Boris Johnson Lays Down A Challenge
The Mayor of London drew brilliant parallels between Athens and London and laid out his manifesto as a potential Prime Minister in an authoritative and entertaining, livestreamed lecture for the Legatum Institute on Thursday, 4 September 2014.
Johnson has submitted his name for selection to stand as the Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the 2015 General Election. He has been Mayor of London since 2008 and before that served as MP for Henley. Mr Johnson read Classics at Balliol College Oxford as a Brackenbury Scholar.
The mayor’s lecture examined how the experiences of democrats in the 5th century BC can help us to preserve London’s unique metropolitan character today. He warned against “the challenge, global in its extent, to democratic freedoms. We must fight these enemies”, and defend democracy, the rule of law and an open welcome to talented incomers that made Athens the eternal glory of the Western world – in stark opposition to the “ghastly, self-whipping, olive-spitting, xenophobic Spartans”. The audience was left in no doubt that London is the Athens of today.
The question we must answer now: is Boris Pericles?
The discussion was hosted by Hywel Williams, Senior Adviser at the Legatum Institute, with introductory remarks from Sian Hansen, Executive Director.
- Pericles’ Funeral Oration from the Peloponnesian War [PDF] (as referenced in the lecture)
- The Secrets of London’s Athenian Golden Age (Spectator, 11 September 2014)
- The Boris Manifesto—Straight Out of Ancient Athens (Daily Telegraph, 4 September 2014)
- Boris Hails London as ‘New Athens’ but Warns of Threats (The Yorkshire Post, 28 August 2014)
- The Capital is Politically Like Ancient Athens, Claims London Mayor Boris Johnson (Western Daily Press, 28 August 2014)
This lecture took place as part of the Legatum Institute’s ‘Roads to Freedom‘ series, directed by Hywel Williams, Senior Adviser at the Legatum Institute. Follow on Twitter: @LegatumInst #classicBoris
About Roads to Freedom
This series of lectures offers a progress report on the idea of freedom. The history of the developed west has been shaped by the increased degree of freedom exercised by individuals who have been able to escape the constraints that prevailed in the past. The programme’s lecturers will be drawing conclusions from the study of the past while also seeking to find ways of removing the obstacles to freedom’s progress.
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