Boris Johnson mocked Chinese people speaking English with retrograde impressions of a "beautiful" woman flight attendant, in the latest instance of the prime minister's past comments about other races emerging during the election campaign.
In a 2003 column for the Spectator, Johnson detailed his trip to India, which apparently involved an interaction on a flight with a Chinese flight attendant.
He joked that he was pleased when she asked him, owing to flight rules, to move away from his children. To his disappointment, however, he had to stay put after one of his children "gave the game away" and announced Johnson was, in fact, their father.
The air stewardess's accent is mocked; she is quoted as saying "Prease, sir" and later "Velly solly".
I awoke to find a sweet-faced Chinese air stewardess standing over me in my aisle seat. ‘Prease, sir,’ said the BA girl. ‘Prease come with me. I have found a better seat for you in row 52.’ Well, I began to say, wondering whether this was just a beautiful dream; well, that is really very thoughtful of you. It crossed my mind, in my groggy state, that this must be one of the world’s favourite airline’s popularity-building measures – to send gentle oriental girls, shortly before take-off, to separate fathers from their unruly children. As I unbuckled my belt and rose to go, the rest of the family started to protest. Why was I deserting them? I dunno, I said, but she wants me to move. ‘It is the rule,’ said the BA girl. ‘We have a very strict rule that adult men are not allowed to sit next to young children. There have been incidents,’ said the BA girl darkly. I was going to reassure her, and say how much I agreed with the policy, and that as far as I was concerned adult men should at all costs be protected from young children. But one of them gave the game away. ‘He’s our father!’ said someone. ‘Oh,’ said the stewardess, flummoxed. ‘Velly solly.’
Earlier in the column, Johnson condemned in the strongest possible terms India's Hindu nationalist party, whose current leader is Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, by likening the BJP to Hitler.
The BJP is a bad thing. ‘First they go for the Muslims, next they could go for us,’ is the line. It is the most disgusting thing any democratic government can do: to find an issue of culture or conscience that divides society, and to play it up, in the hope of exciting the prejudices of your core constituency. Hitler did it. The BJP does it. Labour does it, of course, with fox-hunting.
The comments come after some of the racist terminology and caricatures used by Johnson in his 2004 comic novel Seventy-Two Virgins came to light.
The book refers to Jewish oligarchs controlling media corporations, mentions “hook nosed” Arabs, refers to a “half-caste” person, and describes a woman as “a mega-titted six-footer” — and, as BuzzFeed News reported, Johnson used the n-word in the book.
Labour shadow secretary Diane Abbott said the instances showed Johnson had “deeply held racist views”. Johnson's campaign has been approached for comment.