing black hole in the wake of the collapse in confidence in the financial sector.

    So far, zip, nada, etc…

  • The Irish in London, I dare say, will take Boris’s apology and his gaffe with a shrug and pinch of salt. Meanwhile, David Cameron’s joke is likely to do the rounds.

  • Jimmy Sands


    Not sure why you think Oona is a lightweight. Certainly not next to Johnson. You analysis is flawed in two fundamental respects: it implies a core vote strategy which failed in 2008, the election was won and lost in the outer boroughs. It also ignores the fact that Ken’s alienation of many London activists pots a huge dent in his ability to mount an effective GOTV strategy. You can’t simply ignore the fact that he now polls well behind the party and is unarguably a serious drag on the ticket. His time is past.

  • Mick Fealty @ 1:31 pm:

    Two months out, and the zip, nada, etc… (even qualified by the So far) seems a trifle prejudged.

    However, let’s look further.

    What’s this?

    Ken Livingstone’s campaign pledges directly address the rising cost of living which is squeezing millions of Londoners. Ken has pledged to:
    · Cut the fares by 7 per cent this year – saving the average Londoner £1,000 over four years
    · Reverse Boris Johnson’s police cuts, restore local sergeants
    · Help reduce rents, improve homes with a London non-profit lettings agency
    · Tackle heating bills – through insulation and an energy co-op to reduce prices and help households save over £150 a year
    · London EMA of up to £30 a week to help young people stay in education
    · Support for childcare with grants and interest-free loans – and campaign against Tory cuts to childcare tax credits

    I reckon that addresses the Fealty agenda quite neatly:

    ¶ Crime is crime, on which see pledge #2 above. Why be age specific? Dave Hill did a piece specific to knife crime (last 13 October), noting how BoJo was glossing the stats. Worth looking up. Anyway, thanks to last August, Londoners are acutely aware of street violence. If nothing else, Mick, you can be sure the BNP will happily be hammering this topic for you. If not, there’s always those crime maps to show that in my Borough residential burglary is up 8.8%, car crime up 18.8% year-on-year — and those are the numbers that’ll get to the bourgeoisie of the leafy suburbs.

    ¶ Nothing, zip, nada, etc…, from Livingstone on transport? Phew! where have you been this while? But there’s always pledge #1 above, localised and amplified ad nauseam elsewhere. Unkind souls speculate this is one reason why £1.5 million buses are otherwise engaged. When most routes are seeing cut-backs in frequency, as well as hiked fares, the two Boris Bogglers aren’t necessarily proving a great selling point (especially since they seem to have problems getting round the Route 38 corners in Hackney).

    ¶ Housing? See pledge #3 above. And expect to hear a great deal more, especially as the IDS benefit cuts strike … err … home. So factor in pledges #4 to #6 inclusive. But Gilligan blithely reckons:

    According to the Government, 17,000 families might have to move because of the housing benefit changes. If that can be decried in such over-the-top terms [as critics, including BoJo, have used], what language does it leave for something really serious?

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: However, let’s look further.
    Yes, let’s. Every one of those proposals seems likely to cost money. How much more revenue will Ken need, and where will Ken get the money from?

  • My other favourite glove-puppet, Reader, makes a statutory appearance at 4:00 pm. Good afternoon to you, Squire!

    The simple response is “Where do you think?”. A more specific answer might address —

    ¶ redistributing priorities — e.g. fewer vanity projects, such as £12,000 bicycles (and we still don’t know what Barclays subscribed to get their trade-mark colour on every one, and on those cycle-lanes), £1,500,000 buses, £62.6 million on a cable car to nowhere (which duplicates the Jubilee Line, anyway, but much s-l-o-w-e-r, and paid for out of the trains budget) … get the drift?

    ¶ the usual — taxes and charges. What that amounts to is that the outer boroughs pay their share.

    ¶ not promising (as BoJo has) to save Londoners £1,500,000,000 over four years. Perhaps there’s a good question to pose.

