Johnson gaffe is good for The Spectator

Politicians, particularly prime ministers, have always found it difficult to say sorry. For some strange reason they usually think that using the 's' word is bad PR. They are always wrong, of course, and Tony Blair only makes matters worse for himself by giving half-apologies.

Another less important but almost as high-profile a politician was forced to go the whole hog last week and say sorry for something written in a right-wing weekly magazine he edits. Now I'm not a regular Spectator reader but, when I read in the papers about the editorial by Boris Johnson, I just had to go out and buy a copy myself.

Small-circulation political magazines rely on scoops followed up by the national media to give them high-profile publicity. This helps boost their circulation.

Only a few weeks ago the New Statesman got free publicity as a result of Tory leader Michael Howard's controversial interview. Now he is giving the oxygen of publicity to its bitter rival by telling his arts, media and sports spokesman to make his apology to the people of Liverpool in person.

This is bad PR for the Tories as it just keeps the story going and won't win one new vote for the Conservatives in the North-West of England. For The Spectator it's brilliant PR. It could never afford to buy such publicity and it's the best thing to happen to it since its publisher had an affair with David Blunkett.

I can't wait for the Johnson visit to Liverpool and the media circus that will follow it. Johnson will hate it, and how ironic for the Tory sports spokesman that the only reason why he has got to suffer this humiliation is because of his lack of knowledge of sport.

The Spectator editor made the big mistake of getting the number of Liverpool fans killed at Hillsborough completely wrong. He said 50 when it was nearer 100. He compounded this mistake by making unfounded allegations about some fans causing the tragedy as a result of being drunk.

Other commentators have made similar points about the public grief over Ken Bigley's murder and the public reaction to high-profile deaths.

I myself remember complaining about having a minute's silence at football matches almost every week.

On his apology tour, Johnson will no doubt be forced to visit a Liverpool pub and drink a few pints with the locals. Meanwhile, back in Doughty Street, home of The Spectator, the PR department will be raising their glasses of champagne to their high-profile editor.

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