Yesterday evening we discussed the events that led up to the sad resignation of James McGrath as a senior aide to Boris Johnson. Boris' statement reacting to James' resignation included these words:
"James is not a racist. I know that. He shares my passionate belief that racism is vile, repulsive and has no place in modern Britain. But his response to a silly and hostile suggestion put to him by Marc Wadsworth, allowed doubts to be raised about that commitment... James's remark was taken out of context and distorted, but he recognises the need for crystal clarity on a vital issue like this. We both agree that he could not stay on as my political adviser without providing ammunition for those who wish to deliberately misrepresent our clear and unambiguous opposition to any racist tendencies."
In other words: James is not a racist but I'm not prepared to risk standing up to the people who suggest that he is. In a very strong blog Iain Dale has accused Boris Johnson of a failure of backbone over the affair. Those of us who know James McGrath are seriously angered by this episode. Comments on our previous post on this have been virtually unanimous in their opposition to the resignation.
Here's a quick draft of an alternative statement that Boris could and should have issued - perhaps on camera, supported by one of the ethnically diverse appointments that he has made:
"You will have seen internet coverage of remarks made by one of my advisers, James McGrath. I ask you to look at the context of the remarks and judge whether the author of the piece - a Labour activist - is a fair-minded person or someone with a political agenda. I know James and I know him not to be a racist. He wouldn't be part of my team if he didn't share my belief that London is greater because of its diversity. He wouldn't be part of my team if he wasn't committed to my agenda of building a London where every citizen is respected regardless of race, religion and sexuality. There have, of course, been calls from some quarters for me to sack James but I will not. To do so would only encourage more malicious and vexatious allegations against my staff and other public figures. In these cases it becomes not about what somebody has said, but about how the media think somebody, somewhere could wrongly perceive what they said. Racism is still a real problem in too much of society but we devalue real incidents of racism when we over-react to unfortunate uses of words. I want to put an end to the gotcha style of journalism that is always determined to think the worst of people. Most Londoners are fair-minded and want to think the best of people. My administration won't be bullied by the politically correct. Our priorities are fighting crime, improving educational opportunity and affordable housing. James will continue to help me in those tasks. I will not throw a good man to the wolves."