Apologetic in Liverpool

I’m sorry I caused offence to Liverpool

I can’t remember what words Paul Bigley used to describe me yesterday afternoon, on the line to a BBC studio, but I think he said I was “a self-centred, pompous twit”. He wanted to say how much he disliked my appearance, my voice, my mannerisms, and how much he wished I would just disappear.

No matter how big your ego, there is something crushing in being so addressed, not just because I have never met Paul Bigley, but also because he has just suffered an appalling bereavement, and is the object of national sympathy.

How do you feel? they all asked, when I left the studio. Do you feel bad? asked the girls and lads with the cameras and the notebooks.

The answer was that I felt winded, drained by a sudden proximity to personal suffering and grief. I felt like Police Chief Brodie in Jaws, slapped round the face by the mother of the little kid killed by the shark.

There was nothing I could really say, except to repeat what we said in last week’s leader in The Spectator: that we had extended our maximum sympathy to him and his family.

Just as I was recovering from this encounter, I found myself sitting next to a survivor of the Hillsborough tragedy, and it may not surprise you to know that he took much the same view of me as Paul Bigley had, and that this was also pretty shattering.

You have good days, and less good days, and yesterday was one of the less good days. There are those who say that I should not have gone, and that it was unnecessary for The Spectator to apologise for the tiniest fraction of its leading article. We should have stuck to our guns, people tell me, and to hell with Liverpool and to hell with the Tory leadership.

Well, I am not so sure. It is true that there were plenty of people who were warm, and welcoming, and kind. There was the man in the park who was out for his morning run, wearing a tracksuit, who hailed me with the words: “Oi Boris, never mind the bollocks, a lot of what you said was true.” There was the Scouser at the airport who said, as he frisked me, that he agreed with every word of it.

But, in between, there were dozens and dozens of people who showed every sign of genuine hurt and incomprehension. Why did we make these cruel generalisations about welfare-addicted Liverpudlians? Why had we felt it necessary to drag in the Bigley family’s tragedy? Above all, why had we got our facts wrong about Hillsborough?

Of course, if I were simply an editor, and not an MP as well, I would have brushed it all off with a few phrases, nicely done up in an all-purpose letter of semi-apology, and asked my secretary to pp the letters. I would have remained behind the wonderful garden wall of journalism, able to chuck my rocks with no thought for the tinkling of the greenhouse.

But having been to Liverpool, and having been eyeball to glistering eyeball with those who felt they deserved an apology, I am glad I went, and I think at least some of them are a bit glad that I went, too.

I was able to say sorry for causing offence, and sorry for any hurt done to the Bigley family, and sorry for having reopened old wounds over Hillsborough, and that, in so far as we inaccurately represented the characteristics of the Liverpudlians, by resorting to some tired old stereotypes, I was sorry for that, too.

But, as I said on the radio, as I said on the street to a bunch of trainee nurses, as I said to everyone I met, this was only a partial and qualified apology. Michael Howard had called The Spectator’s leading article, “Nonsense from beginning to end.”

Well, I know of no doctrine that means members of the shadow front bench have to see eye to eye about every article that appears in the press, and in my view Michael is wrong on that. My view of our piece is that it spoke a lot of good sense, vitiated by tastelessness and inaccuracy.

There are some who say that it was outrageous that Johnson the editor should have been ordered to eat humble pie by Michael Howard. But they miss the point, that I was already consuming large quantities of humble pie before Michael made his suggestion, that any editor would have felt obliged to make some amends for that article – in view of the outrage that was provoked – and that, in any event, Johnson the politician apologises for and refuses to apologise for exactly the same things as Johnson the editor.

The leader was about the cult of sentimentality in modern Britain, which is allied to the cult of victimhood, and I wanted a leader on it not because I wanted to insult the people of Liverpool, but because I believe that we have a serious problem, in that we tend these days at every opportunity to blame the state, and to seek redress from the state, when things go wrong in our lives.

Yes, it was tasteless to make this point in the context of Ken Bigley’s death, and I am sorry for the hurt this has caused his family. But when the late hostage’s family said that Tony Blair had Ken Bigley’s “blood on his hands”, that was nonsense. Only those who killed Ken Bigley had his blood on their hands, and it should not be taboo to say so.

It is important to make this point about our tendency to blame the state, because we live in an increasingly atomised society, where the state does more and more, and emotions and affections that might once have been directed at family or neighbours are diverted into outbursts of sentimentality.

We are so ready to see ourselves as victims that we live in an increasingly hysterical health-and-safety compensation culture in which lawyers try to find someone else – usually the state – to blame for the misfortunes of their clients. That was the gist of the leader, and for that I make no apology.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator

***Later today/tomorrow updates on CONSTITUENCY NEWS ITEMS***

145 thoughts on “Apologetic in Liverpool”

  1. Well said, Boris. You came the the day tremendously, and Paul Bigley’s comments did more long term damage to himself than to you.

  2. Although I disagree with your party’s policies, I think it is important that people like you do remain in politics. Paul Bigley was partly right about you, but wrong to say you should leave public life.

    There is room for professional politicians in a democracy but among them there should be a good mix of people with outside interests.

  3. Yes, well written Boris. You have apologised for the offense, if people do not accept your apology then that is them who have the issue. I think that what Paul Bigley is saying is coming from his grief, and everyone will understand that. I’m sure that your apology was appreciated by a lot of the people who were offended, after all, isnt an apology what we do in a civilised society?
    Hopefully thats the end of this as a story…

  4. Well done for taking it on the chin yesterday. Whether people agree with the Spectator article or not I they people will appreciate that you were big enough to apologise. I can understand the upset of the Bigley family, but some of the criticsms directed at you were rather personal and irrelevant to the issue in hand. Politics needs more people like you (and I don’t mean tories!).

  5. Nice one Boris.

    It was great to see you standing up for what you believe in. Your a brave man to go and face the people of Liverpool but correct to stand by the part of your article that you believed in.
    I think Mr Howard scored a bit of an own goal in making you apologise. What happened to free speech?

    It just goes to show again that you are the ONLY reason its worth having a Tory Party!

    “Give that man a coconut!”

  6. You are a legend Sir… My friends across the political spectrum all agree you are the future of the Conservative party and hopefully PM one day. Firstly for your realistic view to politics and secondly for your strong record in everything you have done from President of Oxford Union to Journalism. Keep doing what you?re doing Boris… I know at my local Conservative club we all raised a beer for you!

  7. Boris, you said what neede to be said. As a country we are far too mawkish, Liverpool is only one example.There was a time when this country looked at the wider picture but no longer.Is not the death of a thousand people more important than the death of one man, does it not deserve one thousand times our consideration.

  8. Boris. I am thoroughly dissillusioned by the insipidity that is creeping into all aspects of daily life.

    Yesterday I watched and heard someone buck this trend. You strengthened your position through reasonable accomodation and you did not compromise your point. This is a commendable trait which is infrequently found in politicians these days.

  9. Not being particularly politically motivated, I find the presence of Boris, in both the media and political circles, a colourful addition in an otherwise forest of grey suits. Boris’ uncompromising and what seems sincere approach gives you the feeling that Boris is a genuine person, no need for spin doctors or speech writers here.

    I loved the comment about feeling like a squeeze lemon and I can?t wait for ?Have I got news for you? to get hold of this. I?m sure Boris will get a guest appearance when they do!

  10. Well done Boris, you handled the unhandleable magnificently. I must say that the most confused people there seemend to be the journalists! It made Michael H look more than a little silly. Another feather in your cap showing that you can weather a storm and stand by your words.

  11. Boris.

    You are 100% right in saying we are becoming over sentimentalised.Sadly,it is al very shallow.Every time there is an”event”,the community is linked “in grief”,a great fuss is made by the media,and then 5 minutes later all is forgoten.

    If you disagree or point out that the expresions used in the press are over the top,you are castigated for being heartless.It is political correctness gone mad!.

    Were I do disagree,was the use of generalisation.Any good historian(or journalist??) should know that it is a NO,NO.

  12. That’s pretty much spot on. Vaguely reminiscent of another MP’s not quite apology for deciding to go ahead with something that pissed a lot of people off without having checked all the facts, but somehow a lot more convincing…

  13. That footage was painful on both sides, but you handled it pretty much as well as anybody could’ve done.

    I know nothing has happened to the writer in question, but that’s probably a really terrible punishment in itself. If my boss went through what you’ve done because of my writing, I would want to curl up and die.

    Hopefully people around the country can put this ‘scandal’ to bed now and get on to talking about something else.

    And for the record, no, you should *not* disappear, no matter what Mr Bigley says.

  14. In all the hullaboo I’ve heard nothing about Mark Steyn. Of course he wrote a similar article for The Telegraph which they declined a few days before the editorial appeared in The Spectator. Did Boris read it? Talk to Steyn about it? Did Steyn contribute in any way to the editorial? Even write it?

