PM accused of ‘fuelling stigma’ with previous comments on single mothers

Boris Johnson has been challenged by a mother who accused him of fuelling the social “stigma” against children of single parents during his time as a journalist.

A woman called Ruth from Oldham accosted the PM during an LBC phone-in, bringing him to task over remarks he made about single mothers in an article for the Spectator magazine in 1995.

A piece for the right-leaning magazine has been brought to light this week in which Mr Johnson described the children of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”.

In the column, the Prime Minister said it was “outrageous” married couples “should pay for ‘the single mothers’ desire to procreate independently of men”.

Radio caller Ruth told the PM on Friday that in the year he wrote the column, she had “just spent 15 years raising two children on my own”.

She said: “They were not ill-raised, ignorant and aggressive. One of them is a headmaster in a special needs school and the other is a sales director for an American software company.

“My children suffered the stigma attached from the comments made by Mr Johnson at the time.”

Mr Johnson argued his words had been “lifted out of context” and he meant “no disrespect”.

The PM said: “Ruth I want to say to you, I mean absolutely no disrespect to you or anybody.

Boris Johnson
The PM was asked about a range of issues affecting women during the phone-in hosted by Nick Ferrari (LBC/PA)

“These are 25-year-old quotations culled from articles written, I think, before I was even in politics.”

The ex-mayor of London was also quizzed on his views on single mothers by journalists at a press conference in Westminster later on Friday.

He replied: “There are millions of words that I have written, and you’ll find everybody is able to find some they can cull from the text and twist and distort them in whatever way they choose.”

During the LBC phone-in, the PM was asked by presenter Nick Ferrari how many children he has fathered, and he declined to answer.

Mr Johnson has a child, born in 2009, as a result of an affair with art advisory Helen Macintyre.

At first he denied paternity and even sought an injunction in 2013 to prevent her existence being discovered during a court battle.

The 55-year-old, who also has four children with his estranged wife Marina Wheeler, said he would not be discussing his children during the campaign.

Johnson presser
The PM was further asked about his published views on single mothers at a press conference in Westminster (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Questioned by Mr Ferrari on whether he is “fully and wholly involved” with all of his children, Mr Johnson said: “I love my children very much but they’re not standing at this election.

“I’m not going to put them on to the pitch in this election campaign, when I think what people want to hear is what my plans are for the country, what this country is determined to do, and how we’re going to take the country forward.”

During the hour-long radio conversation, Mr Johnson was asked about a host of women’s issues by listeners.

He refused to match Labour’s pledge of compensating the Waspi women who have missed out on years of their State pension after the retirement age was pushed back from 60 to 66.

Buttonholed by a caller named Janet from Sunderland, the PM said the £58 billion pledged in reimbursement by Labour is “a lot” of money.

He said he appreciates the “frustration and disappointment” felt by those impacted, but he could not “extemporise” compensation money for them following the decision made by ex-chancellor George Osborne.

“We have to manage our economy and £58 billion is a lot,” he said.

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