Boris (and his bikes) will no longer be welcome at St John’s after the JCR passed a motion condemning the London mayor for publicly insulting the college President Sir Michael Scholar.
The ‘Boris is a berk’ motion, which passed almost unanimously, comes in the wake of Mr Johnson’s negative comments about Sir Michael, which culminated in him being branded a “Labour stooge”.
Sir Michael, the current chair of the UK Statistics Authority, was criticised after he wrote a letter complaining about Mr Johnson’s “misleading” use of statistics when giving evidence to a commons committee about the success of a government initiative to cut crime.
Upset at this treatment of their President, the JCR voted through a motion which showed their disapproval of Boris and vowed to take action against him.
The motion resolved upon a variety of actions against the mayor. After stating that “Sir Michael is awesome” and “Boris is a fool”, it pledged to “Ban Boris from the JCR”, “Mandate the JCR President to write a letter to Boris informing him of our displeasure and declaring our support for Sir Michael, so long as this does not conflict with our charitable status”, “Print a photo of Boris for fixing to the dart board in the games room” and “Mandate the Bike Rep to never use a ‘Boris bike’”.
It also promised to “give a round of applause to Sir Michael for attempting to keep our politicians honest”.
Edward Peveler, who proposed the motion, told Cherwell, “I think that the main motivation for passing the motion was the fact that Boris was really quite rude to a man who was simply attempting to do his job”.
He continued in support of Sir Michael, saying that he “commands great affection amongst the students of St John’s. He is kind, always prepared to talk, and, on a slightly more political note, is always very fair with the JCR. I merely wished for the JCR to show a bit of support for our president, who I believe is doing a fantastically good, very important job for the country”.
JCR President David Messling agreed, saying, “The motion was light-hearted but heartfelt. St John’s students were dismayed to see our President unfairly and rudely criticised, and we wished to express our support to the the President, and our disappointment to Boris”.
The motion did made some more serious points in defence of Sir Michael Scholar, noting that he was “Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher, so was not Labour when involved in party politics, and as Chair of an independent government organisation holds no party allegiance”.
The JCR are not the only ones to have come out in support of Sir Michael. Ben Goldacre, author of ‘Bad Science’ has written an article stating that Sir Michael Scholar is “pretty unfuckable with”.
An editorial in the Guardian entitled “In praise of … Sir Michael Scholar” was written to “salute the public service ethos that he represents – an ethos concerned not with flattering politicians, but with forcing them to face the facts”.
Stephen Dempsey, President of Balliol’s JCR, of which Boris Johnson is an alumnus, said, “The JCR has no plan to discuss Boris Johnson’s comments or to respond directly to St John’s motion. Nevertheless, Boris will always be welcome to return to Balliol JCR as all alumni are and we hope this will not cause offence to St John’s”.
Dempsey added his personal opinion, “I think we should support Boris as one of our current high-flying alumni and that, if he is a ‘berk’, we should commend him for accomplishing so much with such a burden. Besides, not being allowed into St John’s doesn’t seem that much of an ordeal if your alma mater is Balliol…”
Asked what impact he hoped the motion would have, Peveler was quick to respond that he didn’t think there was “ever the hope that we would achieve any real impact…it was just a bit of fun for our last meeting as a committee. It was never intended to be fractious”.
He did, however, add, “If Boris were to hear of this and subsequently apologise to Sir Michael for calling him a “stooge”, that would be a good result”.
Professor Stephen Harrison, now Fellow and Tutor in Latin at Corpus Christi College, taught Boris Johnson when the latter was a Classics undergraduate at Balliol. Harrison commented, ‘Boris was an able student of Latin at Balliol if a little disorganised. Since Oxford he has been a loyal supporter of campaigns to defend the study of classics in schools and universities (including state schools). I’m not aware of the detailed reasons for his banning by St John’s JCR, but it seems a little extreme from the outside.’
Cherwell contacted Sir Michael Scholar to ask him about his reaction to the JCR’s show of support. He did not comment on the resolutions against Boris Johnson, but said that he was “pleased to hear of the round of applause”.
In response to Sir Michael’s initial criticism, a spokesperson for the Mayor of London commented, ‘If he’s genuinely concerned about statistical integrity, he would surely seek a meeting with the Mayor to engage constructively on a solution, not use the media to try to embarrass him.’
In response to the ‘Boris is a berk’ motion, Boris Johnson himself simply said to Cherwell, â€ª’Why would anyone want to go to St John’s when Balliol is so close?’