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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 October, 2004, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
'Sorry' Johnson sent to Liverpool
Boris Johnson
The column has been labelled 'Tory propaganda'
Boris Johnson has been ordered to visit Liverpool to apologise in person for his magazine article that criticised the city's grief over Ken Bigley.

The Tory MP wrote in an editorial in The Spectator that the city was wallowing in "disproportionate" grief for Mr Bigley, who was killed in Iraq.

Party leader Michael Howard told him to go to Liverpool, saying the article was "nonsense from beginning to end."

Mr Johnson said he would go in a "spirit of complete humility."

I have been stunned by the hurt this article has caused
Boris Johnson
The MP for Henley-on-Thames said he received a "kick in the pants" from Mr Howard.

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

Mr Johnson said: "I have been stunned by the hurt this article has caused.

"I will be going as soon as I can next week to apologise in person for the offence I have caused, and to listen in a spirit of complete humility to local people."

'Apologise in person'

In a statement, Mr Howard said: "I cut my political teeth in Liverpool and have long had great admiration and affection for its people. I have asked Boris Johnson to visit Liverpool next week and to apologise in person."

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".

We're a friendly city and we stand by each other when one of us gets hurt or killed
Hillsborough Family Support Group
It also says 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".

Mr Johnson adds 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.

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."

It is an issue Michael Howard is very angry about

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