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London's new mayor is eccentric, offensive

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/05/02/britain.johnson.ap/index.html?eref=rss_world London s new mayor is eccentric, offensive LONDON, England (AP) --
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2008

      London's new mayor is eccentric, offensive

      LONDON, England (AP) -- London's new Mayor Boris
      Johnson divides opinion like few others, a maverick
      lawmaker loved for his eccentric wit but often
      maligned for his abrasive tongue.

      Ken Livingstone, left, will relinquish the London
      mayor's office to Conservative candidate Boris

      The uncombed, rumple-suited former magazine editor
      boasts none of the professional sheen of New York's
      Michael Bloomberg but will lead a booming city that
      rivals Manhattan as the world's leading economic
      center and will be host of the 2012 Olympic Games.

      His victory over incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone, a
      left-winger and member of Prime Minister Gordon
      Brown's governing Labour Party, will be seen as a boon
      for opposition Conservative chief David Cameron.
      Johnson's victory gives the Conservatives their first
      major political office since their crushing 1997
      national election defeat.

      But some Cameron supporters warn that Johnson could
      prove to be a Trojan horse, if his unguarded remarks
      and buffoonish image undermine the opposition's claim
      that it is now ready to lead Britain.

      Johnson cuts a curious figure, either waddling through
      posh London streets or clumsily pedaling his bicycle
      to Parliament.

      Silhouettes of his iconic poses -- scratching his
      unruly thatch of blond hair, ambling along a road with
      hands stuffed in wrinkled pockets, gesticulating
      wildly to make a debating point -- were used on
      campaign billboards. Video Watch a report on the
      mayoral race ยป

      Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is best known for
      appearances on the satirical news panel show "Have I
      Got News for You" but has also won notoriety for
      offending minority communities.

      He caused deep offense after labeling members of the
      Commonwealth "piccaninnies," a derogatory term for
      black people; referred to Africans as having
      "watermelon smiles"; and likened his party's internal
      conflicts "to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of
      cannibalism and chief-killing."

      Johnson's first key test is likely to hinge on how he
      handles relations with China. As mayor, he will be
      expected to attend at least part of the Beijing
      Olympics, and his party will hope he is able to avoid
      offending the hosts.

      "Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and
      unlikely to increase," Johnson wrote in one of his
      several books on subjects ranging from sports cars to
      ancient Rome.

      Johnson's scorn has also been directed at gay
      marriage, which became legal in Britain in 2005. In
      his book "Friends, Voters, Countrymen," he said that
      if homosexuals could marry, then why not "three men,
      as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog."

      Ex-party leader Michael Howard ordered Johnson to
      visit the northern city of Liverpool in 2004 to
      apologize when he wrote an editorial accusing the
      city's people of "wallowing" in victimhood after
      Liverpudlian Ken Bigley, who had been taken hostage in
      Iraq, was beheaded.

      Last year, Johnson angered lawmakers in the southern
      coastal city of Portsmouth when he wrote that the area
      was "arguably too full of drugs, obesity,
      underachievement and Labour MPs."

      The legislator has even set himself at odds with his
      own party with his often provocative comments.

      In 2006, he refused to support attempts to make school
      meals healthier, part of a campaign to tackle
      childhood obesity in Britain, saying instead that he
      sympathized with parents who were surreptitiously
      passing junk food to their children at lunchtimes.

      "I say, let people eat what they like. Why shouldn't
      they push pies through the railings?" Johnson said,
      bucking the trend for lawmakers to back a campaign
      launched by a TV chef.

      Johnson, who was born in New York, is the
      great-grandson of Turkish journalist and government
      minister Ali Kemal. A lawmaker in Britain's House of
      Commons, he represents the genteel southern district
      of Henley, famed for its annual yachting regatta. He
      plans to step down as a legislator within 12 months.

      The new mayor holds a classics degree from Oxford
      University and edited the right-leaning Spectator from
      1999 until 2005, surviving the embarrassment of an
      alleged affair with one of his writers. With typical
      panache, he called the adultery reports "an inverted
      pyramid of piffle."

      Johnson also attended the prestigious Eton College
      with Cameron, and both men were photographed posing in
      the white-tie-and-tails uniform of the boarding
      school's exclusive Bullingdon dining club.

      Although Cameron has downplayed his elitist
      upbringing, Johnson has cultivated his role as a
      befuddled toff, fielding tricky questions with a
      ruffle of his thick mop of blond hair and a typically
      anachronistic shout of "crikey!"
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