    Is Boris taking heat for Steyn’s insensitivity? Is Boris under the Steyn’s spell?

  15. Outragious….

    The Spectator’s leader? no, Paul Bigley’s character assasination yesterday, all it did was to reinforce the very point that the leader was making, much as I feel horrified at the atrocity of Ken Bigley’s murder, the whole media circus that the event became can only have made the whole situation in Iraq much, much worse for people now working out there.

    As for Granada tv’s surprise guest on Granada Reports yesterday evening, an utterly despicable and cheap stunt that further hardened my views on the whole issue.

    ps I’m not a particular fan of Mr Johnson, but feel he and the Spectator have been so disproportionately villified over the whole affair that I had to comment, as many many others have on the BBC’s have your say website (including several from Liverpool itself), with the vast majority being in total agreement with both Mr Johnson and the Spectator.


  16. Well Done Mr Johnson. My only worry is that the PC brigade has advanced too far. Is this whole ghastly affair an indication that it is too late now for public figures to be able to openly express a line of reasoning steeped in common sense? Unless there was some sort of connivance between Mr Howard and Mr Johnson over this trip to Liverpool leading to some ulterior motive, I think the “Liverpool Affair” has only damaged the Conservative leadership – and who could possibly take the place of Mr H ? Hmmmm…….

  17. Such uncharacteristic humility, sincerity and empathy from a politician! Boris handled a difficult situation with admirable aplomb; I can’t picture many doing such a dignified job with their integrity intact.

    Give the man a coconut indeed! And of course one for the lovely Melissa.

  18. Well done for yesterday. Think that you took it on the chin ( although I don’t think that you should have had to apologise – what about free speech?)Was appalled that Granada Reports brought out a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster to confront you. That was a cheap, insensitive publicity stunt and they should be the ones ashamed.

  19. I have a great respect for your trip to face the music in liverpool. However i believe that it was not necessary and i find it insulting that you were made to feel morally oblige to apologise. The Bigley family have all our sympathy but why should we greive for them. This is crazy. Recently a close relative of mine died and no one paid the slightest bit of attention. Quite right, grief is a personal not a national emotion. I thought the Consevatives stood against the frenzied waves of political correctness which follow such events, and your own leader appears to have forced you to literally confront a grieving family on live radio. This in my mind is worrying, the Bigley family expects the media to be their allie and their medium for communication, but are angered when the media questions not their grief but tha of an entire city. We live in a strange world.

  20. I’ve just listened to Paul Bigley’s radio comments, and I was surprised by how senseless his comments were. He didn’t say why he thought the editorial was offensive, or to take issue with the potentially offensive points to him:

    1) Ken Bigley knowingly took a risk
    2) To say the PM had ‘blood on his hands’ was incorrect.

    Perhaps he didn’t argue these because they are manifestly true.

    Instead he used the media attention to deliver some random insults, including of all things Boris’s appearance and voice.

    His anger and grief are difficult to imagine, but that doesn’t make his criticism any less non-sensical.

    Still Boris, better a pompous twit than a lying warmonger, like some of your fellow politicians.

  21. I have to say that what you had to say in the first place I am sure that I adn many others in this country had already thought. I personally would have found a way of appologising to the Bigley familiy but I can’t see any reason to make the same concession to the people of Liverpool who after all ahd probably never heard of the man! Why don’t we have 2 mins silence in every city in Britain from where a soldier is killed ? No Boris, you were right to speka your mind.

  22. I opened the Spectator and sped to the Editorial which had caused an uproar in recent days expecting similiar insensitivity and poor taste to that which had been displayed by a public figure of a greatly different aspect, Billy Connoly, in reference to the recent plight of Mr Bigley. As i read i grew progressively angry, not at the article itself which was well written(if appallingly timed) and raised some extremely valid points but at the ridiculous media furore which had condemned it. Keep your head up Boris, you are guilty of nothing more than poor timing and have borne the withering glare of the duplicitous and insincere media with dignity.
    The comments of Paul Bigley should be considered with sympathy for a man who has suffered such tragedy, and with the knowledge that he is in no fit state for rational thought; as displayed by his ‘blood on their hands’ accusation.

  23. Boris,
    There is no excuse for what you wrote about Liverpool. If you felt you had some good points to make, you could have dressed them properly and not resorted to cheap journalism.
    You have done yourself and your newspaper harm.
    As for the guy who said you were pompous: I am inclined to agree with him. In fact when reading this post I was struck by the fact that it is not usual for someone to refer to themselves in the third person.
    I think it would have been better for you to reflect on your mistakes and make a proper apology rather than rushing into Liverpool and blabbing on about being sorry but not for everything, etc. etc. Sorry is a difficult word to say, and I wonder about its worth. Far better if you had shown some serious reflection on what you had said, and then done something positive to ‘make up’.
    I don’t think Howard was doing you any favours sending you to Liverpool for such a stupid mission – it makes him look good, but it makes you the whipping boy for Liverpudlian frustrations.
    My advice to you is to hang around: You are a welcome and colourful addition to the Conservatives. But try to find something serious and meaningful that you can do to demonstrate that you know you did wrong rather than being an ass for the sake of your slimey leader.

  24. Well said Boris. The very fact that you had the guts to go and face the people of Liverpool should make it pretty obvious that your apology was genuine, not just the kind of political stunt the would be done by Bliar.

    I’ve read the Spectator article, and can only wholeheartedly agree with everything said therein! Hillsborough WASN’T the fault of the police – if they hadn’t let into the ground the thousands of Liverpool fans who hadn’t got a ticket anyway, the tragedy would simply have happened outside the gates. I think it’s time the people of Liverpool (particularly the aforementioned ‘supporters’) started to stand up and be counted for what happened that day, and not try to hide behind the blaming of the police out of what one can only assume is a deep sense of guilt over what REALLY happened.

    Oh, and on the subject of Ken Bigley – yes, it was a great tragedy. One can’t even begin to imagine the grief his family felt both during his period in captivity then following his appalling death, but I agree that to hold a period of silence for one man (who your article right points out knew the risks) is ridiculous. As for Paul Bigley…well, (as ‘Wiggler’ said) I think he let himself down more than he put you down.

    That’s it – rant over. You will be PM one day…..

  25. Honesty in a politician is a rarity these days. You have restored some of the faith I had in ‘Mother parliament’ that the Blair charlatans have destroyed. Keep up the good work Boris. There are few politicians prepared to lift their heads above the parapet of political correctness and we are all suffering for it. Such a shame your Party’s policy advisors don’t have the same spirit

  26. Well … I used to think that you were a complete muppet, but you’ve changed my opinion. You were absolutely right to condemn the sypathisers of Bigley’s family. I do feel sympathy for his family and friends, who are suffering as a result of his death, but to make martyr of him for being greedy …. no way …. the people of liverpool should see this too!

  27. Well Boris, you’ve managed it. You produced a questionable piece of journalism (using Hillsborough really was a low blow) and managed to get people on side. And what’s more, people have been blaming this (again) on that modern-mythical beast ‘the PC Brigade’. Yawn. The people I saw calling for apologies were Michael Howard and a number of Liverpudlians – I demand to see their membership cards!

    That said, it does sound as if your regret is genuine.

    PS On the subject of victimhood, I’m sure you meant to criticise false victimhood, since I can’t imagine you’d be throwing insults at genuine victims of, say, crime?

  28. Why can the Hillsborough event not be discussed without this level of hysteria from Liverpool? And why on earth are journalists so craven that they won’t take the issue on? There is now a whitewash over the event which can’t be questioned. Surely this is wrong. Stand up to these people. As for the rest of the article, I completely agree that this imposed culture of sentimentality is something to be fought against.

  29. I was cringing when I heard some of the phone-in yesterday. Not only Paul Bigley, bit some of the other callers – especially the woman who asked Boris if he knew why he had come there, and just carried on talking without even acknowledging he was trying to answer her.

    Shortly before, I’d been browsing a book called “The Book of Cities” – one page pen portraits of various cities around the world. It too accused Liverpudlians of being over-sentimental (can’t recall the exact phrase), and it too failed to specify the actual number of people killed at Hillsborough (it used “over 70”)

  30. Boris you were great. Bigley and his Liverpudlian comrades have proved the very point you were making, well done. Micheal Howard is the TWIT

  31. Fair do’s Boris you chomped your way through some serious quantities of humble pie yesterday. This issue should have been over the minute you apologised last weekend.

    The whole thing has been blown up out of all proportion by the national media by some tenuous link to Capital of Culture 2008.

    Yesterday the press pack pursued you as if it were some Benny Hill farce while at the same time offering false sympathy and crocdile tears for selected “victims” of Hillsborough, Alder Hey Organs scandal etc wheeled out to confront you.

