Boris Johnston has a polished public record, but his ability to evade the big questions may have come to an abrupt end.
By Jack Peat
Will Walden, spin this: Boris Johnson has been named and shamed for making up quotes, lying to his party leader and even giving the details of a journalist so he could be physically assaulted. After Guto Harri masterminded a (narrow) re-election, it would seem Mr Johnson’s new director of communications (Spin Doctor) has a lot on his hands if he wants to maintain the gleaming public perception of London’s befuddled, loveable and charming mayor.
Stand-in presenter on the Andrew Marr show, Eddie Mair, has led a public assault on Mayor of London Boris Johnson after the BBC uncovered evidence of several corrupt practices detailed in The Irresistible Rise, which will air tomorrow (Monday 25th). “You’re a nasty piece of work aren’t you?” Mair said, as Johnson clumsily deployed the best Eton’s debating schools had taught him.
From the outset, Johnson looks like the ultimate spinster. The public perception of him is as upbeat as ever and he won a second term against the odds, despite a raft of political allegations along with months of social upheaval in the capital. However, the reality is that his spin secret may be a little dirtier than that.
Avoid it until it goes away
Johnson has had a good ride from the media over the past few years. The man who is ‘publicity not policy’ shows up to the big openings and has probably never cooked a dinner since he took office, but when it comes to the big matters, he deploys an invisibility cloak and absconds out of sight.
Quizzed by Mair on his firing by the Times newspaper, his attempts to cover up an affair, and a phone conversation he had with a friend that mentioned a plan to beat up a journalist, the mayor became visibly flustered asking: “Why don’t we talk about something else?”
It is no surprise that, until now, Johnson has always refused to be interviewed for a TV profile. When the big questions are asked he has repeatedly failed to provide answers, skirting the big issues with shameful political rhetoric and using his buddy relationships to wiggle from a sticky situation. I surmise that this is not political spin, but outright cowardice.
5 things I know about you
– Tax evasion: signed off a payment of £22,912.50 to a limited company called “DJR PR” in 2008 whose sole director is Daniel James Ritterband, Boris’s former campaign chief and current marketing director.
– Planned assault: provided Darius Guppy with the private address and telephone number of the News of the World journalist Stuart Collier, who Guppy wanted to have beaten up for certain articles published in relation to his family.
– Affair: Petronella Wyatt’s mother reported to the press that her daughter had been having a four year affair with Johnson after she became pregnant and then had an abortion. Michael Howard sacked Johnson for lying about the affair when questioned.
– Racism: Jonson has been overtly racist on several occasions, including accusing the Macpherson Inquiry, which reported on police racism following the Lawrence murder, of ‘hysteria’. He also wrote an article on Tony Blair’s visit to Congo, saying the prime minister would arrive as “the tribal warriors break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief”, just as “it is said the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies”.
– Theft: Johnson has been investigated by the police for the ‘theft’, in 2003, of a cigar case belonging to Tariq Aziz, an associate of Saddam Hussein, which Johnson had found in the rubble of Aziz’s house in Baghdad.