  • ayeYerMa

    Although I note that the guests of honour at the 2008 St Patrick’s Day dinner were Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty,

  • ayeYerMa

    Given that Boris has now clarified by shining the light on the fact that ” t the guests of honour at the 2008 St Patrick’s Day dinner were Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty” I think it is rather evident that he had a point.

  • Jimmy,

    One of the reasons I regard Oona King as lightweight is she believed she could become Baroness King of Bow and combine that with being a democratically elected politician, can you imagine what Boris and his pals at the Standard would have made of that if she had been the candidate. She also supported the Iraq war which for many voters in London is regarded as unforgivable.

    Myself I feel the mayor should be restricted to two terms and then that’s it, Prime Ministers too, but we are where we are.

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: ¶ the usual — taxes and charges. What that amounts to is that the outer boroughs pay their share.
    Increasing the Council Tax – always a good one for influencing the voters.
    Malcolm Redfellow: ¶ not promising (as BoJo has) to save Londoners £1,500,000,000 over four years. Perhaps there’s a good question to pose.
    Are you complaining that Boris failed to deliver? Money that Boris failed to save is not available for Ken to spend.
    Or, if Boris did save Londoners’ money, then you are just double counting your promised Council Tax rises. By definition, money saved for Londoners is already reducing taxes and charges.

  • Mick Fealty

    Malcolm, calm down, calm down.. It was a reference to a lack of public debate… BoJo used knife crime to work up the outer ring in 2008 and then did next to bugger all…

    Now, tell me again why Kens London’s ratings are lagging Labours?

  • Mick Fealty @ 6:33pm:

    Because the Evening Standard asserts they are?

    How shall I edit thee, let me count the ways … Veronica Wadley, Geordie Greig, Sarah Sands (note the open-mindedness of her column on 7th March).

    Point taken?

  • Mick Fealty
  • Mick Fealty @ 7:05 pm:

    Actually, the blessed Dave refers back to , and argues from the Evening Standard poll.

    Shall we move on?

  • Jimmy Sands

    imagine what Boris and his pals at the Standard would have made of that if she had been the candidate.

    Well it would certainly be a blow were Labour to lose the support of the Standard.

    I’m not convinced that Iraq is going to be quite the hot button issue that you seem to think. If you know anyone likely to switch to Boris over it I’d be genuinely surprised.

    btw she only got the peerage last year.

  • Mick Fealty

    Wow, hold on kimosabe…

    The Evening Standard was the last war. Lebedev bought it off Associated Newspaper more than three years ago. Friend Gilligan (having won journalist of the year for his work on the London Development Agency) left five months later to join the Buckingham Palace Road mob.

    Three things about the Standard: it no longer has the means to conduct its own investigative journalism; the current editorship has if anything ignored the contest; and it has shown little interest in the outcome.

    And finally, YouGov did the poll. You have problem with that?

  • Obviously, Mr Fealty gets a different Evening Standard to the ones thrust at me at Victoria and Leicester Square.

    Note that, in his parallel universe, “the current editorship has if anything ignored the contest”. Gossip (well, Paul Staines … and we’ve all got his number) has it that Sarah Sands has active support for her editorship from the Johnson menage. She certainly is cited eight times in Sonia Purnell’s hagiography of BoJo. Last week we had a toe-curling celeb soft-soap interview with BoJo yet again puffing his manly chest towards the LT workers. This week there’s the front-page lead that the City frowns on Livingston’s fare-cutting agenda — which amounted to Moody’s nattering on about credit rating. Tony Travers predictably “on side”. The story was suitably sliced and diced by Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy.

    Then there’s Peter Dominiczak writing the City Hall … say no more. Doubtless he was recruited from the Yorkshire Post because of that organ’s notorious lefty propensities.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that BoJo will personally ensure kids’ reading skills fit the ES agenda. Nice!

    As for the mid-February YouGov poll, even a week is, famously, a long time in politics. When one considers the raw data (accessible through ukpollingreport) the degree of synthesis becomes obvious. Even so, as Andrew Wells notices, the swing to Labour in London is a smigeon greater than nationwide.

  • Mick Fealty

    I saw the industrial scale crap they spun at Ken in 2008. There is just no comparison. But you are missing the point (again).

