Boris: Portsmouth ‘full of drugs and obesity’
Conservative frontbencher Boris Johnson has stumbled into another accusation of “buffoonery” after claiming Portsmouth is full of fat people and drug users.
Local politicians are outraged at the shadow minister’s criticism of their city and have called on Mr Johnson to walk barefoot to Portsmouth and apologise.
Writing in GQ magazine, the high profile MP said: “Here we are, in one of the most depressed towns in Southern England, a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs.”
Mr Johnson was touring the city in a £340,000 Maybach limousine for his motoring column.
The Oxford educated old-Etonian also courted controversy by seemingly criticising the standards at Portsmouth University. He wrote: “Poor bedraggled students splash across the campus in search of their lectures on feminism and media studies.”
Portsmouth MPs and councillors have defended their city and called for David Cameron to sack the MP for Henley on Thames from the Tory frontbench.
Mike Hancock, the Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, said Mr Johnson was “living up to his reputation of being a buffoon and a prat”, and called on Mr Johnson to walk barefoot to the city to apologise.
Mr Johnson’s comments are “outrageous and beyond belief” Mr Hancock claimed, and questioned whether the rotund MP should criticise Portsmouth’s physical health.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Labour MP for Portsmouth north, said the Oxfordshire MP was not fit to sit on the front bench.
Writing on her website, Ms McCarthy-Fry said Mr Johnson probably thought he was being “witty” but his comments were insulting to her constituents.
“We all know Boris has led a privileged life, and has no idea about the problems affecting real people,” she continued. “It was 18 years of a Tory MP which led to the social problems we have in Portsmouth in the first place, leaving us with high levels of unemployment and lack of investment in public services.”
The Labour MP called on Mr Cameron to sack his playground contemporary from the frontbench.
However, the Conservatives have stood by their higher education spokesman, insisting his comments were founded on truth.
A Conservative spokeswoman said: “According to the government’s own figures, Portsmouth suffers the third highest level of deprivation and the fifth highest crime rate in the whole of the south east of England.
“Labour and Lib Dem politicians should not criticise Boris Johnson for speaking the truth.
“They should be asking themselves how they can help tackle the city’s problems.”
Mr Johnson is well used to weathering political controversy. In 2005 he angered Liverpudlians by claiming their city “wallowed in victim status”. He was writing in the Spectator in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Liverpudlian Ken Bigley.
And he was later forced to apologise to Papua New Guinea after he linked the nation to “cannibalism and chief-killing”.