Boris Johnson

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2019 to 2022

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (born 19 June 1964) is a British politician, journalist, and popular historian. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from July 2019 until September 2022.

Boris Johnson in 2019

Johnson was Member of Parliament (MP) for Uxbridge and South Ruislip from May 2015 until his resignation in June 2023. Earlier in his career, Johnson was the MP for Henley from 2001 until 2008, and Mayor of London, completing two terms in office between 2008 and 2016. A member of the Conservative Party, Johnson considers himself a "One-Nation Tory" and has been described as a libertarian due to his association with both economically liberal and socially liberal policies. He is partly of Turkish descent.

Quotes

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1980s

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1988

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  • The tragedy of the stooge is that even if he thinks this through, he wants so much to believe that his relationship with the candidate is special that he shuts out the truth. The terrible art of the candidate is to coddle the self-deception of the stooge.

1990s

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  • I accused men of being responsible for a social breakdown which is costing us all, as taxpayers, £9.1 billion per year, and which is producing a generation of ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children.
  • With £90 billion currently spent on welfare, the great economic issues of our time are social. They are moral. And yet the Government is virtually incapacitated from utterance by its own bumbling.
  • The modern British male is useless. If he is blue collar, he is likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless, and perhaps claiming to suffer from low self-esteem brought on by unemployment. If he is white collar, he is likely to be little better.
  • Something must be found, first, to restore women's desire to be married. That means addressing the feebleness of the modern Briton, his reluctance or inability to take control of his woman and be head of a household.

2000s

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2000

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  • Labour's appalling agenda, encouraging the teaching of homosexuality in schools, and all the rest of it.
    • The Spectator (15 April 2000)
  • Dark forces dragged me away from the keyboard, swirling forces of irresistible intensity and power.
    • "A wise guy playing the fool to win", The Sunday Times (16 July 2000), p. 17.
    • While at The Daily Telegraph, explaining why his work was usually late.

2001

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  • If you see anyone who is obeying the law, apart from the odd motorised rickshaw, please give me a ring. The national speed limit is, de facto, 99mph, because everyone knows that you lose your licence at 100mph. The law of the land is disregarded by good people, held in contempt by Middle England, and scorned by no less a person than Jack Straw, who saw fit to scream through the sound barrier when he was Home Secretary.
  • Yes, cannabis is dangerous, but no more than other perfectly legal drugs. It's time for a rethink, and the Tory party - the funkiest, most jiving party on Earth - is where it's happening.
  • Ok, I said to myself as I sighted the bird down the end of the gun. This time, my fine feathered friend, there is no escape.
    • Friends, Voters, Countrymen p. 59.

2002

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  • It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving picaninnies; and one can imagine that Blair, twice victor abroad but enmired at home, is similarly seduced by foreign politeness. They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in Watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.
  • The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more... Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. … the British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right... If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain. You never saw a place so abounding in bananas: great green barrel-sized bunches, off to be turned into matooke. Though this dish (basically fried banana) was greatly relished by Idi Amin, the colonists correctly saw that the export market was limited... The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.
    • Discussing his views on Africans and "Instant Carbohydrate Gratification" The Spectator (2 February 2002)
  • We are confident in our story and will be fighting this all the way. I am very sorry that Alastair Campbell has taken this decision but I can see that he got his tits in the wringer.
    • Catherine Macleod, "Angry Blair takes on press", The Herald (Glasgow), 24 April 2002, p. 1.
    • On Campbell's negative reply to The Spectator‍'‍s report that the Government had influence the Queen Mother's funeral arrangements.
  • Nor do I propose to defend the right to talk on a mobile while driving a car, though I don't believe that is necessarily any more dangerous than the many other risky things that people do with their free hands while driving - nose-picking, reading the paper, studying the A-Z, beating the children, and so on.

