Boris Johnson quizzed on LBC over his ‘up the Arcelor’ gay pride gala dinner joke

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London Mayor Boris Johnson has been grilled about a controversial joke he made last week at a gay pride gala dinner.

Appearing on LBC radio on Tuesday the Mayor was asked by a listener about initial claims he had joked gay men would soon be able to take their partners “up the Arsenal”.

Asked about the comments, he replied: “I did not say those words. I made a fantastic, well received speech.

“It was a speech celebrating gay pride and particularly focusing on the achievement of getting gay marriage on the agenda.

“I made what I thought was an amusing reference to marriage in the Olympic Park.”

Asked repeatedly what his original joke had been, the Mayor refused to answer.

“I think you had to be there,” he said.

In his speech last Tuesday Mr Johnson had actually said “Arcelor” – which is the red, spiral structure in the Olympic Park.

Although many people laughed at the joke – several guests were not amused.

Labour MP Angela Eagle misheard Mr Johnson’s joke, thinking he had said “up the Arsenal”, a joke with the same meaning.

Ms Eagle, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons who was at the event, tweeted: “Boris speaking at LGBT Pride fundraising event made a speech about the Olympics & an off colour ‘joke’ about Arsenal #notamused #WontSayGay.”

She added: “His crass and tasteless remarks only serve to undermine all the hard work and progress made by the gay community.”

Labour MP and Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant said the joke “would be funny from Julian Clary or Christopher Biggins, but from Boris it just sounded nasty and brutish”.

However, representing the Mayor at Pride in London on Saturday, Andrew Boff, the Leader of the Conservative Group in the Greater London Assembly, defended the comments and told “As I understand it, it was a gala dinner, he was doing an after dinner speech, [and in] an after dinner speech you crack jokes… Now there was a group of people there who were waiting to be outraged at something and he gave them that opportunity to be outraged [to] get up and storm off in a sort of a hissy fit that we can all recognise.”