    I was fascinated in your comment that it was the appallingly ill observed minutes silence at England / Wales match that sparked the idea for the article. Your view that it was because they didn’t connect with such an honour for one man is an interesting point of view that I had not considered before. You may or may not be right.

    I do still fail to see why Liverpool got it in the neck in your article as a result. As someone living and working in this city I can vouch for the fact that I was unaware of any civic wallowing, save for a poorly attended church service and a minutes silence which I suspect was observed for the cameras at Lime Street Station and virtually nowhere else.

    An interesting article ruined by sloppy research and relying on easy stereotyped prejudice. Lets hope everyone can now “calm down, calm down, calm down!!!!”.

    Boris was big enough to grovel. Lets hope Liverpool can show it is big enough to forgive an obviously decent and sensitive man. Maybe we can even smile at the absurdity of allowing this whole pantomine to be milked for the media’s own entertainment.

  32. In common with everyone who is sane I feel sympathy for the Bigley family-to have had to go through what Ken Bigley went through in the last 3 weeks of his life is beyond understanding. However, he knew the risks in remaining in Iraq. Ultimately he was working for himself and his own financial gain presumably-unlike our forces who are working and risking their lives for us.

    How many 2 minute silences have been held for those who have been killed? Do we actually know their names? Regretably I think not.

    Your piece in the Spectator reflects the truth. We still have freedom of speech in this country and frankly we should exploit it to its maximum before Bliar consigns it to room 101.

    Boris, you brighten up the world of dreary politics-keep in public life.

    ps-I’m going to buy your book!

  33. Basically nothing seems worth bothering with. That’s how it is. Whatever. Shrug. So it goes.

    Current Mood: uninterested


  35. “Why”

    Pastas, sauces, cheeses
    Why God, Why?
    Sauces, flatulence, meatballs
    Why God, Why?

    What have I done to deserve this red horror?
    Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of meatballs
    Like a Robert Llowell character, I’m wordy and alone
    Why God, Why?

    Spoons, pastas, forks
    Why God, Why?
    Meatballs, forks, cheeses
    Why God, Why?

    What have I done to deserve this red disaster that is my life?
    Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of meatballs
    Like a Robert Llowell character, I’m wordy and alone
    Why God, Why?

    What have I done to deserve this red misery?
    Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of meatballs
    Like a Robert Llowell character, I’m wordy and alone
    Why God, Why?

    Why God, Why?
    Why God, Why?
    Why God, Why?
    Why God, Why?

  36. please read this before coming out with crass comments.

    Liverpool had reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and were to play Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium, home to Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. It was an identical scenario to the previous year when Liverpool had beaten Notts Forest at the same ground.

    Tickets are always in short demand for such a game but in this instance Liverpool fans had even scarcer resources to draw from. They had been located the Leppings Lane end of the ground – the smaller end. Given the level of support this was a woefully inadequate allocation of tickets. Although there was general disquiet about this decision by the FA’s, fans nevertheless resigned themselves to the fact. After all they had been through it all the year before and therefore many justifiably felt that they knew what to expect.

    Fans set off early and full of optimism on that sunny Saturday morning. Whether they had travelled by road or rail, having left their transport at designated sites they were escorted by police towards the ground. One bereaved father described the areas around the ground as having a ‘carnival atmosphere’. Sadly, this atmosphere would soon change.

    The build up of fans around the Leppings Lane area increased dramatically around 2p.m. as people began to arrive in greater numbers. It also became known that many coaches were only just arriving having experienced delays from road works and police searches along the way. Clearly a crowd safety issue was emerging. Yet police records indicate little real concern at this stage.

    From 2.30p.m. the number of people at the turnstile area was immense and orderly queuing was an impossibility. Fans being searched as they went in to the ground exacerbated this growing problem. Fans were entering a bottleneck. 10,000 fans, three gates, and seven turnstiles – this was the disastrous situation that people with tickets for the Leppings Lane end were walking into. Add to this the number of people with tickets for the West Stand (located above the terracing) who also had to enter by the same three gates and the recipe for disaster increases even further.

    Superintendent Marshall was in overall command outside the ground. His record of the day reveals a heavy emphasis on the amount of alcohol being consumed by Liverpool fans. This emphasis was to become the main observation of the police version of events of the day and was the opposite of fans recollections and subsequent forensic evidence.

    As conditions worsened fans were increasingly distressed. Those on the inside were struggling to breathe as the numbers swelled. Whilst on the outside the volume of those trying to enter at the Leppings lane end increased by the minute. An officer requested that the kick – off be delayed in order to reassure the crowd that there was no urgency. The request was denied. An inspector asked that the exit gates be opened in order to relieve the pressure outside. Marshall was reluctant to take this course of action because it would allow uncontrolled access to the stadium.

    Fans accounts of the scenes outside the Leppings lane area point almost universally to a lack of organisation and control. Trapped in a bottleneck, quite literally, they had nowhere to go except where the momentum of the crowd led them. The fear of fans caught in this situation outside can only be matched by those struggling to survive on the inside.

    Eventually Marshall radioed through to Chief Superintendent Duckenfield who was in overall command on the day (despite the fact that he had minimal experience of policing football and absolutely no experience of such a big game) and requested that the exit gates be opened. Duckenfield hesitated (he would later give evidence stating that he ‘froze’) but eventually gave the order: ‘Open the gates’.

    Once gate C had been opened police directed fans through the gate. The most obvious entrance to the terraces was through the tunnel opposite into pens 3 and 4. Evidence would later be given that in previous years police and/or stewards would stand at the entrance to the tunnel if these central pens had reached capacity and would direct fans to the side pens.

    In 1989 however, no such direction took place as fans headed innocently into already overcrowded pens. It is quite incomprehensible that Duckenfield, failed to follow up the order to open gate C with instructions to allow for the swift increase in the volume of people entering that end of the ground. Indeed the reasoning capacity of Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield has to be seriously challenged when one considers his response to the situation in pens 3 and 4. Logic would inform the average person that the volume outside would be replicated inside once entrance was allowed and that therefore swift monitoring and control would be necessary if a catastrophe was to be averted. Logic however, does not seem to figure large in the consciousness of David Duckenfield. His response to seeing people spill out onto the perimeter track from the crushing in the pens was to call for reinforcements (including dog handlers) as he thought there was a pitch invasion!

    This response of Duckenfield is even more obscene when it is realised that from his position in the control box he could clearly see the Leppings Lane end. Moreover, he had the advantage of CCTV with zoom facilities. His later testimony that he was unaware that people were suffering and dying becomes totally unbelievable to those of us who have visited that control box and know that it is possible see the colour of a persons eyes in pens 3 and 4 such was the power of the zoom facilities on the cameras. On the basis of his response given the carnage that could clearly be seen several theories have been postulated:

    Duckenfield lacks the ability to reason at a very basic humanitarian level and therefore one has to ask does this reflect on the general standard of senior policing in Britain today.
    Duckenfield was totally indifferent to the situation he was witnessing in the pens and ignored the plight of dying people.Duckenfield was not in the control box at all, in which case where was he?

    Inside the pens people were dead and dying. Faces were crushed up against the perimeter fencing, the vomit and blueness a clear sign of their condition. Fans were packed so tightly that many were dead standing up. Many still conscious were trying to break down the fencing with their hands. Those who had managed to climb over the fencing or escape when a perimeter gate was briefly opened also struggled to free their fellow fans. This was the sight that met the ‘reinforcements’ that had responded to Duckenfields’ call to stem the ‘pitch invasion’.

    Clearly aware of the gravity of the situation many of these officers began to assist in trying to get people out. It has to be stated at this point that this is in stark contrast to many of the police officers positioned initially at the perimeter fencing who ignored the obvious signs of distress and the screams for help even though they were literally an arms length from those dying. It also contrasts with the actions of those other officers who pushed fans back inside the pens when from which they had momentarily escaped when the perimeter gate opened. These actions more than anything else illustrate graphically the prevailing attitude to football supporters by the police as an organisation. The only rational explanation for the actions of these officers was, that deep within their psyche, police training had conditioned them to view crowds in terms of crowd control rather than crowd safety. Their actions during the Miners Strike of 1984 and the Trafalgar Square Poll Tax demonstrations support this view. They had also been conditioned to inextricably link football supporters and hooliganism. As we now know this ‘conditioning’ had the disastrous consequence of leading to the biggest sporting disaster in British history.

    The pitch soon resembled a battleground as bodies were laid out on the ground and the injured wandered around dazed and confused. Fans sought desperately to save lives. Apart from pleading with police to recognise the seriousness of the situation, they tore down advertising hoardings to act as stretchers and ferried fans to the far end of the pitch in the hope that they would receive treatment. Although ill – equipped to do so many fans attempted to resuscitate people themselves in the absence of professional medical assistance.