2003

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  • It is hard to think of a measure that the Government could have brought to the House that I could support more unreservedly and with greater pleasure than this Bill to expand the European Union. To sum up my response, I would merely say, "And about time too."
  • I am not by any means an ultra-Eurosceptic. In some ways, I am a bit of a fan of the European Union. If we did not have one, we would invent something like it—some means of association between the sovereign states of Europe, perhaps an organisation in Brussels—overnight.
  • I forgot that to rely on a train, in Blair's Britain, is to engage in a crapshoot with the devil.
    • "A horse is a safer bet than the trains", The Daily Telegraph, 3 July 2003, p. 22.
  • I have as much chance of becoming Prime Minister as of being decapitated by a frisbee or of finding Elvis.
    • Ephraim Hardcastle, Daily Mail, 22 July 2003, p. 13.
    • Asked by pupils of Gillott's School in his constituency whether he would like the job of Prime Minister.
  • The dreadful truth is that when people come to see their MP, they have run out of better ideas.
    • "What's wrong with 40 Liverpool Road?", The Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2003, p. 24.
  • The Lib Dems are not just empty. They are a void within a vacuum surrounded by a vast inanition.
    • "The least said about Lib Dems, the better", The Daily Telegraph, 25 September 2003, p. 24.
  • Not even Mr Blair has been able to erode the unions conviction that we all have a “right” to a minimum wage... Both the minimum wage and the Social Charter would palpably destroy jobs.
    • Lend Me Your Ears, p. 387

2004

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  • Any seat would be mad not to take him. He's a terrific chap.
    • "Keeping it in the family", The Daily Telegraph, 23 January 2004, p. 29.
    • On his father, Stanley Johnson's plans to become an MP.
  • It is just flipping unbelievable. He is a mixture of Harry Houdini and a greased piglet. He is barely human in his elusiveness. Nailing Blair is like trying to pin jelly to a wall.
    • "The BBC was doing its job - bring back Gilligan", The Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2004, p. 21.
    • Reaction to the Hutton Report.
  • As snow-jobs go, this beats the Himalayas.
    • "The BBC was doing its job - bring back Gilligan", The Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2004, p. 21.
    • Reaction to the Hutton Report.
  • That is the best case for Bush; that, among other things, he liberated Iraq. It is good enough for me.
    • The Daily Telegraph 26 February 2004
  • Some readers will no doubt say that a devil is inside me; and though my faith is a bit like Magic FM in the Chilterns, in that the signal comes and goes, I can only hope that isn't so.
    • "What's so funny about the Passion?", The Daily Telegraph, 4 March 2004, p. 24.
  • If Amsterdam or Leningrad vie for the title of Venice of the North, then Venice - what compliment is high enough? Venice, with all her civilisation and ancient beauty, Venice with her addiction to curious aquatic means of transport, yes, my friends, Venice is the Henley of the South.
    • "Paying through the Doge for Europe", The Daily Telegraph, 11 March 2004, p. 22.
  • [On Tony Blair] He's lost the plot, people tell me. He's drifting rudderless in the wide Sargasso Sea of New Labour's ideological vacuum.
    • "Blair dead in the water? No such luck", The Daily Telegraph, 29 April 2004, p. 24.
  • Look the point is ... er, what is the point? It is a tough job but somebody has got to do it.
    • Toby Helm, "Boris Johnson named shadow arts minister", The Daily Telegraph, 7 May 2004, p. 12.
    • On being appointed Shadow Arts Minister.
  • It was a stellar performance. I may as well give up now and make way for an older man.
    • Hickey, The Express, 12 May 2004.
    • On his father Stanley's appearance on Have I Got News For You.
  • There is absolutely no one, apart from yourself, who can prevent you, in the middle of the night, from sneaking down to tidy up the edges of that hunk of cheese at the back of the fridge.
    • "Face it: it's all your own fat fault", The Daily Telegraph, 27 May 2004, p. 24.
    • On the dangers of obesity.
  • My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.
    • "You ask the questions", The Independent, 17 June 2004, p. 7.
    • Asked "Admit it: you want to become prime minister, don't you?" by Amanda Findlay of Bolton.
  • I didn't see it, but it sounds barbaric. It's become like cock-fighting: poor dumb brutes being set upon each other by conniving television producers.
    • David Smith, "Focus: Big Brother brawl", The Observer, 20 June 2004, p. 17.
    • On Big Brother.
  • Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious.
    • Beth Pearson, "Has Howard got news for Boris?", The Herald (Glasgow), 13 November 2004, p. 15.
    • Explaining why he quit after a week as a management consultant.
Affair with Petronella Wyatt
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  • I have not had an affair with Petronella. It is complete balderdash. It is an inverted pyramid of piffle. It is all completely untrue and ludicrous conjecture. I am amazed people can write this drivel.
    • Simon Walters, "Boris, Petsy and a 'pyramid of piffle'", Mail on Sunday, 7 November 2004, p. 7.
    • Denying accusations of his having an affair with Petronella Wyatt.
  • Tremendous, little short of superb. On cracking form.
    • David Charter, Joanna Bale, "Tories suggest door will open for Boris Johnson to return", The Times, 15 November 2004, p. 7.
    • Asked how he was feeling after being sacked as Shadow Arts Minister for having lied to Michael Howard over his affair with Petronella Wyatt.
  • I advise you all very strongly - go for a run, get some exercise, and have a beautiful day.
    • Valentine Low, "Shiver me timbers Boris", Evening Standard, 15 November 2004, p. 3.
    • Cornered by reporters asking about his affair after a morning run.
  • Nothing excites compassion, in friend and foe alike, as much as the sight of you ker-splonked on the Tarmac with your propeller buried six feet under.
  • My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.

