At the time of writing, Boris Johnson is a racing certainty to become leader of the Tory party and so, one assumes, British prime minister. So what is the record of this tousle-haired toff?
At school, his reports complained of his idleness, complacency and lateness. As a journalist, he was sacked from The Times when it was found he had invented a quotation that never existed. He published a book of verse titled Perils of the Pushy Parents – a Cautionary Tale. The verdict of most reviewers was that it stank.
He used his newspaper column to describe Africans as “piccannies” with “watermelon smiles”. He referred to gay men as “tank-topped bumboys”. In a 1990 telephone conversation with a friend who was being investigated by the News of the World for criminal activities, Johnson agreed to supply his friend with the investigating journalist’s private address, so that he could be beaten up. Johnson denied any involvement.
He was notorious for being late in submitting his newspaper column, which meant other journalists and staff had to wait at their work-place until he finally delivered it. When any objection was raised, Johnson would get angry and shout expletives at them.
When editor of the Spectator, he allowed a columnist to use racist and anti-Semitic language.
He said he would not support Blair’s plan to join the US invasion of Iraq, then later did just that. In 2004, he backed an unsuccessful attempt to impeach Tony Blair over the war.
In 2004, it was revealed that Johnson had had an affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt, resulting in two abortions. Johnson lied about the matter, calling the claims “piffle.”
Newspaper owner Conrad Black, himself no saint, described Johnson as “ineffably duplicitous”. In 2005 Andrew Neil, CEO of the Spectator, sacked Johnson.
During his term as British Foreign Secretary, Johnson said publicly that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “teaching people journalism”, a charge Zaghari-Ratcliffe denied. Thanks to Johnson’s rash words, she’s still in prison.
During the Brexit campaign, he promised that Britain would get £350 million a week as a result of Brexit, and this money could be used to fund the NHS. As the world and its housebound granny knows, this was giant lie plastered over the side of a bus.
Money spent on historic cases was money wasted: “An awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this malarkey – £80 million I saw was being spaffed up the wall on some investigation into historic child abuse and all this sort of thing.”
Johnson believes in evolution, especially the evolution of elites. “Without elites” he declared, “ we would still be in the caves.”
His view on the UK’s negotiation with the EU? “We have opened ourselves to perpetual blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.”
By now you get the picture. This man who will say just about anything, is about to be made the leader of the British Conservative party. Why?
Well, the Tories figure they need a big hitter if they don’t want to be wiped out by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. They also know that many people see Boris as a lively, fun person, full of learned quotations and mumbled witticisms.
As a TV performer, there is no doubt that Johnson comes across extremely well – his stint with Have I Got News For You boosted his popularity hugely. He works hard at presenting himself as a bumbling, good-humoured, overgrown schoolboy – a loveable rogue of the nicest kind.
If he becomes British prime minister, we’ll have the Tory party membership to thank. So why would even that clutch of bird-brains do such a thing? Well, the prospect of being hanged in the morning, as another even more famous Johnson said, concentrates the mind wonderfully. The Tory party have an existential fear that Farage’s Brexit Party could annihilate them at the next British general election. If your back’s against the wall, you’re not choosy what kind of weapon you use. Lies, racism, bullying – who cares? In fact, isn’t this exactly the kind of chap needed to put manners on Farage and that EU club of unreliable foreigners?
One thing nobody can charge Johnson with is stupidity. His promise to go over to Brussels and sort out them and their bloody backstop sends thousands of Tory hearts beating faster. Perhaps at last they have found the Strong Man around whom the party can confidently coalesce.
In the real world, there’s as much chance of Johnson sorting out the EU as there is that a roomful of monkeys with keyboards will compose Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
In today’s Irish Times, David McWilliams suggests that Boris may not only be the last leader of the Conservative party, but also the last leader of the United Kingdom .
Nice one, Boris.