    Of those who died, 89 were male 7 were female. In respect of age, the majority were under 30 years of age, and more than a third were under 20 years. The youngest to die was a boy of 10 years.

    The cause of death was attributed to crush asphyxia. Most deaths occurred in pen 3, the remainder occurring in pen 4. The majority of deaths occurred at the front of the pens. 730 people were injured inside the ground. 36 people sustained injuries outside the ground.

    Thousands remain traumatised by the experience. Numerous suicides can be attributed directly to Hillsborough.

  37. One of the most annoying aspects to the whole debacle is the general response by political genre within the Merseyside area. Those who might be tempted not to vote Tory were absolutely outraged by your comments. Those who would vote Tory backed you to the hilt.I’m not entirely sure if either party read the original article and it is this sad endictment that hits me hardest. As a card carrying thirty somethin’ Tory on Wirral, it makes me wonder if we’ll ever appeal to the masses again or if the blue rinse brigade control so much of the party, that we’ll be lost for the foreseeable future. All you did Boris, is expose issues that have been bubbling under the surface for over 20 years. To conclude, a lot of what your article said was in my view, utter tripe and unfortunately because it was dressed in this way, meant the valid points it made, were sadly missed.

  38. Jon Lucas’ comments -Hillsborough WASN’T the fault of the police – if they hadn’t let into the ground the thousands of Liverpool fans who hadn’t got a ticket anyway, the tragedy would simply have happened outside the gates. I think it’s time the people of Liverpool (particularly the aforementioned ‘supporters’) started to stand up and be counted for what happened that day, and not try to hide behind the blaming of the police out of what one can only assume is a deep sense of guilt over what REALLY happened.

    have been discredited by Lord Taylor in his report.

    where does is say in a governmental report otherwise?

    please reveal your sources.

  39. Jon – very interesting reading. What happened at Hillsborough that day was obviously a great, great tragedy and I can only imagine what the families of the victims went (and are still going?) through. I have been to Hillsborough on many occasions throught the eighties and early nineties, to both advanced sell-out matches and those which were pay-on-the-day sell-outs. On not one occasion have I ever experienced any problems getting to or into the ground. Yes, it’s crowded – getting 25,000+ people into a football stadium usually is – but, erudite as your piece is, it omits the one glaring issue which contributed to the tragedy. The fact that, no matter how it was, is or will be dressed up, there were literally thousands of ‘fans’ there without tickets trying to get into the ground, many of whom were the worse for drink.

  40. I do not have ‘sources’.

    I have a good memory remeber the whole, sad episode very well indeed. To quote the Taylor report – mmmm, as a football fan of many years (sorry – I’ve now become totally disillusioned with the game and it’s participants) I KNOW I speak for many football fans when I say that Taylor’s requirement to install seating in all stadia has gone a long way to stifling the atmosphere at football matches.

    And on the subject of government reports – Butler, Hutton…..do we really take any notice of what is said in them??????

  41. Sir,
    I have nothing but admiration and respect for you – on several counts. The dignified manner in which you handled such a tyrade of abuse contrasted sharply with the appauling exhibition of prejudice and bigotry delivered with such venom by Paul Bigley, a person for whom, prior to his outburst, I had tremendous sympathy following the murder of Ken Bigley. I can only hope that his offensive remarks towards you were spoken out of grief. It has to be said that, if roles were reversed and someone from the so-called ‘upper classes’ were to abuse a working class man from the North of England with an equivalent turn of phrase, insulting their background and manner – they would be absolutely pilloried for such offensive behaviour. I recoiled in horror when I heard you insulted in this way – it would appear the people of Liverpool are allowed the luxury of free speech, in other words – to insult anyone they wish to. Others, presumably, are not – particularly those who are honest enough to print what a vast swathe of British people already believe – that there IS a victim culture in this country; that Britain IS turning into a nation of serial grievers – particularly for people they have NEVER met – starting with the obscene and mawkish grieving over Diana, Princess of Wales. Whilst everyone is totally appalled by the murder of Ken Bigley, surely his death is to be mourned by his family and friends, not by the population of a whole city who, frankly, less than a month prior to his death, had never heard of him. Perhaps the Liverpudlians should remember that British people are dying in Iraq nearly every day – and yet another British hostage has just been taken – I wonder if there will be the same campaign to release her? And if the unthinkable happens – will her hometown have a minute’s silence – I very much doubt it. Her name has disappeared already from the headlines.
    Boris, it is easier for someone like me to write like this than it is for you – but thank Goodness that, just occasionally someone of your standing will write the truth. Yes, some of the article was, at best, misguided and information not checked, for which you have apologised. I sensed your frustration on North West Tonight at not being able to offer anything further and I felt such sympathy for you. I speak not as a ‘sheltered’ Southerner with no concept of life in the North. I live in Cheshire, less than 50 miles from Liverpool and count myself as a proud Northerner with a certain admiration for, at the very least, the Scouse sense of humour. Rest assured, Boris, my opinion is shared by many millions of people in this part of the world. Long may you continue to fill our lives with your colourful presence and your refreshing honesty.

  42. An other fact for the police behaviour as crowd control instead of safety could also be linked to what happened at Heysel stadium… Not excusable, but understandable considering the reputation the Liverpool fans had acquired. The day I shall see the victims of both disasters being commemorated in Liverpool I could change my opinion of the fans. Doubt that day will arrive.

  43. I am shocked at the people who are insisting to Boris that everything he said is right, to stick to his guns, he should have not gone to Liverppool and he should tell Howard to get stuffed…and then say ‘don’t resign, Boris’

    Well, make up your mind…do you want Boris to be a politician or not?

  44. Well done for taking back what was thoughtless – and therefore offensive – while sticking to what was defensible in the article as well.

    Let’s hope we can all move on now.

    Good grief, some people need to get a grip. It’s not as if BJ is some kind of monster. He’s even worried on Saddam’s behalf:


    Crikey! If anyone deserves in the neck Saddam does. Boris is gentler and milder than some would have us believe.

  45. Boris

    Whilst you are indeed a funny Tory, you are nevertheless a Tory. And to see you digging and digging and digging is hilarious.

    What ever you do, don’t forget to remind people that you didn’t apologise for EVERYTHING, and that the offending article was, despite EVERYTHING, a valid piece.

    Keep digging!

  46. I really don’t think you should have apologised.
    Quite honestly I believe that anything Paul Bigley says is a load of rubbish. He has waffled on to anybody who would listen. I can understand why his family has distanced themselves from him, he has done absolutely nothing to help the situation.

  47. I think the hysterical reaction to the article by elements in Liverpool merely serves to confirm the existance of the victim mentality which you identified.
    I would also observe that the undignified rant by Paul Bigley contrasted sharply with your own dignified demeanor as well as with the dignity of the rest of that family (rememebr this is the brother who accused the PM of having blood on his hands – not the terrorists though)
    I dont think you should have been put in this position. You had nothing to apologise for and I am angry at Michael Howard for pandering to the hysteria and for making you do this.

  48. I have to say I don’t agree with Boris Johnson’s politics but I think he has conducted himself as he should have done in going to Liverpool and trying to make amends for the offence caused by the Spectator piece. Saying sorry doesn’t mean you have to compromise your opinions and I disagree with Pete Whitehead that Boris Johnson had nothing to apologise for. To go, show contrition, and yet still try to defend and clarify your point of view is an honest and commendable response. I only wish more politicians (and, for that matter, journalists) exhibited the same courage. I will still vote Green at the next election, but if people of all political persuasions showed the same dignity I would be able to recover some of the lost faith in the mainstream of British politics. Good on you.

  49. Boris, as a student hoping one day to become a political reporter, I admire you in both of your careers.
    Politicians strong enough to stand by their opinions in the face of pressure from interest groups earn the respect of the wider electorate – to borrow a phrase, the Silent Majority.
    Journalists capable of arguing difficult positions with clarity and flair enliven our country.
    I have never voted Conservative but your position on their front bench makes me consider doing so, and while you are editor, my subscription to the Spectator remains safe.

  50. Boris Johnson has not done anything to be ashamed of, in fact he has emerged with credit and dignity from the attempts of the ignorant to damage him.
    Yes, another pippin for your shoulder Boris. Keep up the fine work.

  51. Boris, chin up old chap! Well done for saying sorry, I whole heartedly agree with you, both in the main gist of the article itself, and in your partial apology. While your article did cause offence both to the people of liverpool and to the Bigley article, it was by no means incorrect.

    The media has blown the Bigley incident out of all proportion, yes it was tragic, horrible for all those that knew and loved him, but people die every day, and most do not get anywhere near the amount of grief afforded to Ken Bigley. The terrorists are asking for us to be outraged, grief stricken and angry. They want our attention, and they want a public outcry. It was entirely unreasonable to say that Ken’s blood was in Tony Blair’s hands. There was no real point in the family’s appeal to Mr Blair, any intelligent person will know that governments cannot negotiate with terrorists. Yes, of course the family are grief stricken, of course they did all they could, even if that include appealing to the PM. For that I do not blame them, but for blaming Blair, and for the ridiculous comments Paul made to you, it can perhap sbe considered in a different light.