2005

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  • But here's old Ken - he's been crass, he's been insensitive and thuggish and brutal in his language - but I don't think actually if you read what he said, although it was extraordinary and rude, I don't think he was actually anti-Semitic.
    • "Quotes of the Day", The Times, 18 February 2005, p. 2.
  • Howard is a dynamic performer on many levels. There you are. He sent me to Liverpool. Marvellous place. Howard was the most effective Home Secretary since Peel. Hang on, was Peel Home Secretary?
    • Ben Macintyre, "'Hello, I'm your MP. Actually no, I'm your candidate. Gosh'", The Times, 19 April 2005, p. 23.
    • On Michael Howard.
  • I'm having Sunday lunch with my family. I'm vigorously campaigning, inculcating my children in the benefits of a Tory government.
    • "2-minute interview: Boris Johnson", The Guardian, 11 April 2005, p. 7.
    • Asked whether he was canvassing at Sunday lunchtime.
  • What we hate, what we fear, is being ignored.
    • "Labour's cleaning up on the council tax", 21 April 2005, p. 24.
    • On the fears of MPs.
  • I love tennis with a passion. I challenged Boris Becker to a match once and he said he was up for it but he never called back. I bet I could make him run around.
    • Hickey, The Express, 21 March 2005.
  • The proposed ban on incitement to "religious hatred" makes no sense unless it involves a ban on the Koran itself; and that would be pretty absurd, when you consider that the Bill's intention is to fight Islamophobia.
    • Daily Telegraph 21 July 2005
  • I'm backing David Cameron's campaign out of pure, cynical self-interest.
    • "Conference Diary", The Independent, 5 October 2005, p. 7.
    • On The 2005 Conservative Leadership Contest.
  • I think I was once given cocaine but I sneezed so it didn't go up my nose. In fact, it may have been icing sugar.
    • "Londoner's Diary", Evening Standard, 17 October 2005, p. 15.
  • I lost the job, but the well the honest truth is that this has been embellished by, probably by me, in the sense that there were two of us who were taken on as trainees, and this was in the, the, the 80s, I think it was the late 80s, and it was him or me who was going to get the job at the end of, at the end of, eight months or nine months.... It was, it was absolutely, it was mano-a-mano and of course it was him who got it.
  • I was just chucking these rocks over the garden wall, and I'd listen to this amazing crash from the greenhouse, next door, over, over in England, as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory Party, and, and it really gave me this, I suppose, rather weird sense of, of power.
  • I can't remember what my line on drugs is. What's my line on drugs?
    • "The Genelection Game", Sunday Mirror, 24 April 2005, p. 19.
    • During the campaign trail of the 2005 general election.
  • Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.
    • Francis Elliott, "Boris casts his vote: 'Spectator' editor tells 'Desert Island Discs' he'll quit to spend more time with David Cameron", The Independent on Sunday, 30 October 2005, p. 3.
    • Said in April 2005 during the general election.
  • Old Man Howard, that Old Man Howard, he just keeps rolling, just keeps rolling.
    • Andrew Pierce, "Boris on a roll", The Times, 29 April 2005, p. 40.
    • When asked by The Oxford Student whether he sees anyone amongst his younger colleagues who would one day replace Howard.
  • I'm very attracted to it. I may be diverting from Tory party policy here, but I don't care.
    • Andrew Pierce, The Times, 30 April 2005, p. 42.
    • When asked about the 24 hour drinking legislation.
  • Life isn't like coursework, baby. It's one damn essay crisis after another.
    • "Exams work because they're scary", The Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2005, p. 22.

