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Dom and Dumber?
The driving narrative of Boris Johnson’s election campaign - and now of his government - is that he represents the mainstream, not the extreme. From sorting Brexit’s first stage, to pumping cash to the NHS, to being ‘tough’ on crime and immigration, he managed to unite former Labour heartlands with Tory Home Counties.
Jeremy Corbyn was depicted as the party leader most out of touch and most on the fringe of political discourse. And as Labour is distracted by its own leadership contest, the PM has in many ways enjoyed quite a honeymoon since he secured that 80-seat majority in December. He’s made two big judgement calls, on Huawei and HS2, and the national polls continue to give his party a 20-point lead over the Opposition.
Don’t forget too that Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings is the person who tells him to keep focused on the signal, not the noise. So in many ways, it was no surprise that No10 appeared unbothered about what it may think is yet another ‘metropolitan media’ squall, this time over the views of one of the PM’s advisers, Andrew Sabisky.
Sabisky, in case you missed it, has in the past riffed on Black people having lower IQ than whites, appears to have talked of “the very real racial differences in intelligence” and for good measure talked of compulsory “long-term contraception at the onset of puberty” to prevent the growth of an ‘underclass’.
All pretty shocking to many people, but perhaps not to this No.10. When he was Mayor of London, the PM himself once said that it is “relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85”. And Cummings has his own record in dabbling in debates about eugenics.
Don’t forget the PM’s own view on the perils of political correctness, made plain at his leadership launch last summer. Asked about his remarks about ‘letterbox’ and ‘bankrobber’ Muslim women, he said it is “vital that we as politicians remember that one of the reasons people have become disillusioned with us as a breed is because too often they feel we are muffling and veiling our language”.
Was all this why the PM’s deputy official spokesman, when asked today repeatedly whether the PM believed that black people were less intelligent than whites, refused to answer? No.10 had had plenty of time to come up with a line and yet had none. The spokesman even suggested that cabinet minister Grant Shapps wasn’t speaking for the government when he said Sabisky’s remarks were “not my views and those are not the views of the government”.
Amazingly, even several hours after that briefing, Downing Street aides didn’t clarify the issue. Their silence was deafening. It seemed for a large part of today that, for whatever reason - complacency, incompetence, hostility to Westminster journalists - Boris Johnson was happy to let the public think he was perfectly relaxed about sharing the view that Black people were less smart than whites. For a PM who prides himself on representing ‘mainstream’ Britain, appearing to flirt with extremist Britain was an ugly look indeed. Allegedly clever people had never sounded so stupid.
In the end, it was Sabisky himself who decided to defuse the whole row by quitting his contract (note he was not a permanently employed adviser). There was no Downing Street statement. That left No.10 looking both impotent and unconcerned about allegations of racism. It will have also left some wondering just who was the ‘Dom and Dumber’ pairing on this issue of IQ and equality - Cummings and Sabisky, or Cummings and Johnson?
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.