Fresh off the back of islamophobic comments made in his newspaper column, Boris Johnson captured the hearts of the UK’s journalists by offering them tea on his doorstep. The former Foreign Secretary dodged questions about his piece, for which he is now under disciplinary investigation. An ITV political correspondent seemed particularly enamoured with Johnson’s gesture, stating that this was the “classy” way to dodge questions–seemingly he wasn’t offended by the former Mayor of London’s disgraceful mug collection.
Any journalist who found Johnson’s actions endearing ought to be ashamed of themselves. The role of journalists is to hold power to account, and there should be no easier opportunity to hold power to account when that power has been gleefully islamophobic in a newspaper column. It’s a great injustice to the British muslim community that a high profile politician is being allowed to get away with making such distasteful and potentially dangerous jokes.
Plus it seems all too obvious that Johnson whipping up a debate over free speech with his bumbling British character is a tactic to cosy up to the far right. The British media seems all too happy to enable Johnson’s dreadful politics and apparent bigotry, giving a platform to his zany (and false) persona. The media has allowed Johnson to cultivate an image which distracts from his actual ideology and policy, giving him an entirely undeserved popularity and, oftentimes, a get out of jail free card when he’s in hot water.
Another inescapable takeaway from this whole farce is the gross inconsistency there is across the media regarding our politicians. Imagine for a second that Jeremy Corbyn was under investigation for making bigoted comments, and he was doorstepped by a pack of journalists, but rather than answering questions he offered each hack a jar of his lovely homemade jam. He’d be absolutely crucified.
Jeremy Corbyn is always under pressure for things that he has done in the past, or more recently for Labour’s response to anti semitism in the Party, but the thing that separates Corbyn and Johnson in this situation is that Corbyn is a man who has dedicated his life to campaigning against bigotry and inequality. The same cannot be said for Boris Johnson yet the media have given him an easy ride over the offensive comments that he himself made, and were given a tick from an editor. If this was someone on the Labour left, the story wouldn’t leave the news cycle for months. The hypocrisy is astounding.
Yet again, British journalists have shamed themselves by waiving their duty to hold power to account. They handed a viral video to a man who is currently under investigation for being islamophobic, rather than demanding a response from him. They may claim that the video shows that he wasn’t answering questions, but they specifically chose to frame the video in a way that made Johnson appear endearing. They let him off the hook.