2006–2007

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  • I'm a rugby player, really, and I knew I was going to get to him, and when he was about two yards away I just put my head down. There was no malice. I was going for the ball with my head, which I understand is a legitimate move in soccer.
    • Ed Harris, "Boris bites Herr legs...: The MP for Henley does his bit for Anglo-German diplomacy", Evening Standard, 4 May 2006, p. 9.
    • On his tackle on German midfielder Maurizio Gaudino in a charity football match.
  • Not only did I want Bush to win, but we threw the entire weight of The Spectator behind him.
    • Have I Got Views for You (2006), p. 272
  • Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase... Indeed, high Chinese culture and art are almost all imitative of western forms: Chinese concert pianists are technically brilliant, but brilliant at Schubert and Rachmaninov. Chinese ballerinas dance to the scores of Diaghilev. The number of Chinese Nobel prizes won on home turf is zero, although there are of course legions of bright Chinese trying to escape to Stanford and Caltech... It is hard to think of a single Chinese sport at the Olympics, compared with umpteen invented by Britain, including ping-pong, I'll have you know, which originated at upper-class dinner tables and was first called whiff-whaff. The Chinese have a script so fiendishly complicated that they cannot produce a proper keyboard for it.
    • Have I Got Views for You (2006), p. 277
  • I meant no insult to the people of Papua New Guinea, who I'm sure lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity like the rest of us... I am happy to add Papua New Guinea to my global itinerary of apology.
  • I've got a brilliant new strategy, which is to make so many gaffes that nobody knows which one to concentrate on. [...] They cease to be newsworthy, you completely out-general the media in that way, and they despair. [...] You shell them, you pepper the media... you've got to pepper their positions with so many gaffes that they're confused. It's like a helicopter throwing out chaff, and then you steal on quietly and drop your depth charges wherever you want to drop them.
  • The real hero of Jaws is the mayor. A gigantic fish is eating all your constituents and he decides to keep the beaches open. OK, in that instance he was actually wrong. But in principle, we need more politicians like the mayor - we are often the only obstacle against all the nonsense which is really a massive conspiracy against the taxpayer.
  • The world's population is now 6.7 billion, roughly double what it was when I was born. If I live to be in my mid-eighties, then it will have trebled in my lifetime.
    The UN last year revised its forecasts upwards, predicting that there will be 9.2 billion people by 2050, and I simply cannot understand why no one discusses this impending calamity, and why no world statesmen have the guts to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves.
  • [O]ver the years, the argument changed, and certain words became taboo, and certain concepts became forbidden, and we have reached the stage where the very discussion of overall human fertility — global motherhood — has become more or less banned.
  • All the evidence shows that we can help reduce population growth, and world poverty, by promoting literacy and female emancipation and access to birth control. Isn't it time politicians stopped being so timid, and started talking about the real number one issue?

