Boris Johnson yesterday casually dismissed the chiefly Conservative notion of a broken society and demoralised youth as "piffle" in his Telegraph column, referencing the success of Britain’s young athletes. While it would appear obvious that celebrating Olympic success hardly requires denying that social breakdown can exist on a large scale alongside it, Johnson was explicit:
"If you believe the British press, the youth of today is aimless, feckless and hopeless, addicted to their PlayStations, lacking in respect and lacking in the emotional discipline needed to cope with a big match occasion.
"If you believe the politicians, we have a broken society, in which the courage and morals of young people have been sapped by welfarism and political correctness.
"And if you look at what is happening at the Beijing Olympics, you can see what piffle that is."
Johnson has faced conflict with Conservative leaders in the past, with both William Hague and Michael Howard facing flak when Johnson’s journalism contradicted the party line. In each case, the damage appeared inadvertent. On this occasion, some of today’s press did pick up on the comments after they resurfaced on journalists’ blogs yesterday afternoon. But the potential conflict with David Cameron’s message was largely overshadowed by the resignation yesterday of the Mayor’s deputy Tim Parker.
1pm Addressing Demos for his speech on Fairness, George Osborne was asked about Boris Johnson’s comments. To the obvious scepticism of some present, He replied Johnson had made clear his words had been completely misinterpreted, and that Johnson completely agrees with David Cameron. He said that he and Cameron also agree with Boris Johnson that young people need role models.