    You have all of a sudden become the one that everyone is taking out their grief and anger on, when in fact all you did was express your opinion, albeit rather controversially. People have read your article, and been shocked at such unusual honesty, even bluntness, from a politician, and they seem to have taken offence without understanding the overall gist of your article. Regardless of what happens, and what people say, that point still stands. Good luck with everything, I have a horrible feeling that you’ll need it…

    In any case, you deserve a whole bunch of coconuts!!!

  52. Boris,

    You had to come to Liverpool because Howard told you to and he is your political master, like it or lump it, accept it or resign. Politics can be a murky world and you need to know when to keep your mouth shut and tow the party line. The more you speak on this subject the more you are shown to be a duplicitous idiot. Do us all a favour and shut up with your qualified apologies or take some of the ridiculous advice your fanatics are offering and tell Howard to get stuffed.

  53. After beating the drum so long and hard for Tony Blair to apologise for the war and after the dogs dinner you made of the trip to Liverpool, don’t you think you’ve lost all integrity to call for other people to apologise?

  54. Sorry to be picky, but I just can’t believe that everyone spells so badly – or is it me. Well done, Boris, ol’ chap – although not a Tory, if I lived in your constituency, suspect you would have my vote anyway. Keep at it!

  55. Dear Mr. Johnson,

    I was DISGUSTED at hearing Paul Bigley’s comments on you, first on BBC Radio 4, then on Newsnight last night. How dare he!!!

    I cringed in my seat as I listened to this public abuse and felt very sorry for you.

    Yes, the death of Ken Bigley was indeed a tragedy. However, Ken Bigley knew exactly the dangers he was facing when he went to work in Iraq.

    Your comments about sentimentality in todays England were meant in a broader context and there was no reason for you to apologise to Liverpool or indeed to anyone.

    Mr. Johnson, you are a highly intelligent person and what’s more, very charismatic and often very funny as well.

    Not being a Conservative myself, I would say that The Conservatives need people like you, in fact, politics in general badly need more people like you.

    It’s just a pity that many politicians simply don’t reach your very high standards.

    Don’t ever let this kind of public, petty insult get to you!

    Keep on the good work!
    All the best,

    Yours sincerely

    Christopher Ammentorp
    Co. Donegal

  56. I have never been to the North but I agree with Boris when he says they do come across as ‘whimpering simpletons’ Spectator Oct ’97
    Why don’t they get on with life and stop living in the past?
    Don’t give into to these attrocious people.
    These people are worse than our ‘coloured friends’ we have to endure.
    Keep up the good work Boris.

    Jason Plumb

  57. Jon Lucas has no sources, yet he knows that thousands of fans arrived at Hillsborough without a ticket for a football match.

    He dimissises a Chief Lord’s report offhand.

    I advise you to research your claims before writing again.

    You are only making Conservatives look as uneducated as the people you mock.

    Lord Whinstanley

  58. Please keep saying the truth Boris, so many in society today are frightened to exercise that important right we call ‘free speech’. You had every right to make those comments, with most of the artcile being absolutely correct and reasonable. Your country needs you, please do not disappear from public life.

  59. Boris,
    You seem to be riding out a bit of a storm. I hope you emerge from it relatively unscathed. It would be a shame to see this recent episode damage an otherwise respectable MP and god knows there are not many of them. I do not mean to infere that your article was in any way a reason to be ashamed, far from it. I think you are right in a good many of the views that you aired. The country is infected with a strange addiction to mourning. You only have to look at the ever larger growing bushes of fresh cut flowers that grow on the roadside by fatal accidents day by day. Your points were correct and needed to be made. The only criticism that could be levelled would be that if you are going to mention a reasonably recent national disaster it would be aswell to report on it correctly. That not withstanding, for a Tory, you seem a damn fine chap to me Boris. So, “Never mind the bollocks!”

  60. Agree with Mr Plumb’s comments, Liverpudlians are horrible worthless people. They ARE worse than the blacks and the immigrants we have to pretend to welcome from Kosovo and Sarajevo.
    These people are spongers
    Liverpudlians are just whingers!
    Well done Boris for saying it as it is. Northern people Mancunians, Liverpudlians, as the Scotch and the Irish are supported by the rest of the Country.
    Boris for PM!

    Margaret Wilson

  61. Boris, you’re more in touch with public opinion than Michael Howard realizes. This poses a problem for him, but not for you. Good Luck !

  62. I suppose the irony or ringing into a radio show just to call someone self-indulgent was lost on Paul Bigley. The Pillock.

    Chin up, Boris! you’re a bigger man than any of your detractors.

  63. I shall not repeat the other points I made elsewhere, but I will repeat what I said about your character, as observed at first hand at Oxford. Far from being ‘pompous’ you continued to talk to people and be equally friendly AFTER you had reached the top of the Oxford Union greasy pole. Most unusual behaviour.

    It is also a tribute to your character that you have not thrown the actual author of the editorial oh so subtly to the wolves, which many others would have done, in the hope that some for the wolves would go for him rather then you.

    You were quite right, though, not to submit yourself to Maoist style self-criticism in front of raging Red and/or Orange and/or Blue Guards. You were especially right to refuse to submit to an inquisition and public humiliation headed by local bishops and councillors and doubtlessly joined by other local loud mouths who consider themselves very important. The visit may not have been an unqualified success, but it could have been worse.

    Well we live, we learn. The main problem with the piece as a whole is that it made some very good points badly and insensitively. I suspect the comment about Hillsborough is the thing that caused the most upset and understandably so.

    That said, the editorial was quite right to suggest that there ARE serious problems with the institutionalised ‘traumatisation’ culture that some people, including people in authority, encourage for their own ends. Not least it means that nobody has a right to publicly express an opinion about such cases, right or wrong, if it is deemed to add to such ‘traumatisation.’

    Unlike in the days of Hillsborough, the police and other in authority have got very good at manipulating the ‘traumatisation culture’ in order to silence criticism.

    For instance nobody may now criticise senior police officers in Humberside in connection with the Soham case. Not even the Home Secretary.

    Those, including Peter Tatchell, who made ‘impermissible’ criticisms of the police handling of the Damilola Taylor case, were subjected to abuse and vilification.

    I personally risked similar abuse earlier this year, when I publicised the fact that what some people had been told privately by the police about the Admiral Duncan bombing of 1999 flatly contradicted what the press had been told.

    After I discovered a couple of years ago what some of my fellow independent advisors had been told ‘hush hush,’ it appeared that David Copeland was already a suspect by the time of the Admiral Duncan bombing, he had been under surveillance on that day, and the police had lost him. The officers that arrested him were not told this and sent to his home unarmed. The press had been told by the Metropolitan Police and their spin doctors at the time that this was all rumours and lies.

    It was only this year that I ended up revealing all this by writing a mealy mouthed piece on the case myself. Why had I waited so long? Why hadn’t the national press done this at the time? Partly because of all sorts of moral blackmail about ‘traumatising’ victims and families and because people were afraid to go on the record because of the abuse and intimidation they had received.

    Contrary to what I expected, I didn’t get too much flak when I went published my article, partly because after all this time it had become a ‘non-story’ so far as the national press were concerned – and of course attacking me publicly might make it a national ‘story.’

    Of course these incidents are upsetting to those affected in a way other people cannot understand. Of course they should be handled sensitively with due regard for checking facts. That does not mean that journalists must never deviate from police press releases, legitimate issues should not be raised, independent opinions must never be expressed in case they add to the ‘trauma’ of victims or their friends and families. Along that road lies the police state.

    Freedom of expression necessarily means that people have a right to be ‘wrong’ (especially if it is ‘wrongness’ as defined by authority), and a right to offend somebody somewhere to some extent. Take away those rights and ‘freedom of expression’ becomes an empty phrase and we are on the high road to totalitarianism.

  64. Oh dear Margaret Wilson of Esher. Boris and his party need the support of people like you like a hole in the head. On the assumption that you are either a. an eccentric IT literate geriatric in your twilight years, or b. a message board wind up merchant, then your nasty and offensive comments can probably be forgiven.
    If you are neither of the above then I suggest you go and lie down in a darkened room. You may find it would broaden the mind if you formed your opinions on the world by means other than the nastier parts of the Daily Mail.
    Stop your nasty generalising and stereotyping. If you are a fan of Boris and the Conservative Party then a period of silence from your ilk would be well advised unless you wish to ensure 10 more years of Tony & Co.

