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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 October, 2004, 08:25 GMT 09:25 UK
MP apologises for Bigley comment
Boris Johnson
The column has been labelled 'Tory propaganda'
The editor of The Spectator and Tory MP Boris Johnson has apologised for an article that criticised Liverpool over its grief for Ken Bigley.

An editorial said the city was wallowing in "disproportionate" grief for Mr Bigley, who was killed in Iraq.

"We certainly intended no insult to the people of Liverpool and as far as any offence was taken, I am very, very sorry," Mr Johnson said.

Liverpudlians and party leader Michael Howard were furious at the article.

Mr Howard gave Mr Johnson, Conservative MP for Henley in Oxfordshire, a "kick in the pants".

We were trying to make a point about sentimentality
Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson said: "The article was too trenchantly expressed but we were trying to make a point about sentimentality and risk, and people's evaluation of risk these days."

Mr Howard said: "I totally disagree with the comment in The Spectator about Liverpool. I have nothing but the greatest admiration and affection for Liverpool and its people.

"What was said in The Spectator was nonsense from beginning to end."

Despite the controversy, a Tory spokesman said Mr Johnson's job as shadow minister for culture, media and sport was not under threat.

The article, in the issue dated 16 October, says people in Liverpool "cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance about the rest of society".

It says Liverpudlians "wallow" in their "victim status", adding it is part of the "deeply unattractive psyche" of many in the city.

The article goes on to say Ken Bigley's brother Paul was wrong to say the Prime Minister has "blood on his hands".

'Tory propaganda'

It goes on to say Mr Bigley took a risk by working in Iraq against the advice of the Foreign Office, and "his motives and misjudgements... should, without lessening sympathy for him and his family, temper the outpouring of sentimentality in which many have engaged for him".

We're a friendly city and we stand by each other
Phil Hammond, Hillsborough Family Support Group

It also says the city made a scapegoat of police in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, refusing to acknowledge the part played "by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground".

The incident claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool football supporters.

He was very unwise to direct his article specifically to Liverpudlians in this case
Nathan James, Liverpool

The Hillsborough Family Support Group described the article as "typical Tory propaganda".

Phil Hammond, vice chairman of the group said: "Boris Johnson, he knows nothing about this.

"He doesn't even know how many people died at Hillsborough. They wrote that it was 'more than 50'.

"I doubt whether he has ever been to Liverpool.

"We don't see ourselves as victims. We're a friendly city and we stand by each other when one of us gets hurt or killed."

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