We’re closing 2016 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. Here’s No. 4, in which the future foreign secretary Boris Johnson was named as the winner of Douglas Murray’s ‘President Erdogan Offensive Poetry’ competition
I’m pleased to announce that we have a winner of The Spectator’s President Erdogan Offensive Poetry competition, and here it is:
There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.
The author of this winning entry is former Mayor of London and chief Brexiteer, Boris Johnson MP.
The Spectator Podcast: Douglas Murray discusses Boris Johnson’s poem
I am sure there will be those who claim this is a stitch-up. I am aware that Boris’s entry – which came via an interview by the Spectator’s Rome correspondent Nick Farrell and the Swiss journalist Urs Gehriger for Die Weltwoche – commits two solecisms. Amid the first deluge of entries I intemperately announced (via Twitter) a unilateral ban on this rhyme for ‘Ankara’. I also think Boris should have settled either on ‘goats’ and ‘oats’ or ‘goat’ and ‘oat’. As a classical scholar himself he must know that the rhyme is not wholly perfect and that on such occasions one must find a way around the problem and simply go with the plural both times or not at all.
Nevertheless, I am the Vizier of this competition and what I say goes. Despite trying to follow Erdogan’s example I have not snaffled all the prize money for myself. And I am quite sure – though have yet to confirm with him – that the former London Mayor will happily give his prize money of £1000 to a deserving charity. There are a number of charities whose giving details I will urge on Boris in the coming days. But for myself the appeal of Boris’s entry was there from the outset. Certainly there were better poems. For sure there were filthier ones (and may I take this opportunity to congratulate the person who got the term ‘dirty trombone’ into their entry? The discovery that something called a ‘Turkey slap’ already exists also inspired several readers to new poetic heights).
But this award is entirely anti-meritocratic. For myself, I think it a wonderful thing that a British political leader has shown that Britain will not bow before the putative Caliph in Ankara. Erdogan may imprison his opponents in Turkey. Chancellor Merkel may imprison Erdogan’s critics in Germany. But in Britain we still live and breathe free. We need no foreign potentate to tell us what we may think or say. And we need no judge (especially no German judge) to instruct us over what we may find funny.
For those of you who haven’t been following the story, here is the link which explains why we are running the competition.