Last night was no exception. Benjamin Zephaniah misquoted and misrepresented Boris by taking his words out of context as follows.
1) He said “Boris says the Chinese have no culture!” What Boris actually said was: “Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase… Indeed, high Chinese culture and art are almost all imitative of western forms: Chinese concert pianists are technically brilliant, but brilliant at Schubert and Rachmaninov. Chinese ballerinas dance to the scores of Diaghilev. The number of Chinese Nobel prizes won on home turf is zero, although there are of course legions of bright Chinese trying to escape to Stanford and Caltech… It is hard to think of a single Chinese sport at the Olympics, compared with umpteen invented by Britain, including ping-pong, I’ll have you know, which originated at upper-class dinner tables and was first called whiff-whaff. The Chinese have a script so fiendishly complicated that they cannot produce a proper keyboard for it.” (Have I Got Views For You, page 277) It is neither dangerous nor racist to say Chinese culture is derivative. That is merely an opinion.
2) Benjamin Zephaniah said Boris calls people “piccaninnies”, an absolute lie. Boris wrote a satire on the attitude of the British Empire. He wasn’t actually describing people as piccaninnies with watermelon smiles, he was ridiculing the people who did talk like that. (D. Tel. article, 10/1/2002). He was using the word to make a point.
3) As for the last remark, Boris was so appalled at the atrocities happening in Africa, he wrote the Africans were more peaceable at the time of the British Empire. (The Spectator, 2/2/2002)
Zephaniah distorted the above to imply that Boris is a racist and a bigot. If you read what he actually said, in context, that is not the case. The researchers of BBC QT would have been aware of this, but David Dimbley made no attempt to correct the false impression created. Mrs. Marina Johnson, Boris’s wife, is of course, half Indian.
ps. If BZ is genuinely concerned that as PM, Boris would not get along with foreign countries, let me reassure him. Any contact between our Mayor and a foreign country has resulted in rave reviews. France, Germany, the US, adored him as did the Brazilians. Dare I say it, their enthusiasm for Boris far exceeded their enthusiasm for David Cameron…….