London Mayor Boris Johnson mocked Mitt Romney as the Olympic torch was being lit Thursday, telling a crowd in Hyde Park, "There is a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know if we are ready. Are we ready?" The crowd of 60,000 yelled "YES!" and a chant of "Boris!" broke out (watch it here). The hashtag #Romneyshambles began trending in the U.K. The Olympics are the one moment when even countries with complicated colonial pasts can safely indulge in a little nationalism, and Romney turned himself into the perfect enemy for Brits to root against by publicly doubting whether British people would unite behind the Games.
It was not just the youth mocking Romney on Twitter. British politicians joined in. "If I were American, I'd vote Republican, but Mitt - #fail #RomneyShambles," Louise Mensch, Conservative member of Parliament, tweeted. "Conservatives the world over tend to be patriots. Insult my country, and I no longer care if you rep sister party," she added. Other conservatives cheered Johnson. "James Chapman, the political editor of The Daily Mail -- not exactly a liberal publication -- compared Romney to Sarah Palin and George W. Bush, and not for their charisma. "Can this get any worse for Romney? Boris is now mocking him in front of 60,000 people in Hyde Park
#romneyshambles," Chapman wrote. In London, the BBC is replaying Johnson's Romney moment, ABC News reports.
Romney tried to make up for it Thursday by saying nice things about the London Olympics in a press conference. ("I am very delighted with the prospects of a highly successful Olympic Games. What I have seen shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organisation and [I] expect the Games to be highly successful.") But people were already digging up a passage in his 2010 book No Apology, in which Romney basically says Britain is a loser island full of losers:
England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth's land and a quarter of the earth's population.
Nothing brings together a group of people like a common enemy. If the British weren't rallying before, they are now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.