One thing that you can say about Boris with some confidence is that you never know which controversy he’s going to wander into next. He’s as likely to fall out with the Sultan of Brunei as he is with David Cameron and so anticipating who he’s going to rub up the wrong way next is always a challenge.
If I’d given you half an hour to come up with the name of Boris’ current row, you’d have been hard pushed to come up with the right answer. Now, the Mayor has decided to cross swords with none other than George Clooney, Hollywood A-lister, Oscar winner and generally all-round Good Egg.
The row all started when Clooney, as part of his promotional tour for World War Two drama The Monuments Men, suggested that Britain should return the 2,500 year old Elgin Marbles to Greece. The actor voiced his opinion on the sculptures, which were taken to Britain from the Parthenon in Greece in the 19th century, during a press conference about his new film – a tale about returning art masterpieces to their rightful owners.
“Even in England the polling is in favour of returning the marbles from the Pantheon [sic], the Pantheon marbles,” he said. He went on to add that parts of the Parthenon has been given back by the Vatican already, and that returning the pieces displayed at the British Museum was “probably the right thing to do”.
Boris doesn’t agree. And, he didn’t just have a pop at Clooney’s opinion. Oh no. He decided to compare him to Adolf Hitler.
As part of his column for the Telegraph, the Mayor wrote that Clooney had “lost his marbles” over the Elgin affair, before adding: “And where were the Nazis going to send the Elgin marbles? To Athens! This Clooney is advocating nothing less than the Hitlerian agenda for London’s cultural treasures.”
Now, George is normally a nice man but even he wouldn’t let Boris Hitler comparison lie. “I’m a great fan of the Mayor, and I’m sure my right honorable friend had no real intention of comparing me to Hitler,” Clooney said in a statement. “I’d chalk it up to a little too much hyperbole washed down with a few whiskeys. I’ve found myself in the same spot a time or two so I hold no ill will.
“When it comes to real facts, not imagined history, you need only to look at the UNESCO rulings that have been agreed to by all parties. An occupying nation can’t sell off the national heritage of the country it occupies.
“There are many pieces in nearly every country that this conversation should take place. The best place to start would be at the most obvious object. When polled the British people are overwhelmingly in favour of their return.
“The rest of the world follows suit. If you want to deal in facts. Those are the facts. But maybe it’s just easier to compare me to Hitler.”