Whatever accusations might be levelled at Boris, the Foreign Secretary has been entirely consistent (in one area at least) for some 30 years. He’s a practised and very accomplished liar.
1: In 1987 the 23 year old Oxford graduate managed, thanks to exceptional contacts, to secure a graduate trainee-ship at The Times. In May of the following year, in a report on the apparent discovery of Edward II’s Rosary Palace Johnson tenaciously secured an interview with his godfather, Oxford academic Dr. Colin Lucas, who was quoted as saying that Edward had there “enjoyed a reign of dissolution, with his catamite Piers Gaveston.” Unfortunately, Gaveston had been murdered 13 years before the foundations of the Palace had even been lain and Johnson had made the quote up. His god-father was unamused and Boris was summarily dismissed from the paper.
2: Undeterred, the ambitious young chap returned to his filofax and rang Max Hastings. Making up a quote and getting fired might normally scupper most young journalists ambitions, but not so Boris Johnson. He was immediately snapped up by The Daily Telegraph and in the spring of 1989 was dispatched to Brussels to start a long and inglorious stint in Brussels, fabricating stories about the Commission. Among the many lies spawned about the EU directly attributable to Boris Johnson are the popular myth that prawn cocktail crisps are outlawed by a directive and that meddling bureaucrats have sought to abolish London’s famed double-decker buses. Clearly proud of his fiction and very thoughtfully Mr Johnson listed his EU fibs in a 2002 Daily Telegraph article. His mountain of bullshit, born out of boredom, self promotion, a longstanding lack of interest in detail and an unwillingness to take the EU seriously contributed directly to the rise of UKIP and you could argue – Brexit itself.
3: In 1999 Conrad Black hired Johnson to be the Editor of The Spectator on the strict condition that he abandon all parliamentary aspirations. Having given a solemn oath that he would, Bojo promptly became the PPC in Michael Heseltine’s recently vacated safe seat and went on to be elected MP for Henley. Black, who was later to find infamy as a convicted fraudster, labelled Johnson “ineffably duplicitous” but let him remain in the Editor’s chair. Takes one to know one eh Conrad?
4: In 2004 news broke of an affair Johnson had been conducting with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt. In an article in that week’s Mail on Sunday Johnson dismissed the very suggestion of impropriety as “complete balderdash” and an “inverted pyramid of piffle.” Naturally it was all true and Bojo was promptly sacked from the front bench for being a liar. Boris made some jokes to fellow hacks, it was all a hilarious jape after all – his forgiving wife took him back and everyone moved on. In the meantime Petronella Wyatt had an abortion.
5: Having been selected to be the Conservative London Mayoral candidate in 2008 Boris had a problem. He was now one of the highest paid journalists on Fleet Street, taking home a very respectable £250k a year for a writing by numbers weekly column in The Telegraph. Unwilling to take a pay cut in order to represent one of the greatest cities on Earth, his campaign team were faced with a bit of a dilemma. Would Johnson be willing to donate a fifth of his Telegraph fee to local London charities, so that he didn’t look greedy to an overly fussy metropolitan electorate that looked down on such things? Johnson was reluctant but concurred and consequently won the election. Once in City Hall, Boris swiftly derided the quarter of a million pounds he was paid as “chicken feed” and set about forgetting to give all that money away. In her 2011 book “Just Boris” journalist Sonia Purnell wrote that the then Mayor had: “donated only a total of £20,000 over three years (compared to the £75,000 pledged).”
6: Boris anyway had his mind set on other things. Now he was the Mayor of London there were important matters to consider. Like failing to deliver on any of his election pledges. Yes he was jolly funny riding that zip-wire, but when it came to keeping promises – well that was another thing. Having given an undertaking to save 40 threatened ticket offices from closure – he shut the lot. Having promised to negotiate a “no strike deal” with Union bosses, he failed to meet them let alone get a deal. Having underlined that he would not cut fire stations and front line police numbers, he slashed both and that’s before he even got started on his “ersatz Routemaster”. One of the new Mayor’s key election vows had been to bring back the iconic design with rear open platforms and a chirpy Cockney conductor on every bus. As it turned out, no conductors were hired, doors were fitted and each individual seat on the new service cost about as much as a new BMW
7: Then, in 2014, having denied at least 17 times that he would return to the House of Commons while serving as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson sought selection for the safe seat of Uxbridge and in May 2015 returned to the green benches.
8: Now back in Parliament, Johnson set his eyes on the big prize – Number 10 – and having calculated that the best way to get his hands on the keys would be by backing Brexit and toppling his erstwhile chum David Cameron he did just that. Sure, he had just put the ink to a passionate argument in favour of Remain and was not simply on record but on film arguing for Turkey to join the Union, but what price consistency and integrity when the crown was within his grasp?
9: Having set down his Brexit marker, Boris was finally able to unleash the full extent of his duplicity and deceit. He gleefully endorsed the lie printed on the side of the bus but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
10: Not satisfied with having helped bring the country to its knees in support of a cause he never much believed in the first place, Johnson shuffled off to the Foreign Office wherein he could further diminish the UK’s global reputation by stumbling from one ill briefed embarrassment to another. But this ageing dingo’s hunger had not yet been fully satiated and clearly miffed that he still hadn’t been gifted the top prize, he loped back into town from the outback last week. Starved of publicity and running low on untruths – he couldn’t even be bothered to concoct a new one and fell back on the £350 million figure like an 80s teenage heart-throb knocking off a lame remix of his one Christmas hit. This time it seems, finally, to have backfired.
Will Boris bounce back? Probably. It seems that the British public in their innate gullibility are always happy to forgive a clown with a tussle of unruly hair and a vocabulary lifted from the novels of Anthony Buckeridge. That we are, says more about modern Britain than we perhaps might wish to acknowledge.