Boris and the RCP

The Standard Notices the RCP

Well, sort of:

Munira Mirza is a founding member of a group campaigning against the Tube alcohol ban and in support of Heathrow expansion.

The 30-year-old Muslim sat on the Manifesto Club’s steering committee until taking up her £80,000-a-year post as the Mayor’s director of arts and culture.

Her group also opposes laws to strengthen the vetting of adults working with children and has encouraged universities to give a platform to far-Right speakers.

Ms Mirza’s close links with the libertarian group, listed in her City Hall biography, is likely to be embarrassing for her new boss. His proposal to ban alcohol from London’s transport network, which comes into force this weekend, was a manifesto pledge.

A posting on the Manifesto Club’s home page says: “We support all those who oppose the new Mayor’s ban on drinking on the London Tube.”

It links to comments by Ms Mirza’s fellow founding member Brendan O’Neill, who adds: “Boris wants his booze ban to demonstrate that he will be tough on anti-social behaviour and singular in his determination to restore respect, good manners and possibly cap-doffing to the streets of London.

“In fact, the ban reveals that, post-Ken, petty authoritarianism and distrust of the London masses is still rife in City Hall.”

The Manifesto Club’s policies are also at odds with Mr Johnson’s campaign against Heathrow expansion. Its website says: “We should not apologise for flying. On the contrary, we should celebrate the freedom that flight can bring us.

“Whatever the practicalities, the future must lie in expanding flight provision, not cutting it back.”

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “There isn’t any tension between Munira’s role as director of culture and her association with a group that has certain views on issues which don’t really touch on her policy brief.

“She is convinced that there is no significant difference of view between her and Boris on the issues she is directly responsible for.

“There is nothing in that particular role that should undermine her ability to do her job to the satisfaction of the people of London and the Mayor.”

Given that the “Manifesto Club” exists purely to take contrarian positions, pour epater les bourgeois, we can expect a lot more of this.

Incidentally, am I the only one who found the description of Munira as “the 30-year-old Muslim” struck a little bit of a jarring note?

Munira is anything but a sectarian, and would be very unlikely to describe herself, first and foremost, in terms of her family’s cultural background. Given that her religion – if she has one – has nothing to do with her job, what possible excuse is there for pigeonholing her in this manner? In fact, I wonder if it is not a breach of paragraph 12(2) of the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice:

Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

It looks to me as if the Standard has sought to cover itself by the rather spurious final paragraph:

Ms Mirza’s appointment was seen by many as an attempt to neutralise accusations that Mr Johnson has used racist language in the past, especially as he seeks to slash grants to ethnic groups.

However, this story is about Munira’s RCP related activities, not her supposed religion. I doubt that an RCP-er would countenance a complaint to a quango as an appropriate remedy. Nevertheless, this is pretty shabby journalism.