Boris Johnson has suffered the first casualty of his Mayoralty after political advisor James McGrath resigned following publication of comments he made to web-based journalist Marc Wadsworth.
Put to him that some black Londoners would quite the UK if Johnson succeeded in ousting Ken Livingstone Mr McGrath is said to have replied “Let them go if they don’t like it here.” Both McGrath and Mayor Johnson insist the comment was taken out of context.
Responding to an article on the the-latest.com site McGrath said: “The columnist suggested that older people from the Caribbean might migrant back to their homelands if Boris Johnson became Mayor. I felt that this suggestion was ridiculous and intended as a slur and responded by saying with words to effect of ‘let people go if they don’t like it here.”
However in a statement issued on Sunday evening Mr Johnson said the comments “made it impossible” for McGrath to continue in his job.
Defending his former advisor the Mayor said “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.”
The row comes less than a week after Mayor Johnson was accused of diminishing the anti-racism message of the Rise festival.
Former Mayor Ken Livingstone said “In the context of Boris Johnson’s well known past comments, abandoning the central message of Rise as Europe’s biggest anti-racist festival, and now this enforced resignation of his Deputy Chief of Staff, the real culture of the Johnson administration is becoming clear – one totally at odds with the needs of London as the most diverse city in the world.”
Johnson’s decision to “let go” McGrath has been condemned by Conservative commentator Iain Dale who said Johnson had created “a rod for his own back” warning “all anyone needs to do in future is for anyone
to shout ‘racist’ for the most spurious reason and the subject of the
accusation will be toast.”