Nick Clegg surely got it right yesterday when he expressed distaste for Boris Johnson's elitism.

In case you missed it: Mr Johnson, delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, said, on the subject of IQ, that "as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85".

More should be done to help the 2% of the population who had an IQ above 130: "The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top."

For good measure, he added: "Some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is a valuable spur to economic activity."

"Much as he is a funny and engaging guy," responded Mr Clegg, "I think these comments reveal a fairly unpleasant, careless elitism that somehow suggests we should give up on a whole swathe of our fellow citizens.

"To talk about us as if we are a sort of breed of dogs, a species … the danger is if you start taking such a deterministic view of people because they have got an [IQ] number attached to them, somehow they're not going to rise to the top of the cornflake packet, that is complete anathema to everything I've always stood for in politics."

Some even wondered if this was Mr Johnson's Keith Joseph moment. Back in 1974, Mr Joseph said there were young mothers of "low intelligence" or "low educational attainment", who were producing problem children, "delinquents, denizens of our borstals".

It has to be said Mr Johnson's words were much less offensive than Mr Joseph's. I read his entire lecture yesterday: it praises Mrs Thatcher extravagantly for having made Britain a better place to live, and for restoring London's fortunes - though naturally there was no mention of the economic devastation she wrought in places such as Scotland.

I have had a soft spot for Boris, not least because he seems like an unusually literate and articulate politician.
Even the way he dodges adverse publicity, like the doing that Eddie Mair inflicted on him a while ago, makes you wonder what it will take to derail his political ambitions.

Yes, his simplistic references to people of low IQs and inequality were only a small part of a provocative speech. But they are something to bear in mind the next time you hear the Tories trying to reposition themselves as a party that cares about the poor and the not-so-fortunate.