His own sartorial choices have divided opinion at the best of times.
On Monday, however, Boris Johnson weighed in on the furore surrounding the wearing of a shirt bearing images of semi-naked women by a scientist involved in the Rosetta mission, likening critics of Dr Matt Taylor to “Islamist maniacs”.
Using typically graphic language, the mayor of London said of the London-born scientist’s subsequent tearful apology: “It was like something from the show trials of Stalin, or from the sobbing testimony of the enemies of Kim Il-sung, before they were taken away and shot. It was like a scene from Mao’s cultural revolution when weeping intellectuals were forced to confess their crimes against the people.”
Johson was insistent in his regular column for the Daily Telegraph that Taylor had little to say sorry for, asking: “What are we all – a bunch of Islamist maniacs who think any representation of the human form is an offence against God? This is the 21st century, for goodness sake. And if you ask yourself why so few have come to the defence of the scientist, the answer is that no one dares.
“No one wants to take on the rage of the web – by which people use social media to externalise their own resentments and anxieties, often anonymously and with far more vehemence than they really intend. No one wants to dissent – and no wonder our politics sometimes feels so sterilised and homogenised.”
The mayor, still regarded as a potential Conservative party leader in waiting, went on to say Taylor deserved the applause of the UK, and those who “bash him” should be the ones apologising.
“There must be room in our world for eccentricity, even if it offends the prudes, and room for the vague other-worldliness that often goes with genius,” Johnson wrote.
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