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Stories Stories Lifestyle #sexistmayor Boris Johnson should go back to university

#sexistmayor Boris Johnson should go back to university
Written by Karen     April 06, 2014    
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Well, I failed, dammit! I went to university and all I got was this lousy double-honours law and languages degree. And now I find out – thanks to Boris Johnson's latest pronouncement – that what I should have been doing for all those years was not developing a well-honed mind and the ability to debate jurisprudential quandaries (in French). No, I should have devoted my time to "finding" a husband.

Yes, the mayor of London chose the occasion of the World Islamic Economic Forum at City Hall last week to explain why so many women seek out higher education. (The Malaysian prime minister had just revealed that in his country women now account for more than two-thirds of the university intake.) Odd, though, that London's very own self-proclaimed scourge of sexism chose an event unlikely to be plastered with media coverage to resurrect one of his oldest and favourite theories: all these women go to university because "they've got to find men to marry". He was recorded saying so this time by blogger Adam Bienkov, who sparked a Twitter storm over #sexistmayor.

Of course, Johnson may have been speaking from personal experience. After all, he did "find" a wife to marry at university, even if the union with Allegra Mostyn-Owen rapidly hit the rocks thereafter. His lengthy seduction campaign began with the immortal line "Oh, oh, oh, oh!" An expensive education not wasted, then.

The mayor of London's remark about women entering higher education to find husbands reveals he is far from the feminist he has claimed to be, says a woman who has worked with him

Clever, aristocratic Mostyn-Owen was the catch of the year. Such high-level wooing of the most beautiful girl in Oxford – famed for her appearance on the front page of Tatler – must have been time-consuming. Perhaps it accounts for Johnson's mere 2:1 in his classics degree while the upstart David Cameron (who left wife-finding for later) scooped a prized first in PPE.

Let us gloss over the fact that Johnson was not quite the husband that Mostyn-Owen had hoped for – or deserved. Repeated claims by Johnson to be a feminist have perhaps helped win him an unaccountably large proportion of the female vote. But they do not sit comfortably with his poor record in appointing women to senior positions or promoting them in the public eye – how many of you know Isabel Dedring, his only female deputy mayor with a portfolio?

Then there is the laddish banter he slips so easily into in private – or occasionally the pages of the Daily Telegraph, which for him is almost the same thing. Remember his references to Olympic female volleyball-players "glistening like wet otters"? He's certainly not popular with many women at City Hall, and has been the subject of complaints about the offensive language that he hurls at female members of the London assembly. He described one of them as "economically illiterate", addresses most of them as "dear" and overspeaks their contributions with such words as: "blah, blah, blah fishcakes". The fact is that the closer people get to Boris the more sexist they realise he is – as the geniality wears thin. I "found" my husband eventually, when I was good and ready. Women, be careful who you marry. And also who you vote for.


• London, United Kingdom


• Sonia Purnell
Contributor's Comment
• Johnson is a 'Grade A' prat in public with a sinister personal and political agenda. He's far from the "affable buffoon" the media have tried to make him out to be. Papers even such as the Guardian have tended more to fuel rather than challenge him over the past year and that needs to change.
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