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Boris Johnson said children of single mothers were 'ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate' in newly unearthed column

The Independent logo The Independent 28/11/2019 Jon Sharman
Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Independent

Boris Johnson described the children of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate” in a newly unearthed article which Labour has claimed shows the prime minister’s “dark-age” attitudes towards women.

In a column written for The Spectator, the Tory leader said it was “outrageous that married couples should pay for ‘the single mothers’ desire to procreate independently of men”.

And he suggested it was “feeble” for a man to be unable or unwilling to “take control of his woman”, arguing Britain needed to “restore women’s desire to be married”.

Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s shadow attorney general, accused Mr Johnson of attacking single mothers and advocating sexual harassment in the August 1995 column, unearthed by the party’s researchers as the general election approaches.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Healey's Cornish Cyder Farm, in Callestick. © Reuters Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Healey's Cornish Cyder Farm, in Callestick.

The Spectator‘s archives show Mr Johnson, who went on to edit the magazine, described the offspring of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children who in theory will be paying for our pensions”.

Suggesting swingeing cuts to benefits to tackle teen pregnancy, he wrote: “It must be generally plausible that if having a baby out of wedlock meant sure-fire destitution on a Victorian scale, young girls might indeed think twice about having a baby.

“And yet no government – and certainly no Labour government – will have the courage to make the cuts in the safety net of the viciousness required to provide anything like such a deterrent. For the reality, surely, is that nine times out of 10 these girls will go on having babies out of wedlock not because they want to qualify for some state hand-out, but because, in their monotonous and depressing lives, they want a little creature to love.”

“Feeble” and unreliable men were more to blame for the problem than “uppity and irresponsible women”, he suggested.

The article is the not the first Spectator piece that has led to the prime minister facing accusations of sexism.

Gallery: Johnson's long list of gaffes, offensive remarks and controversies (Photos)

In a 2001 diary column for the same publication, Mr Johnson also covered a range of topics including what he said was the large number of attractive women he had encountered at the Conservatives’ winter ball.

He wrote: “There is one measurement I hesitate to mention, since the last time I did, I am told, the wife of the editor of the Economist cancelled her subscription to the Daily Telegraph in protest at my crass sexism.

“It is what is called the Tottometer, the geigercounter that detects good-looking women. In 1997, I reported, these were to be found in numbers at the Labour conference. Now – and this is not merely my own opinion – the Tories are fighting back in a big way.”

Ffion Hague, the wife of William Hague, set his and others’ Tottometers ”squeaking away like crazy”, added the future prime minister.

In a third article, from 2005, Mr Johnson described life at the Spectator offices in his final contribution as editor, offering anecdotes and advice. Following a wistful description of a nap on a comfortable sofa, he writes: “You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you.

Gallery: The ups and downs from the campaign trail (Photos)

“Relax. It’s only Kimberly, with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation. Just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.”

Baroness Chakrabarti claimed the 2005 article, while tongue-in-cheek in tone, effectively advocated workplace sexual harassment.

“Someone whose attitudes towards women are straight out of the dark ages is not fit to be prime minister,” she said in a statement on Wednesday night.

The Independent has contacted Mr Johnson for comment.

Challenged previously on other controversial articles – such as his description of Muslim women wearing niqabs as looking like “letterboxes” – the prime has defended his right to freedom of expression.

He told a BBC Question Time special last week: “I have written many millions of words in my life as a journalist and I have genuinely never intended to cause hurt or pain to anybody.”

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