Boris Johnson: A Nasty Piece of Work?

Boris Johnson spectacular fumble on the Andrew Marr show has left his political career in jeopardy. Unlike other embarrassments he has caused, such as being left suspended from a zipwire during the Olympics or shouting “lefty t——!” at a group of Bristolian hecklers, an interview on the Andrew Marr Show has threatened to derail his political career.

Guest presenter Eddie Mair initially questioned the Mayor of London on immigration, before moving on to discuss the BBC TV documentary about him that was due to air the following day (“Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise”). Mair then produced darker parts of Boris’ history, which he would prefer the public to forget. The first was that Boris “sandpapered” a quote when working as a journalist for The Times, for which he was let go. The second was his lie to then-leader of the Conservative party Michael Howard over his extramarital affair, which resulted in his resignation as shadow arts minister in 2004. Lastly, his agreement to supply the address of a News of the World journalist to a friend so he could be beaten up.

Clearly uncomfortable about these questions, Johnson’s image changed. He went from talkative, bumbly, eccentric to silent thinker. As he stared at his feet, the trademark charisma that has enchanted so many disappeared.

To reiterate his three-pronged attack, Mair said: “What does that say about you Boris Johnson?” Mair said, “Making up quotes, lying to your party leader, wanting to be part of someone being physically assaulted, you’re a nasty piece of work aren’t you?” Boris remained still, staring at the floor.

He was then pressed about his ambitions to become leader of the Conservative party. He was completely unwilling to give an answer. Though he tried to recover afterwards, it was clear the damage had been done.

Other commentators, including Boris’ own father, have questioned the legitimacy of the questions which were asked, and suggested a Labour politician would not be questioned in the same way. The BBC received 384 complaints about the interview. The following day, however, Johnson said that Mair had been “perfectly within his rights to have a bash at me, in fact it would have been shocking if he hadn’t. If a BBC presenter can’t attack a nasty Tory politician, what’s the world coming to?”

Boris Johnson has been long despised by those on the political left because he is a charismatic, likeable Tory (if lacking in composure). But the change that occurred during the interview has been revealing. One wonders how much of his persona is real, and how much is adopted for media purposes.

BY: Matthew Jones