    The Standard is the commissioning paper, but there’s no question that YouGov is a reputable polling company.

    My analysis (since you seem to be ignoring it) was that Boris’s incumbency (and popularity) is primarily what’s holding his ratings up.

    I am not sure if a younger model would have dug into what is a swim suit parade. But it is legitimate to point out that Labour is doing better than on its own than with Ken.

    That problem cannot be sorted easily since candidate recognition and a gap in the successor generation means putting someone else in to take his place may not be seen as practical.

    I would not even go as far as to suggest there is an opportunity cost, since both the Tories and Labour looked to the House of Commons for high profile candidates in 2000 and 2008.

  • “… both the Tories and Labour looked to the House of Commons for high profile candidates in 2000 and 2008.”

    That’s a slight gloss. The Labour candidate didn’t make it to the run-off, and was so far low-profile I’d guess most folks outside Holborn & St Pancras politics couldn’t now put a surname to Frank. Steve Norris was out-of-the-House for the 1997 Parliament (gone to make a small fortune in construction and transport): he got the draft because Archer was hors-de-combat. Livingston had a walk-over, in no small part because he wasn’t the Blair nominee.

    The obvious Labour successor, as of today and if you insist on the short-list being MPs, ought to be David Lammy (who, allegedly, is champing at the bit) or Sadiq Khan

  • Mick Fealty

    Lammy would be good. He would liven up the inner city base and be able to pivot to the outer ring.

  • Mick Fealty

    I take the correction on 2000 btw…

  • Jimmy Sands

    Lammy seems nice enough but that Mastermind video is something he’ll be beaten over the head with every day if he runs. Khan would be interesting but if he were to jack in his current role it would inevitably be seen as an admission that Labour won’t be back in office any time soon..

  • Gilligan gets a by-line in the Speccie:

    Until recently, the Groundhog rematch between Johnson and his defeated 2008 opponent, Ken Livingstone, looked like ending in an equally Groundhog result. But since the New Year, Boris’s big lead has vanished: with eight weeks to go, all the polls so far in 2012 have put the two essentially neck-and-neck. Low murmurs have started, including in No. 10, that Boris’s campaign is ‘underwhelming’, that it lacks a simple ‘retail offer’ for voters, that people don’t know what Johnson has achieved in the job.


    I don’t know if the insider view of No. 10 runs true, but that has some resonance with me.

    What is very telling is how BoJo’s campaign avoids any use of the “C” word. Time and again, BoJo manages to differentiate himself from the ConDems, and indeed from most things Tory. Even those negative ads and banners are a strange ox-blood — almost in homage to the purple adopted by Livingstone-the-independent-candidate of 2000.

    Odd. Very.

    Note, too, that for all his sins, BoJo had the nous to make his “handbrake turn” [copyright Dave Hill] and seems these last few months to have kept a shrewd distance from the whole Rupert-and-Rebekah mess. Which must be a further irritant to the Cameroonies.

  • Jimmy Sands @ 8:28 pm:

    Ex-choirboy Lammy had a good, bourgeois-friendly August riots season.

    As you say, Sadiq Khan has other fish to fry.

    I know he has little public recognition, but Barry Gardiner (Glaswgian and Brent North MP) comes generally well-recommended.

  • Footnote to the above (anent the new “apolitical” London Evening Standard):

    New post on Guy Fawkes’ blog

    Sarah Sands is the New Standard Editor
    by Neo-Guido
    Sources over in Kensington say that it will be announced tomorrow that the current acting editor of the Evening Standard Sarah Sands has got the job full time. Apparently she was on the verge of walking having been told that she was out of the race a matter of weeks ago, but a heavy lobbying operation by Boris swung it for her. Поздравляю!

    UPDATE: Guido understands that Sands had formally resigned and accepted the offer to go as Deputy to the Mail on Sunday with Geordie Greig, before things turned around.

    If Harry Cole (the erstwhile “Tory Bear” says so, it must be the case. Possibly. Perhaps. Maybe. Usually. Sometimes. Well … you know.

    And just in time for four weeks or so of the “Evening Boris”.