  65. Well done Boris. You and I have a lot in common. I edited the story that your writer sources some of his material from. Perhaps you should drop by some time, we could reminisce about how we both accused scousers of killing their own and walked away to face another day. It’s a great life as an editor isn’t it, Boris. ‘Fighting their way in’ was an interesting way of putting it, especially as they appeared to be fighting their way out. You should have gone further and repeated MY story that they urinated on their friends and family as they lay dying. That really got them whingeing that one. I only wish I had been a front bench politician at the time that would have made it all the sweeter.

  66. A brilliant response. Proving again and again that Boris the honest, respectable, and trustworthy politician in the House.

    As for Paul Bigley, well, what can one say?
    He has his opinion and he voiced it. He is certainly entitled to that opinion, but Boris has no obligation whatsoever to adhere to it – and thankfully he knows so. I’m sure there are many more people much more angry with Mr. Blair than with Boris. And rightly so. How could one be angry with The Spectator (and as so few people seem to realise, the actual writer of the article), who simply voiced an opinion over the death of one man, and not be angry with Mr. Blair (and ultimately President Bush, too) for CAUSING the deaths of thousands?

    I’d buy you a pint anytime, Boris.

    Now all of you, go sign this.
    You know it makes sense.

  67. Boris
    You are one of a small band of people who, whenever they have the misfortune to fall in shit, will always come out smelling of roses.

    Its a national trait to have a hate figure to throw stones at, you had you 15 minutes of fame, and came through with flying colours, well done.

    The whole sad episode, has only convinced the general population that Liverpool is a place to be avoided at all costs, let them wallow in self pity and shell suits, and let the rest of Britain do what we do best, smile in the face of adversity, laugh at ourselves when we look ridiculous, and joke our way out of difficult situations.

    By the way, next time you bump into Michael, tell him [Ed: this won’t do – we must try and restrain uncomplimentary language!].

  68. I love it. Let’s have a go at anyone from Middlesbrough next week Boris. I ****ing hate Middlesbrough. They are all kiddie fiddlers in Middlesbrough. I hate anyone from Bristol as well. I used to have a gorgeous secretary from Bristol and she would never let me get my hands on her. Oh, and I’ve got some really nasty racist articles I’m working on here you can have them too for

  69. Thanks Boris.

    I was worried about my pension there for a moment.

    Why can’t other people be more like us?

  70. I heartily agree with my old mate David Dukenfield.

    Why can’t people have less psychological flaws and behave more like we do, Boris? Are they all sick or something?

  71. Thank you Boris, for publicly confirming three things that I have suspected to be true for a while now.

    Firstly, you have proven beyond reasonable doubt that freedom of speech in this country has been eroded to nothing by the politically correct minority, no matter how well reasoned and argued the offending comments are. With more politicians like you, perhaps this can be reversed.

    Secondly, you have proven that you are the only politician that puts his own personal image below what he believes is right. In fact, you are about the only non-cabinet politician that I can name at all!

    Thirdly and finally, you have proven that whilst Scousers are quite capable of dishing out criticism relating to every other city in the country, and even go to some lengths to disguise it as the famous Scouse Sense Of Humour, they certainly cannot take it when directed the other way.

    All in, not a bad achievement in a day, and it has to be worth a beer (or a coconut)! Keep up the good work!

    All the best.
    Dan P

  72. And yes I did think it was funny that you accused them of killing their fellow supporters. I’m still laughing now.

  73. For once, a politician actually speaking his own mind, if truth be known you are echoing what many of us think but few of us are prerared to say.
    Of course we feel sympathy for the Bigley family but everyone knows of the dangers of working in Iraq, dont make Kenneth Bigley a martyr,there are troops who are trying to bring peace to Iraq who have been killed, yet can everyone remember their names, I think not.
    Boris, as a Labour supporter listening to you is like inhaling fresh air,
    great writing and all the very best

  74. Look Boris, you had nothing to apologise for; Liverpudlians are the most self-pitying whining workshy second raters in the UK

  75. Hear hear Boris.

    You showed them.You don’t ever need to apologise.
    There’s too many do gooders about.
    We are a proud British race. Alot of northernern people ARE immigrants from Africa, Pakistan, Ireland or even, I feel, more Scandinavian in trait-getting hideously drunk etc. than pure Anglo Saxon as we in the Middle and South of the Country are.
    It really isn’t an offence to try and rid Britain of these people. They are ungodly and unruly people.
    I wish we could draw a line from Bristol to The Humber and ‘float’ these people away!

    Boris for PM.

    Norris, Moulton, Northants.

  76. I am regularly reminded by scouse friends what a great sense of humour the people of their region possess. It would seem they are somewhat selective in their condemnation of stereotyping.

    I would also be interested to know if everyone who has criticised the Spectator’s innacurate Hillsborough fatality figures are aware – without looking it up – of how many people died at Heysel.

    Don’t get me wrong, I quite like scousers and I don’t blame them for the deaths of all those Juventus supporters. My point(s) is this:-

    We are ALL guilty of regional stereotyping INCLUDING Liverpudlians.

    Liverpool fans are not solely responsible for the Heysel stadium tradegy. The police are not solely responsible for Hillsborough. Of all the contributary factors The Spectator could have considered, it inexplicably chose a discredited argument…which was stupid!

    The fact that an individual cannot recall exact numbers of fatalities at Hillsborough, Heysel, Bradford City, King’s Cross, Aberfan, Blantyre, WW2, both Gulf conflicts etc. etc. is in no way intended as a slur on the memory of those who have died. The Spectator should have checked it’s figures though…careless!

    Ken Bigley’s death however unpleasant the circumstances, is no more ‘minute silence’ worthy than any other murder victim or (as my ex military friends point out) anybody else killed in Iraq. In fact UEFA recently turned down Liverpool Football Club’s request for one before their European game but I don’t recall Sepp Blatter being call a pompous twit!

    As for Boris’s visit it must have been tough (if any of my facts are incorrect I’ll apologise from the relative safety of my computer keyboard & three counties distance) and I sincerely hope the support he has been shown goes some way to negate the personal criticism he has received. I hope also that my kind words will be rewarded with a cup of tea next time I’m in the Henley area.

    I’d better post this quick. My points are becoming older hat by the minute.

  77. I hope you all feel the same way about public grieving when Maggie dies cos we will all be celebrating.

    Not long now.

  78. How dare you think of celebrating you sick sick man. Maggie did more for our great country than anyone.
    I bet ten to a penny you are a Northerner.

  79. [Ed: this won’t do – we must try and restrain uncomplimentary language!].

    Sorry Ed; my apologies for the use of bad language, I should know better at my age, these forums get the better of me sometimes.

    By the way, the following statement to my message to Boris purporting to be from myself is in fact, the work of an evil imposter, I would be so grateful if you could delete it, a quick check of the posters email address will confirm this, and a swift rebuke to the said person would do no harm.

    Thank You.

  80. this is an outrage that people can say things like this.

    who controls the editorial comment of this board?

  81. Boris is right about you northern scum. moaning on all the time.
    we should exterminate em with all the other pond life.
    Boris is too soft should have told you to stick it.

  82. Boris’s Liverpudlian critics might want to reflect on the following fact: grief, as an emotion, is only felt when something really bad happens to someone that you know and love. For anyone else, there is a wide range of other, lesser feelings such as disgust, sympathy, even shock – but not grief, which is for Mr Bigley’s nearest and dearest. Let’s not cheapen and devalue yet another word. And, as for Peter Kilfoyle MP bemoaning the perpetuation of Liverpool stereotypes, is there any news of the Book of Condolence which was stolen, I believe, within a day of being placed for the ‘grieving’ citizens to sign? You couldn’t make it up…..

  83. I get a thrill out of telling northeners how to behave. Anyone else slightly perverted like me?

  84. Can we stop this “Northener” rubbish, please? I’m from Yorkshire and live in Newcastle, but I still regard Liverpool as a enclave that’s about as attractive to visit as its sister city: Grozny. Any wonder that the book was nicked. It was a ridiculous thing anyway.

    As for Boris? Well, top marks for common sense B. Mawkish was spot on.

    Bigley’s brother should have told the kidnappers where to go, in my view, instead of moaning about Blair’s lack of help. It’s about time that someone publicly said what they think about these people (the kidnappers) without sugar coating it. I think that if it was my wife/sister/brother that had been spirited away, I would be on the next plane to Iraq with some mates and I would personally hunt these people down.

    Brave words maybe, and I may be a fool, but by God it would do more good than simply kicking Boris and invoking the whingers of Liverpool to unite (I accept there are plenty of non-whingers in Liverpool, too).

  85. Mike: the book of condolence was stolen in Birmingham you clueless twonk.

    Sorry if that doesn’t back up your dimwitted anti-Liverpool bigotry. But I’m sure a nasty and stupid little man such as you doesn’t like Brummies much either, you you can take some consolation from the reality.

