In this series of regular articles, our Melbourne-based correspondent meets the Positively Scottish Humans of Oz
Around 24 hours before news the UK had voted to leave the EU began ricocheting around the world, Boris Johnson was causing a stir at St Andrews University in Fife. His daughter, Lara, was graduating, and the soon-to-be Foreign Secretary was doing his darndest to steal her limelight as he made a last-ditch effort to rouse support for the Brexit crusade.
It wasn’t the first time Boris had been involved in a bit of on-campus commotion. Cut to 10 years earlier and the then shadow higher education minister was visiting the University of Edinburgh to kick off his campaign to become its new rector. A bit miffed about his support of university tuition fees, some students began protesting during his pitstop at the uni bar and, well, one thing led to another…
Ross Clark, a Scot and football referee now living in Melbourne, was there.
I was a student at the university and Boris was in the student bar. It was a couple of days after he had said publicly—in the context of standing for the Edinburgh University rector—that he was unhappy that Scottish students had free university education and English students didn’t. His way of correcting that injustice was to make everybody pay.
We heard some young, Conservative activist types getting a bit excited about something and so we decided to follow them. We weren’t there to protest, we just wanted to see what was going on.
I went to the bar to buy a pint and one of my mates was like,“Ross, go get your photo taken with Boris Johnson, that would be really funny.” So I did.
And so I’m getting my picture taken with Boris Johnson and I’ve got my arm around him and he’s got his arm around me. We were having a great time together. It was a beautiful moment. And then I realised, in one hand I had a pint of beer—and in my other hand, a Conservative member of parliament.
I looked across at my mate who’s just taken the photo, and without saying anything, he just kind of nods. And I thought, ‘well that’s approval’, so I poured a pint of beer on Boris Johnson.
He took it pretty well. He was in good humour about it. I think he attracts that kind of thing. His young, Conservative minders weren’t very happy about it and they corralled me out of the place pretty quick, but Boris was alright about it.
My mate actually filmed it and it’s had almost 60,000 views on YouTube. Watch the nine-second clip here (you’ll probably need to replay it at least once!)
I saw Boris refer to the incident one time—when the Scottish independence referendum was on—and they asked him if he was going to go up and campaign in Scotland to help out the No campaign. He said in the interview: “The last time I went to Scotland, they chased me out with a pint of beer. I don’t think my presence is going to help the situation very much.”
It got a bit of infamy around the University of Edinburgh. That happened in 2006, when I first started at uni and, in my fourth year, I met someone in that same bar who mentioned what had happened to Boris Johnson and how they knew the person who had done it. You’ve really made it when someone claims to have done something you’ve done.
Sometimes it gets you into trouble, but you’ve got to correct injustices wherever you find them.
That’s how I feel about my refereeing. If someone does a bad tackle—that’s an injustice. I believe in the game, I believe in the rules of the game, and I like to enforce the rules.