ConservativeHome has learnt that one of Boris Johnson's most senior advisers James McGrath has stepped down from his post to avoid causing London's new Mayor any embarrassment. On a citizen journalism website - The-Latest.com - this is reported:
"McGrath was far from politically correct, David-Cameron-new cuddly-Conservative Party, when I pointed out to him a critical comment of Voice columnist Darcus Howe that the election of “Boris Johnson, a right-wing Conservative, might just trigger off a mass exodus of older Caribbean migrants back to our homelands”.
He retorted: “Well, let them go if they don’t like it here.” McGrath dismissed influential race commentator Howe as ‘shrill’."
If you read all of Marc Wadsworth's piece for The-Latest.com you'll read the words of a writer determined to injure James McGrath and the Conservative Party. James McGrath shouldn't have been pushed out of his job. The remarks above - which are probably horribly out of context - should have been judged in the real context of his record. Anyone who knows James McGrath knows him not to be a racist. Far from it. He's a man of integrity who as Chief of Staff to Francis Maude (when the latter was Chairman) helped deliver some of Project Cameron's early reforms. Since then he has served the party very well - not least in helping to get Campaign Boris back on course at the turn of the year.
Public figures can get away with misusing expenses and terrible policy failures but an unfortunate phrase on racial issues causes something to go wrong in the wiring of politicians and the media. ConservativeHome celebrates multiracial Britain but we also worry about what should be called an industry that is determined to see racism when there is nothing but an unfortunate remark. Is there a gutsy politician willing to face up to the hysteria that this industry generates? Without such guts there'll only be more false charges of racism.
Boris was himself accused of racism at the start of his Mayoral campaign. Out of context his remarks appeared unfortunate. In the context of his full career they rightly didn't worry fair-minded Londoners. Boris should have had the backbone to stand by such a loyal aide. There should have been no pressure to resign and no acceptance of a resignation.
The party cannot afford to lose people who are as talented as James McGrath. National debate shouldn't continue to be held hostage by the racism industry.
9.15pm update: Boris has released a statement saying James McGrath isn't a racist and that he was taken out of context, but had to go anyway because it could provide "ammunition for those who wish to deliberately misrepresent" him. Read it in full below...
"It is with great regret this evening that I have accepted the resignation of my political adviser, James McGrath.
'James has been a loyal, committed and highly professional colleague. I will always be grateful to him for his skills, advice and support in helping elect me as Mayor of London.
'Unfortunately, his remarks in a conversation with an Internet journalist, published this weekend, made it impossible for him to continue in that role.
'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.
'London is blessed with a rich ethnic and cultural diversity. It is one of the main reasons why I regard it as the greatest city on earth, and I am determined, as Mayor, to serve each and every community with equal passion and 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.
'I wish James well in the future, thank him for his contribution and urge everyone not to misrepresent his view or misinterpret his intentions any further".
9.45pm: Iain Dale writes: "All Boris has done is attempt to appease people who are quite frankly not capable of being appeased. What he should have done is stand by the man who has stood by him through thick and thin over the last eight months. Instead, Boris has hung James McGrath out to dry - apparently either with the connivance of or at the behest of the Party leadership - in the most despicable and and cowardly manner possible."