  86. Why do so many people feel the need to express an opinion about Ken Bigley’s death, scousers and Boris Johnson when it patently has nothing to do with them. There are even yorkshiremen who live in newcastle commenting, when it has obviously got nothing to do with their lives.

    Do these people have deep seated personality flaws, prompting them to seek attention on websites that, again, have nothing to with them?

    Are they all sick?

  87. You Yorkshire Northern simpleton.
    We don’t want your type on here either. go back to eating black pudding and racing whippets.
    Alot of miners were from Yorkshire don’t forget.
    all you lot are the same.



  88. Well done boris. Why must people be berated for telling the truth just because some people don’t agree with it. Ok there were some inaccuracies in the article, but the gist was true.

    We need more people in this country to stand up for what they beleive in rather than toe the “pc” line. The majority moderate opinion is too ofte ignored.

  89. You see, even though none of this has anything to do with me I have to comment. I think it is because I was bottle-fed as a child.

  90. dunc,

    If the book was indeed stolen in Birmingham then I do withdraw that observation totally and thank you for putting me straight.. Shows that there are idiots everywhere. My other comment stands.

  91. This comment board seems to shows the myriad our supporters.Well done to you all, Great Britain is all about freedom of speech.
    Something I feel Liverpudlians would do well to understand.
    They should keep quiet and maybe take others opinions.
    All Boris said was that they were responsible for the Hillsborough disaster and they have a central flaw in their personalities.
    Which after seeing Derek Hatton I believe they have.

    Well done Boris for saying as it is.

    Now can we have an article that exposes Mancunians for the drug taking gun ridden lowlife they are and one exposing Lancashire as a county full of Bangladeshis and Cheshire ‘society’ as the depraved psuedos they are.

    Well done Boris may you have a coconut tree planted in your honour!

  92. Hello Boris,
    I can understand the Bigley family being in the most terrible state of grief, but I have to agree with your article, and also commend you for your honest and forthright apology. Paul Bigley has strong feelings at the moment, and they showed in strong words, but those words did more harm to Paul Bigley in my opinion, they were totaly unjustfied. Perhaps he will feel differently as time passes,perhaps not, but you did your best.
    You’re a great personality that is desperately needed in British politics.

  93. my god boris wot have you done you have attracted more children than the pide piper and a few rats, not to mention a lord mind u by his ranting above put him with the rats.

  94. Exaxctly, Hilary, so what if they haven’t found his body yet, his mother was old and knew he was going to dangerous places.
    He must have taken the good advice of Norman Tebbit!
    The ‘people’of Liverpool had the audacity to have TWO church services and have a two minute silence.
    Now if Big Boris had passed the article after Soham I might have been a bit peeved- but it actually showed how mawkish Liverpool people are.
    If there had been more cameras in the land that time forgot- I bet in ‘Walton’people would have been saying they knew the family!
    and I think people would have been breaking down in tears randomly and re-iterating the fact of self-pity city.
    I hope when they do find his body they don’t go over the top again and want some kind of burial.

  95. Hey, don’t Judge us northerners by our worst specimens. Some of us don’t subscribe to this class war nonsense.
    Mind, I am a middle-class tory from a middle-class tory town that just happens to be in the north, so the whole stereotype is wrong anyway…

  96. Why did you have to pick Liverpool, and a Liverpudlian who had recently been slowly and painfully decapitated on international television as an example? This surely is the height of tastelessness, and all to make your article ‘topical’. Truly pathetic. Of course, this crassness does not invalidate the broader point that might have been better made with reference to the frankly weird, and moreover national, outpouring of sympathy after Diana’s death. But of course your readers like Diana, and don’t like Liverpudlians. Or am I the one unfairly generalising now?

  97. sorry saul and others who are having a go at boris but i dont agree with what you are saying.
    the simple truth is ken bigley went to iraq to earn himself a nice bit of money. he didnt go out there to help anybody, except himself. im sorry if youre finding this hard to accept, but if he came from anywhere else in the country it wouldnt be an issue. once again liverpudlians are blowing everything totally out of proportion.
    and another thing… isnt it funny how liverpool fans will make such a fuss about hillsborough but as soon as heysel is mentioned theyre a little less vocal. very strange.
    also, as some people STILL wont accept boris’s apology, doesn’t this prove that they love to wallow in their moment of tragedy?
    lets put things into perspective. one mercinary man dies, admittedly the way he died was horrific and should fall upon nobody, and the city is thrown into mourning. a minutes silence here and a book of well wishes there.
    how about the soldiers dying out there? there’s not a minute’s silence in a city everytime one of them dies. some might say “oh well they chose to go in the army, they have to expect it”. to that i say “ken bigley knew the risks when he went out there, he should have expected it”

  98. You might look up a recent poll held by AOL, 68% of those who voted were in favour of the comments made by Boris about Liverpool, I being one of them. Tell Boris to keep up the good work, we need more people like him in this Country. (although I have no checked his MPs expence claim yet) Kindest regards

  99. Good lad Boris. If I were you I would worry more about your leaders lack of support than the cry-babies proving your point. If Howard showed even the slightest hint of having the cajones to lead I might consider voting Conservative. There are a lot of us out here in a wilderness bereft of a political home. I personally am waiting for a party to emerge whose leaders and policies are honest and not a namby pamby mix of political correctness that represents only the interests of vocal minority groups.

  100. Who the hell is Paul Bigley to tell Boris to resign. He is NOTHING. Boris is a democratically elected MP, he has made a ‘mistake’ and he is apologising like a man. Paul Bigley is no-one: his only claim to fame is that his brother died.

    The Bigley family are the people who should get out of public life as soon as possible.

  101. Boris is a giant!

    Boris was big enough to go to Liverpool and apologize – Liverpool was not big enough to accept it!

    The Blair Broadcasting Corporation was delirious with the situation, repeating over and over again Mr Bigley’s rant – the same Mr Bigley that told Tony Blair he had blood on his hands.

  102. The people of Liverpool did not make a big thing over Ken Bigley’s death but were attacked by the Spectator’s leading article and, in the main don’t give a monkey’s about the article.

    However, the media give the Bigley affair massive coverage and the media has hyped up the need to apologise and the sense of outrage felt in Liverpool. Those attacking the people of Liverpool in the posts above don’t know the place or anything about its people. We don’t bloody care the article, nasty as it paragraph about Liverpool is. If it were not for the libellous and incorrect sentence about Hillborough, the article would have been best ignored entirely. Even as it is, most people in Liverpool couldn’t care less.

    Boris Johnson’s article in this week’s Spectator and his words of apology are well judged. Apology accepted!

    In other circumstances, from what I can ascertain about the man, Liverpool and Boris Johnson would probably get on well. Liverpool on the whole is a well-meaning and laid-back city that likes joke and enjoy itself. Rather like Boris.

    It is highly depressing how many people are so eager to believe that Liverpool had (a) over reacted to Bigley’s murder and (b) over reacted to the Spectator and use these false assumptions to excuse their venting of their hatred of the people of the city. Very sad. It’s not very becoming to br prejudiced and full of hate for any group of people.

    Anyway, Liverpool nowadays has one of the fastest growing economies of any big city in the UK, our cultural institutions are unrivalled outside of London and we have a beautiful, riverside city, now a World Heritage Site and which is now finally being renovated to its potential as money makes a reappearance in the city. We like ourselves and we love our city. We can take a silly article in a barely-read London magazine thank you very much. And despite the fact that this board seems to indicate that many of our countrymen seem to hate us for reasons I cannot understand, we don’t hate you back. You simply must not know any better.

    Come and visit us, especially in 2008 when we are Capital of Culture – the cultural riches, architectural heritage, buzzing nightlife and friendly people might take you by surprise. And that includes Mr Johnson himself – I look forward to his visit in 2008. Simon Heffer might as well stay home though – I don’t he would be able to appreciate what’s good about the place 🙂

  103. Well said Boris. I cannot say any more than what has already been said, but I applaud you on all you have said.

  104. Another Liverpudlian has taken the sword to Boris – this time on television. Paul O’Grady began his stint on Parky’s show tonight by ‘working’ the audience against Boris, wanting Boris to crawl on the ground like a snake and to beg for forgiveness.

    Boris is well advised to leave these neo-socialist ‘Huttonites’ to their own devices and concentrate on becomming the next leader of the Conservative Party and a future PM of this country.

  105. Next time Borris apply the stick to the teacups (smile)

    I think life is too short to waste it on storms in TV studio teacup, mediocre wine, and artificial flowers.

  106. Good man, Boris. I support you whole-heartedly. Mind you, I don’t think you should have went to Liverpool and apologised but that’s the penalty with having a PC party leader. Keep it up and don’t be silenced! Best wishes.

  107. A few facts about Hillsborough.

    The Police Officer in charge of public safety gave instructions that the gates to the ground should be opened in order to avoid risk of injury outside.

