Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has accused Boris Johnson of an “unpleasant elitism” after the London mayor warned that some people lacked the “raw ability” to succeed in a competitive economy.
Delivering the Centre for Policy Studies’ annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, Mr Johnson defended the importance of “boardroom greed” and “some measure of inequality” as a spur to economic activity at a time when the income gap between those at the top and those at the bottom was getting ever wider.
He said that any discussion about equality had to take account of the fact that while 16 per cent of “our species” had IQs below 85 while about 2 per cent had IQs above 130, adding: “The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.”
Speaking on his weekly radio phone-in yesterday, the Sheffield Hallam MP accused the mayor for talking about people as if they were a “breed of dogs” and said politicians should be seeking to improve opportunities for all.
“Much though he is a funny and engaging guy, I think these comments reveal a fairly unpleasant, careless elitism that suggests we should somehow give up on a whole swathe of our fellow citizens,” he said.
“The danger is that if you start taking such a deterministic view of people and start saying because they have got a number attached to them – in this case an IQ number – somehow they are not going to rise to the top of the cornflake packet, that is a complete anathema to everything I have always stood for in politics.
“Our job in politics is surely not to simply say we are going to hive off one bunch of people and put them in one category and kind of basically say they are parked and that there is not much we can do about them.”