Boris Johnson wrote in an old Guardian column from February 2000 that seeing “a bunch of black kids” as he was, say, jogging late at night in a park, set off alarms in his head, the Daily Mirror has unearthed.
"When I shamble round the park in my running gear late at night, and I come across that bunch of black kids, shrieking in the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to pretend that I don't turn a hair", Johnson, who was briefly the editor of The Spectator in 2000, before running in the 2001 parliamentary vote, wrote.
"Somehow or other a little beeper goes off in my brain. I'm not sure what triggers it... but I put on a pathetic turn of speed", he went on admitting though that “maybe” he would also dash if it was a "gang of white kids" but said: "I'm not sure. I cannot rule out that I have suffered from a tiny fit of prejudice".
"I have prejudged this group on the basis of press reports, possibly in right-wing newspapers, about the greater likelihood of being mugged by young black males than by any other group. And if that is racial prejudice, then I am guilty", he said.
It the article, the prime minister took a swipe at the then continuing anti-racism reforms that the government had come up with in response to the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
He contended at the time that Britain should “axe large chunks of the anti-racism industry", in an apparent reference to the so-called Macpherson inquiry and legislation that stipulated zero tolerance vis-à-vis racism including in the police, judiciary, NHS, etc.
"I am guilty none the less. Not of racism, I hope, but of spasms of incorrectitude, soon over, soon regretted", Johnson stressed.
The unearthed column struck a nerve with his political adversaries, with Labour candidate David Lammy, an anti-racist campaigner remarking:
"Stephen Lawrence’s horrific murder and the institutional racism evidenced by the Macpherson report showed beyond doubt the desperate need for anti-racism reforms".
He claimed the fact Johnson “used his well-paid, privileged platform to oppose those reforms and to normalise prejudice shows beyond doubt that he is unfit to be our prime minister".
“Has he come out to say in public that all this is wrong and misguided?” one netizen queried, with another noting cheekily: “When anyone sees Boris, they run".
Has he come out to say in public that all this is wrong and misguided?— Kimmo Karjalainen (@GirlySwotKimi) November 21, 2019
And please, stop trying to shift the subject. It’s unbecoming.
…whereas another suggested this will secure “more votes for him in white, Brexit, working class England".
that will get him more votes in white, brexit, working class england...— Mark (@Stand_Free1980) November 21, 2019
“Ah the old “I’m not racist....but....” defence", one lamented, whereas a second seems to be not in the least impressed:
Is anyone surprised by this?— SHY 1 (@SHY145184138) November 21, 2019
No I didnt think so
Many, meanwhile, openly knocked the prime minister for his "biased" stance:
We are about to hand over the country to the Worst Person Ever™. https://t.co/J6d60J9zM0— Leonardo Carella (@leonardocarella) November 22, 2019
"Am I guilty of racial prejudice? We all are" claimed Johnson in a Guardian article. No, Mr Johnson. You are a racist, that doesn't make everyone a racist. Most people are decent human beings, unlike yourself. #GTTO #racistboris— Northowram and Shelf Branch Labour Party (@NandSLabour) November 22, 2019
Racists across the water, racists across the sea.— boingboingbbeep (@boingboingbbeep) November 22, 2019
The article, which Downing Street hasn’t yet commented on, is just one of a series of past columns and comments undug from the prime minister's opinionated back-catalogue.
Earlier this year Johnson refused to apologise for other articles he has written referring to black people as "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles" and calling gay people "bumboys". He insisted that his comments were "wholly satirical".