    Within ten minutes of the game being abandoned (3.06pm) the same Police Officer issued a statement that the problems had been caused by Liverpool fans outside the Leppings Lane end breaking down the gates.

    Those who died were all ticket holders. They died crushed against the cages at the front of the terrace – many were young because they arrived at the ground early to ensure they could get a good view of the game.

    The Sun published a front page story within days of the event headlined: ‘HILLSBOROUGH: THE TRUTH’ which alleged that Liverpool fans were drunk, stole from the corpses of the dead and urinated on Police Officers attempting to revive the injured. Oh yes, and they deliberately turned up late, without tickets in order to force their way into the ground.

    The source of the story is thought to have been from within the South Yorkshire Police. None of it was true.

    Now… imagine how hurt people were caused by The Spectator’s editorial which re-opened these wounds.

  108. You would think a journalist and front line politician would be interested in the story written by Paul Mooney (above) but they seem more interested in insulting innocent people.

    But they seem much keener to appear on have i got news for you.

    Are they all mentally impaired?

  109. first people who like to hurt amiamals for fun v intervering goverment types, than peter tachell agaist black rappers and now moaning liverpudlians and this idiot johnson
    oh what a great few weeks!

  110. I have to say I do think it was a bad idea to dig up the past of the Hillsborough tragedy, especially when the facts are misquoted. However I completely agree with everything else you had to say. It’s outrageous and almost disgusting that all these people who don’t know the guy (Bigley) are expected or even want to have minutes silences and honour this man that they don’t know anything about, when a while back 12 Nepalese were killed in Iraq and it was barely mentioned.

  111. Why are you all giving credit to Boris when he didn’t write a word of the article?

    Are you all subnormal?

  112. Simon

    Subnormality must not be allowed to permeate this site:

    I remember some time ago when I worked for the member for Wirral West (before that it was the Gravesham member – the one whose voice you insisted in describing in robotic terms – and the ping pong correspondence that followed… ) you referred to Brazilians as: “They all live in the jungle, don’t they, eating bananas?”.

    I believe that your light may well be hiding under a bushel in all this…Anyone care to investigate? Anything we can do to ensure that the spotlight swivels round to shine on the dazzling truth?

  113. Alistair- as if any rightminded Londoner would want to visit the provinces let alone Liverpool.
    As the great Social Commentator Y Batchilly once said ‘to be bored of London is to be bored of life.’
    yup yup yup!
    I think Boris and the majority of his wellwishers on here would agree.

  114. I once went to Liverpool and I was amazed that people still used horses and the water was only available at certain times in the day.

    It is the only mainland British city to still employ ‘knocker upper’s’ as the City’s lighting is still run on gas.


  116. Boris is right about mawkishness.
    I mean it’s not as if the North got bombed in the war like the East End was.
    God bless Queen Elizabeth.

    J Francis
    3 St Ives Road
    East Ham

  117. Boris should recognise the role of his media colleagues in stirring up the mass mawkish movement. If Ken Bigley’s ongoing treatment had been consigned to one paragraph shorts on page 2 of the Telegraph and one sentance, no image, updates on the television news then I have no doubt the nation’s sense of perspective would not have been distorted to such an extent.

    Let’s have more sound judgement from the people who control the media and less crap about giving the readers/viewers “what they want”.

  118. How dare you insult the good people of liverpool.you are a joke and should resign immediately cause u will never be respected fully again

  119. The storm swelled not because of the tone of the article, but because there are not a few disillusioned readers who are highly irritated by the continued propagation of fatuous stereotypes in today’s media. One only has to wade through the (occasionally amusing) swamp of contradictions and inaccuracies that constitute Taki Theodoracopulous’weekly column to know why.

    Fortunately Taki is in the main laughed off as a basket case, but when a Spectator leader recylces tired old canard, with the prejudiced hand of Heffer allowed to work freely and unhampered by considerations of fact or reality, then we have a problem.

    Such scribblings may be suited to The Mail, which presumably pays Heffer’s mortgage, but has no place in an intellectually superior publication such as yours, which seeks to challenge its readers through polemical but well thought out arguments, and not merely fan the flames of prejudice with outright lies.

    As such, you got your apology spot on, Boris. By all means stand by your article, however offensive some may find it, as long as it is based on fact or logic. You were therefore entirely correct to retract the factual inaccuracies: that most Liverpudlians are “welfare-addicted” and that the “50” who died (it was actually close to twice that number) at Hillsborough were victimes of their own lack of sobriety. Prejudiced rants may be Heffer’s stock-in-trade, but it brings neither you nor your estimable publication much credit.

  120. Seems to me that the ever-so-slightly hysterical reaction of some people to this whole affair kind of supports the original point that was being made in the Spectator article that caused all the fuss (which was, incidentally, a jolly good piece that made several valid points).

    It is not at all sporting of these people who are being so nasty, after all, I don’t know who but somebody important did once say that to err is only human, but to forgive is divine. That seems to just about cover it.

    Personally I think that you handled the whole thing just about as well as anyone could have, proper job!

    Nothing that has happened over the past month has made me think the worse of you, I loved your books and am eagerly awaiting the next.

    Keep up the good work Boris!

  121. When am I going to get the credit for this? Boris didn’t write the article, so what are you idiots praising him for? It is I, Simon Heffer, your dark lord, your evil scribe, I shall be king!!!
    [Ed: are you joking?!]

  122. Scousers revel in every perceived injustice, and are desperate to have someone to blame. It’s sickening.

  123. i think boris should become pm because of his honesty even though i have always been labour i would think again

  124. No need to think again J Bednall…Boris is our man!

    What we need is a new political party altogether for honest Boris to lead. The old parties are riven with corruption with another two (straight off the EU gravy train) heading for the House of Lords. ‘Cricket ground digger’ Peter Hain is trying to give them a coat of white wash before they go, but that is a waste of time.

    It is time to start again with the BORIS PARTY – vote out the old and vote in the new in 2005.

  125. GO ON Boris! You knows those scousers are a load of knobjockeys. You shouldnt have apologised, they deserve everything they get. Bum Lepers!

  126. Boris didnt write the article, Simon Heffer did.


  127. If Simon Heffer wrote the article, why didn’t he have the bottle to go to Liverpool and defend it or apologise?

    Boris has demonstrated his courage, integrity, charisma, leadership and sheer common sense. The Tories should realise that if they’re ever going to get another crack at government, they should replace Howard with Boris without delay.

  128. “There was the Scouser at the airport who said, as he frisked me, that he agreed with every word of it.

    But, in between, there were dozens and dozens of people who showed every sign of genuine hurt and incomprehension. Why did we make these cruel generalisations about welfare-addicted Liverpudlians? ”

    -This part made me laugh: I thought, oh dear Boris is going to tell us about all the people in Liverpool who agreed with him, but at least you are (with restraint) honest about the fact your reception was (deservedly) hostile in Liverpool.

    A lot of the grief is about the North South divide – smug South-Easterners telling us in the North how to think -“pull yourselves together” and this feeds a lot of the hurt.

    You were brave to go to Liverpool and admit that whatever the general thrust of the article you were WRONG to mock the people of a proud Northern city and yet again to use stereotypes of the people there.

    You have a lot of charisma Boris, even though you are a complete nutter.

  129. Boris may be a nutter, but could he – in all honesty – do any worse that the performances of Michael Howard on a Wednesday during PMQ’s ?

    Some of these Conservative MP’s are costing you and me £200,000 per annum, to have them sitting in Parliament like ‘nodding dogs’ in the rear shelf of a car.

    Boris could do the work of them all put together – given half a chance.

  130. I think what a lot of people outside can’t comprehend is the bad timing of your comments. Us Scouser are one of the best communities to take critiscm on the chin, and we are one of the very few with a sense of humour – both laughing at others as well as ourselves.

    The problem with your comments were that they came at a time when the community was feeling low, and when we needed or expected the support of our fellow countrymen and it simply wasn’t there. Your comments along with the others from narrow-minded individuals throughtout the country were simply not what we needed to hear at the time.

    For those that continued to slate Liverpool, I truly hope they never have to face the same thing, both a football incident as bad as Hillsborough and a beheading of a local man, having said that there is an ironic feeling that I would like them to be touched in the same way. If they do experience the same, then they will feel the same anguish that we feel, however what makes us different as people, is that we will support them no matter who or where they come from.

  131. Good stuff, and today we see that you are a victim yet again… the Tories have done themselves a lot of damage by failing to spot ‘star turns’ in the past, and Michael Howard is (at best) entering the twilight of his career… Boris on the other hand is one of the few politicians who can speak directly to the young generation of disenfranchised voters and should be made leader, not dismissed for some tabloid pap that has nothing to do with his work as a politician or a journlaist. Chin up Boris, and good luck!

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