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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
MP slammed over 'fat city' slur
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson apologised to Liverpool for published remarks
Outspoken Conservative MP Boris Johnson has been criticised for labelling Portsmouth as a city full of drugs and obesity.

The comments were made in Mr Johnson's motor column in men's magazine, GQ.

Portsmouth councillors demanded the MP apologise for his remarks and make a visit to the Hampshire city.

In a statement, the Conservative Party said figures backed Mr Johnson's comments and politicians should not criticise him for speaking the truth.

The city's MPs have called on the Conservative Party to sack Mr Johnson from his front bench position, shadow minister for Higher Education.

In the article in the May edition of the magazine, the Henley-on-Thames MP pulls up outside Portsmouth University in a car.

It isn't right to say we have a drug problem in the city as the figures do not hold out
Alan Knobel, Portsmouth City Council

He said: "Here we are, in one of the most depressed towns in Southern England, a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs."

A Conservative spokeswoman said: "According to the government's own figures, Portsmouth suffers the third highest level of deprivation and the fifth highest crime rate in the whole of the South East of England.

"Labour and Lib Dem politicians should not criticise Boris Johnson for speaking the truth.

"They should be asking themselves how they can help tackle the city's problems."

'Insensitive remarks'

Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, said he has a written a letter of complaint to Conservative leader David Cameron.

He added:"This is simply outrageous and beyond belief! It is an insult to the whole city.

"David Cameron should immediately sack Mr Johnson from his post as a spokesman.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Labour MP for Portsmouth North, said: "Boris Johnson is not fit to be a front bench spokesperson.

"His insensitive remarks will do nothing to encourage young people in Portsmouth to go on to higher education and David Cameron should sack him."

Mr Johnson was forced to apologise in 2005 after his editorial in The Spectator magazine stated that the city of Liverpool "wallowed in victim status", in the wake of the killing of hostage Ken Bigley in Iraq.

Last year, he also issued an apology to Papua New Guinea's High commissioner in London after he linked the nation to "cannibalism and chief-killing".

Portsmouth's councillors demanded the MP apologise to the city.

Different social issues

The city council responded to his comments stating drugs action team figures show Portsmouth has 1,146 problem drug users at any one time, compared with 3,000 in Bournemouth and 7,648 in Bristol.

It added that the city had different social issues to Mr Johnson's constituency, Henley-on-Thames, in Oxfordshire.

Alan Knobel, substance misuse manager for the Safer Portsmouth Partnership, said: "It's important that we challenge general statements about drug use in the city.

"It isn't right to say we have a drug problem in the city as the figures do not hold out when we compare the city to other areas."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Portsmouth reacts to Boris Johnson's statement



SEE ALSO
'Sorry' Johnson sent to Liverpool
16 Oct 04 |  UK Politics
Boris apology to Papua New Guinea
08 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
Profile: Boris Johnson
20 Oct 04 |  UK Politics

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