Boris Johnson challenged by single mother on his sexist columns

Boris Johnson appears on LBC Radio. Photograph: LBC/Global.

Boris Johnson appears on LBC Radio. Photograph: LBC/Global. - Credit: Archant

The prime minister refused to apologise for misogynist and sexist comments he made about single mothers and the character of their children.

He was challenged on this by a single mother from Oldham, where he was taking questions from the public.

Ruth asked the prime minister about his Spectator columns from 1995, when he said that children of single mothers were "ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate ... who in theory will be paying for our pensions", among many other observations about women.

READ: Boris Johnson called single mothers 'uppity and irresponsible' and their children 'illegitimate'She said: "I'm a single mother. I don't appreciate what you said about single mothers, and by implication, my family. Why are you happy to criticise people like me when you refuse to discuss your family?"

Johnson heaved an irritated sigh and said: "Ruth, I want to say to you, I mean absolutely no disrespect to you or anybody.

"These are 25-year-old quotations culled from articles written I think before I was even in politics."

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He said the quotes were stripped of context, and formed part of a smear campaign by Labour, and then tried to pivot to criticisms of the other party.

"They're just trying to distract from the reality that they have no plan to get out of the EU," he said.

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Johnson managed to deflect the discussion for a while, but when the conversation returned to Ruth she didn't sound convinced.

She pointed out at the time the articles were published, she had been a mother for 15 years, and that her two children had grown up to have successful careers in management and teaching.

But, she said: "Well in 1995, I'd just spent 15 years raising two children on my own, who are not 'ill-raised, ignorant and aggressive'.

"One's a headmaster in a special needs school and one's a sales director at an American software company. And my children suffered the stigma attached to the comments Mr Johnson made at the time."v

Presenter Nick Ferrari tried to press Johnson on his own family, which the prime minister refuses to discuss.

"How come you're prepared to comment on other people's children when you don't talk about your own?" asked Ferrari.

When Boris Johnson tried to deny he had made any such comments, Ferrari said: "I can't believe I have to read this to you again," and read Johnson's own words back to him.

Johnson refused to speak about his children.

Reacting to the conversation, shadow education minister Angela Rayner said: "Boris Johnson's refusal to apologise for his hateful comments about single mothers, their children and working class men is an absolute disgrace.

"He tried to deny what he wrote, but the evidence is there in black and white for us all to see, proving once again that he's a liar as well as a sexist.

"According to Boris Johnson, when I was a young single mum, I should have been pushed into 'destitution on a Victorian scale'. Johnson appallingly and hypocritically claims that children of single mums are 'ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate'.

"From attacking single mothers working hard to raise their kids, to advocating sexual harassment in the workplace, Boris Johnson has demonstrated his contempt for women and working class people. Under the Conservatives we stand to lose the rights we have won over decades of struggle. He is not fit to be an MP, let alone prime minister."

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