Boris Johnson, formerly a British Conservative MP and a highly entertaining weekly presence on the Daily Telegraph opinion pages and now, improbably, mayor of London, returns in today’s edition to discuss his latest crimes against political correctness, as depicted in the photo below.
This is a man who is still, as far as we know, in possession of Tariq Aziz’s cigar case—which he purloined from the smoldering rubble of the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister’s home on a tour of Baghdad in 2003 and has steadfastly refused to return. (“Hello, hello, hello, I said to myself as I spotted something on the floor, what have we here?” he wrote of his decision to pocket the memento.) This is a man who, as editor of the Spectator, took responsibility for an editorial attributing Merseyside’s collective grief over the beheading of Kenneth Bigley to a “peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche [of victimhood] among many Liverpudlians” borne of “a combination of economic misfortune … and an excessive predilection for welfarism.” But as politics becomes local, scandal becomes… well, even siller. By now we’re sure you’ll all have spotted it: he’s not wearing a bicycle helmet, against an expressed promise to do so, and not for the first time he’s been caught in the act.
Johnson explains himself, as only he can, by citing “the sheer loveliness of early June. The sun was warm, and whatever the advantages of a helmet, it would make the head hot and scratchy.”
Then, exhibiting the rhetorical flamboyancy that we’ve come to enjoy (and that infuriates so many other people), he likens his illogical and inconsistent approach to helmet-wearing to the debate over how long the government should be allowed to keep terrorism suspects in custody without laying a charge.
Last week, the public was asked what it thought of the Government’s plan to lock people up for 42 days without charge. Yeah! said a stonking 69 per cent of the YouGov sample. Bang ’em up. Better safe than sorry, was the message of the electorate.
This weekend, the public was asked what they thought of my friend David Davis’s heroic act of auto-defenestration, and his decision to call a by-election to oppose the 42 days measure. Yeah! said the public – 69 per cent of them, according to ICM. Good on yer, David, they said. You stick up for our liberties!
Now if 69 per cent of the public is in favour of 42 days’ detention without charge, and 69 per cent are in favour of David Davis and his opposition to 42 days, it is a mathematical certainty that a large chunk of the electorate is hopelessly muddled.
We need to be clear about the trade-off. The price of liberty is a small but appreciable loss of security; the price of security is a loss of liberty. In the case of the 42 days, the increase in security is obviously too small to justify the loss of a freedom such as habeas corpus.
As for cycle helmets, we should be allowed, in our muddled way, to make up our own minds. Sometimes we will go for hatless, sun-blessed, windswept liberty; sometimes for helmeted security.
(Photo: Daily Mail)