London's new mayor is eccentric, offensive
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
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 »
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
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!"