Yesterday I linked the rhetoric of individuals like Boris Johnson – who had just likened the EU to Hitler – with that of Enoch Powell.
Today it’s been revealed that, as mayor of London, he failed to publish a damning report on nitrogen dioxide pollution. This means that he effectively suppressed the fact that, in defiance of EU limits, he allowed the inhabitants of the poorer areas of London to be slowly poisoned rather than address the causes – ultimately economic – of that pollution. That is, in my view, a clear indication of just where his priorities – and those of other senior Tory politicians who would take us out of the EU rather than build on its strengths to reform it – really lie.
If people want to make comparisons with Hitler – and I’m not at all convinced this is either productive or even ethically justifiable – surely they should look at actions like this? In my view, however, to compare Johnson’s wilful suppression of information on the slow poisoning by pollution of London’s poor with Hitler’s gassing of communists, gay people, the disabled, Romany people and Jews, is to stretch the comparative nature of those two activities out of all reasonable proportion. Even if, of course, this is just the rhetorical approach in which Boris Johnson himself specialises.
There are in my view very good political and social reasons for avoiding this kind of exaggerated rhetoric, as the example of Enoch Powell makes very clear. However, it does remains the case that, if such comparisons are going to be made, then they are in fact more applicable to Johnson himself than to the EU, which established the scientific and humanitarian limits to ‘acceptable'(!) pollution that Johnson as mayor chose first to ignore and then to suppress the evidence.