"What's that crud?" - Boris Johnson raises eyebrows on Bristol visit
A visit from Boris Johnson wouldn’t be complete without a diplomatic gaffe here and there.
The London Mayor’s morning in Bristol yesterday started peacefully – even though the veteran politician had raised a few eyebrows when his first words in the city, as he stepped out of his BMW, were "what's that crud?"
The eyesore that had caught Boris' immediate attention was the disused Western Fuel Company warehouse.
But he seemed more impressed when he arrived at M shed.
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"What's this?" he bumbled, scratching his head, as he looked up at the sign. "M? Shed? Marvellous! How fun. M shed."
The affable old Etonian, currently enjoying a second term as London mayor, visited the city yesterday to offer his support to both the Tory candidate in the Bristol mayoral election Geoff Gollop, and Ken Maddock, the Conservative candidate for Police Commissioner.
But shortly after emerging from the M shed, where he had met the two candidates, he was attacked by a group of a dozen protestors, who hurled abuse at him and told him he was "not welcome in Bristol".
Boris retorted, with trademark cheerfulness: "Well you're very welcome in London," but later referred to the protesters as "a bunch of crusties who probably don't represent the views of the vast majority of Bristolians".
Boris attempted to carry out a Harbourside press conference, flanked by the two candidates – who both looked nervous about the descending situation – but the initial boos, jeers and shouts of "who owns the Bank of England, Boris?", descended into a more grizzly torrent of verbal abuse.
More video - filmed by The Telegraph - here:
The protesters – some of whom are believed to have been involved in last year's Occupy Bristol movement – began to use the most offensive kinds of swearing – screaming "f*** off you c***!" while snarling angrily close to Boris' seemingly unflappable face.
But with scores of young families milling around the Harbourside in half term week, the Mayor of London, who had at first tried to start a conversation with the protestors, began to lose his temper – finally shouting "bog off!" as he retreated to the nearby Art Warehouse café.
He later said that an elected mayor would be able to "push forward ground-breaking projects", like the M shed – and the new Station youth centre, which he also visited during the afternoon.
"It's time Bristol punched its weight as a city – I don't know it well, though I've been here a few times, but it's clearly a great place, and I will come back for more visits – even after the delightful welcome I received from that bunch of unsavoury crusties.
"I find it a great honour to be called a pleb by these people. It's the sort of encounter that you remember – I'm sure I will look back on my warm Bristol welcome in my dotage.
"It really doesn't concern me," he added. "It comes with the territory – you get used to 'you Tory tosser' being a friendly greeting wherever you go.
"But remember – nobody thought a Tory would win the mayoral election in London. People should be prepared for Geoff to win here, even though he's not currently the favourite, he and Ken are both brilliant candidates with a lot of experience in local government and a good understanding of the business community."