And What, Pray, is Wrong With That?

Hugh Muir whinges about Boris Johnson’s spending plans.

It is true of all politicians that one shouldn’t necessarily pay too much attention to what they say. Much more instructive is how they spend.

Well, yes, that’s fair enough. Given that they are spending other peoples’ money, they do have a tendency to be profligate. Oh, that isn’t what Hugh is complaining about?

Johnson said he would spend less, and thus there are going to be fewer buses and fewer police officers, and now that he has unveiled his cultural spending plans, one can see, through those budgetary arrangements, something about his social philosophies.

Spending less is good, no?

No, it seems…

Hooray for USA Day, an event likely to receive around £100,000. Boo to Black History Month, down from £76,000 to £10,000, and Africa Day, which sees it’s funding from London’s government fall off a cliff. From £100,000 to nothing.

Um, apart from wasting money on USA Day, I’d say that Boris is moving in absolutely the right direction. The figures for all of those should be zero as politicians should not be wasting taxpayers’ money on such things. Want a Black History Month? Spend your own money on it.

The Johnsonian view was that Livingstone bolstered his own position by channelling funds to groups that were traditionally supportive of him; some black communities, some Asian. So to hell with that.

Again, absolutely.

Livingstone took the traditional view that one of the best ways to foster community relations in the capital, a legal requirement under the Greater London Authority Act, was to use public money to assist groups seen as disadvantaged.

That, frankly, is a piss-poor piece of law – it shouldn’t be up to the Mayor to “foster relations” – yet another piece of unnecessary legislation. And spending money on “disadvantaged” groups (i.e. one likely to vote Labour) is a disgraceful waste of council taxpayers’ money – money that should be spent on proper services and infrastructure, not social engineering.

The Johnsonian approach again is different.


There is no element of crusading or social engineering.


He is into diversity;

Oh, bugger…

but that isn’t the same thing as equality.

That old canard. Equality of opportunity is one thing. Equality of outcome is nonsense.

It isn’t his job to make the playing field level, especially if it means throwing money at groups and initiatives favoured by the left.

Absolutely. So, what’s the problem here?

That even in matters pertaining to the social fabric, the mayor looks to the market. He will gladly assist schemes that are likely to gain attention and thus attract commercial sponsorship, but is far less keen on public funding for schemes on the sole basis that they may be a social good.

I’d say that’s eminently sensible. Again; you want an event to celebrate a particular group – you fund it or find someone who is willing to do so for you. Then go ahead, have your celebration. If Johnson is pushing in this direction, he’s doing the right thing.

Black History Month constitutes a social benefit…

Does it bollocks. It’s nothing more than identity politics. There’s history and that’s it.

…in that it seeks to highlight areas of history that otherwise might forgotten and to recognise contributions that might otherwise be overlooked.

Oh, do just fuck off, will you? If you want to highlight aspects of history that you feel have been “overlooked” then highlight them by all means – but not with other peoples’ money.

And why isn’t there a White History Month, some ask? Because every other month of the year is White History Month.

That’s it, wheel out the race card. Victimhood poker again… There is history and that’s it. History doesn’t come in any particular colour and nor should it.

But Black History Month, for all its good intentions, isn’t an obvious commercial vehicle. The Johnsonian view is that these things must pay their way.

And Boris is perfectly correct. He is not stopping people holding their celebration, he is merely insisting that the taxpayer doesn’t fund it.

Some will read this and say, quite right Boris, this is life as it should be. Value for money at last and an end to special pleading.

Quite right Boris, this is life as it should be. Value for money at last and an end to special pleading.


  1. I learned about the Romans when at school (what did they do for us, eh?). I also did the usual; ancient Egypt, Tudors, Stuarts, Civil War – and, yes, the slave trade, including its eradication. I was disappointed not to be doing modern history as I had a particular interest in the build up to WW1. I also have an interest in the history of France from the revolution to the 1870 Franco Prussian war, but learned none of that at school.

    So, what about a French history month?

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