I really should know better. On Tuesday night, I was on a Newsnight panel which included the rather impressive Liam Thorp, political editor of the Liverpool Echo. Emily Maitlis threw him a question about Boris Johnson, and he immediately launched into a little spiel about how the city of Liverpool expects him to apologise for what he published (but didn’t write) about Liverpool 15 years ago.
I interjected. “He already has done; how many apologies would you like him to make?” Liam retorted that since he was now Prime Minister he should apologise again, this time from the Dispatch Box. I’m not sure the camera caught my eye-roll. Anyway, I thought little more of it until my Twitter timeline started to fill up with Outraged of Croxteth calling me all the names under the sun.
Calm down, calm down, I thought, channelling my inner Harry Enfield. (Bugger, I’ve done it again, haven’t I?). The next morning someone alerted me to a follow-up article Liam had written for his newspaper, which carried the headline…
“LBC radio host’s Newsnight jibe at Liverpool over Boris apology call – Iain Dale suggested the Prime Minister doesn’t need to say sorry, but here’s why we say he’s wrong”
Liam publicised it by tweeting: “No offence to Iain – but his comments about Boris Johnson and Liverpool show he doesn’t understand the hurt caused to this fine city."
And all because of one, brief interjection. Bloody hell, he came to a lot of conclusions based on that, didn’t he? I then rather stupidly responded: “Nothing Boris Johnson could ever say would satisfy you. He didn’t even write the editorial, yet you think he should wear sackcloth and ashes 15 years on. You’d do better to write about how a Labour council has consistently failed Liverpool. That’s the real scandal.”
I’ve experienced the wrath of the scouser on a couple of other occasions, so I don’t know why I should be surprised by the reaction. Yesterday morning I even get an email from the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson wanting to debate the whole issue on my radio show.
I politely declined, given what I knew would be the inevitable response. I have absolutely nothing against Liverpool as a city, or indeed its people. But I have the right to express the view that the Adelphi Hotel, when I stayed in it in 2011 was one of the worst hotels I have ever stayed in. I have a right to say that I like Glasgow as a city better than Liverpool.
People can disagree with me, but no one is going to shut me up. And, no, I don’t believe Johnson owes Liverpool a repeated apology. There are plenty in the queue for one ahead of Liverpool, I suspect!
I also suspect that my new book The Big Book of Boris – a collection of Borisisms – might not make it into the Liverpool branch of Waterstone’s.