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Category Archives: Social mobility
Prime minister says he will let ‘Boris talk for Boris’ after London mayor hailed benefits of greed and inequality
David Cameron has distanced himself from Boris Johnson after the London mayor mocked people with low IQs and hailed the benefits of greed and inequality in spurring economic growth.
In his first public response after Johnson said inequality was essential in fostering “the spirit of envy”, the prime minister said he would allow “Boris to talk for Boris”.
Asked on his flight to China whether the London mayor spoke for the Conservative party about IQ levels and inequality, the prime minister said: “I let Boris speak for himself. I think it is very important that we make sure we do everything so that we maximise people’s opportunities to make the most of their talents.
“I believe in equality of opportunity. No one should be held back by not being able to get the training, the education, the skills that they need. Everyone has their own way of putting these things and I’ll leave Boris to talk for Boris.”
The Tory leadership was privately appalled when Johnson said in the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture last week that greed was a “valuable spur to economic activity”. He called for the “Gordon Gekkos of London” to display their greed to promote economic growth, though he also said they should display a social conscience.
Johnson also mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130. “Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85 while about 2% …” he said. Johnson then departed from the prepared text of his speech to ask whether anyone in his City audience had a low IQ. He asked: “Over 16% anyone? Put up your hands.” He then resumed his speech to talk about the 2% who have an IQ above 130.
George Osborne distanced himself from Johnson’s remarks on Sunday. The chancellor told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1: “I wouldn’t have put it like that and I don’t agree with everything he said. What I think there is increasingly common agreement about across the political spectrum is that you can’t achieve equality of outcome but you should be able to achieve equality of opportunity. You should give everyone, wherever they come from, the best chance and actually education is the absolute key to this.”
One senior Tory said that Osborne, Johnson’s potential rival for the party leadership when Cameron stands down, would be privately delighted by the damage Johnson inflicted on himself. The Tory told the Guardian last week: “I think I heard the putt-putt of champagne corks popping in No 11. A wintery smile came across George Osborne’s face as he briefly interrupted his preparations for the autumn statement to do a jig. No doubt the prime minister has telephoned Boris to say: ‘Only you could get away with this.’ Ho ho ho.”
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