Boris Johnson was once widely criticised for comments about people with low IQs.
Johnson’s remarks, while mayor of London, resurfaced on Monday as Downing Street came under pressure for refusing to condemn past comments from a new adviser that black Americans have lower IQs than white Americans.
In 2013, Johnson was accused by then-deputy PM Nick Clegg of talking about people as if they were “dogs” after referring to members of “our species” with low IQs.
He had told an audience at the Centre for Policy Studies: “Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85 while about 2%…"
The Guardian reported he then broke off his speech to ask if anyone in the room had a low IQ: “Over 16% anyone? Put up your hands.”
He added: “The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.”
His successor Sadiq Khan was among those who criticised Johnson at the time, saying: “He is abandoning and exploiting poor Londoners to appeal to the far right of the Tory party and Ukip as he forgets London in his desperate scrabble to become leader of his party."
The revival of Johnson’s comments comes amid a row over Downing Street aide Andrew Sabisky, one of the people who answered the call of Dominic Cummings – Johnson’s senior adviser – for “misfits and weirdos” to apply for jobs in the government.
It emerged Sabisky wrote on a blog in 2014: “If the mean black American IQ is (best estimate based on a century’s worth of data) around 85, as compared to a mean white American IQ of 100, then if IQ is normally distributed (which it is), you will see a far greater percentage of blacks than whites in the range of IQs below 75 or below, at which point we are close to the typical boundary for mild mental retardation.
“Typically criminals with IQs below 70 cannot be executed in then USA, I believe.
“That parsimoniously explains the greater diagnostic rates for blacks when it comes to ‘Intellectual disability’. It simply [sic] a consequence of the normal distribution of cognitive ability, because there are significant difference in the group means.”
On Monday, a Downing Street spokesperson repeatedly refused to say whether Johnson supported the views expressed by Sabisky.
Asked whether Johnson agreed with Sabisky’s comments on the IQ of black people, a spokesman said: “The prime minister’s views on a range of subjects are well publicised and documented.”
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery responded by saying: “It is disgusting that not only has Number 10 failed to condemn Andrew Sabisky’s appalling comments, but also seems to have endorsed the idea that white people are more intelligent than black people.
“Boris Johnson should have the backbone to make a statement in his own words on why he has made this appointment, whether he stands by it, and his own views on the subject of eugenics.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “These are really not acceptable headlines for any government to be generating (or allowing to be generated). They need to get a grip fast and demonstrate some basic but fundamental values in the terms of our public debate.”
Johnson has previously referred to black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”.
He also wrote in The Guardian in 2000: “When I shamble round the park in my running gear late at night, and I come across that bunch of black kids, shrieking in the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to pretend that I don’t turn a hair.
“Somehow or other a little beeper goes off in my brain. I’m not sure what triggers it... but I put on a pathetic turn of speed.”