Sometimes you read something about yourself and don’t recognise the person they’re talking about. For example, I am still dazed and confused by the chap who once called me a “millennial” in The Spectator — if only (as you can tell from my jaded byline photo).
Similarly, it’s recently reemerged that Boris Johnson — a man whose immense privilege I have always tried not to hold against him — wrote some time ago that the children of poorer working mothers (like me) are “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”, and more likely to “mug you on the street corner”.
Well, I have never mugged anyone — but I ought to mug Johnson for what he said. Nor do I think my mum was, or is, “irresponsible” — apart from becoming a bit of a Corbynista in later life (though after a decades-long career in the NHS, you can understand why).
It would be shocking for any politician to have once evinced this kind of attitude, let alone a warm-and-fuzzy “One Nation” Conservative, a term applied so widely and that it has lost whatever meaning it might have had when Benjamin Disraeli first coined it. For all his outward bonhomie, Johnson seems to have an icy heart.
The great irony, of course, is that Johnson has allegedly left several mums holding the baby. It takes chutzpah for a man with an indeterminate number of children to lambaste working mothers.
It is even more galling for a prime minister to accuse the children of working mothers of mugging people, when he himself has mugged millions of British women and children, from the 4 million women forced to wait five more years for their state pension, to the 4 million children allowed to live in abject poverty.
Johnson wrote his piece a long time ago, and might have avoided some of the flak he's got for it had he latterly condemned it. We all have views we later recant: John Bercow used to be in the Monday Club; Chukka Umunna used to be as socialist; Johnson used to be a Remainer. The problem is that Johnson quite enjoys the parlour game of reconciling the irreconcilable. He has not, therefore, regretted his previous opinions, nor his hurtful, even if supposedly satirical, language.
I agree with Labour’s Angela Rayner that both Johnson’s past words and present policies demonstrate a “contempt for women and working-class people”. I also think it displays a contempt for me. I am therefore awaiting an apology and retraction from Johnson on behalf of me and my mum. I’m sure he’d want the same were Charlotte Johnson Wahl — who has not had the easiest time of it — to be insulted by some arrogant, deceitful, emotionally-stunted hack.