2008

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First Speech As London Mayor (3 May 2008)
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First Speech as Mayor of London, at City Hall (3 May 2008).
  • Thank you very much Mr Meyer, Anthony Meyer that is. I want to thank you, I want to thank the police of course, and my wife Marina and my family, and my utterly brilliant campaign team, the Conservative GLA candidates — some of whom were extremely unlucky tonight — and of course the thousands of Conservative activists, the ward captains and knocker-uppers who did such an amazing job today, and indeed yesterday, rather.
  • This has been a marathon election as you can tell with a record turnout and I think it has been good for politics and it has been good for London.
  • I want to thank Sian [Berry, Green Party] and Lindsey [German, Left List] and Alan [Craig, Christian Peoples Party] and Gerard [Batten, UKIP], who have sometimes joined us for hustings, but mainly I want to thank my two colleagues in the strange triumvirate who have been trundling around London's church halls and TV studios violently disputing the meaning of multiculturalism and the exact cost of conductors. On which point I think I'm going to declare victory.
  • And I want to congratulate you Brian [Paddick] on your great common sense and decency with which you put your case and I do hope that it is not the end of our discussions about the police.
  • And as for Ken, Mayor Livingstone, I think you have been a very considerable public servant and a distinguished leader of this city.
  • You shaped the office of mayor. You gave it national prominence and when London was attacked on 7 July 2005 you spoke for London.
  • And I can tell you that your courage and the sheer exuberant nerve with which you stuck it to your enemies, especially in New Labour, you have thereby earned the thanks and admiration of millions of Londoners, even if you think that they have a funny way of showing it today.
  • And when we have that drink together which we both so richly deserve, I hope we can discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London, a city whose energy conquered the world and which now brings the world together in one city.
  • I do not for one minute believe that this election shows that London has been transformed overnight into a Conservative city but I do hope it does show that the Conservatives have changed into a party that can again be trusted after 30 years with the greatest, most cosmopolitan, multi-racial generous hearted city on earth in which there are huge and growing divisions between rich and poor.
  • And that brings me to my final thank you which is of course to the people of London.
  • I would like to thank first the vast multitudes who voted against me - and I have met quite a few in the last nine months, not all of them entirely polite.
  • I will work flat out from now on to earn your trust and to dispel some of the myths that have been created about me.
  • And as for those who voted for me, I know there will be many whose pencils hovered for an instant before putting an X in my box and I will work flat out to repay and to justify your confidence.
  • We have a new team ready to go in to City Hall. Where there have been mistakes we will rectify them. Where there are achievements we will build on them.
  • Where there are neglected opportunities we will seize on them, and we will focus on the priorities of the people of London: cutting crime, improving transport, protecting green space, delivering affordable housing, giving taxpayers value for money in every one of the 32 boroughs.
  • And I hope that everybody who loves this city will put aside party differences to try in the making of Greater London greater still. Let's get cracking tomorrow and let's have a drink tonight.

2010s

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2010

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  • In 1904, 20 per cent of journeys were made by bicycle in London. I want to see a figure like that again. If you can't turn the clock back to 1904, what's the point of being a Conservative?
  • The meat in the sausage has got to be Conservative
    • BBC News Interview with Jeremy Paxman, BBC News, 7 May 2010
    • Johnson on the possibility of a coalition after the United Kingdom general election, May 2010.
      • Johnson: Whatever type of, er, of Wall's sausage, er, is contrived by this, er, this great experiment, the, the dominant ingredient has got to be conservatism. The, the meat in the sausage has got to be Conservative, I would say. There can be plenty of bread and other bits and pieces.
        • Paxman: The question is whether it's a chipolata or a Cumberland sausage, I suppose, is it?
      • Johnson: This is fantastic to listen to. Enough of this, enough of this, er, gastronomic metaphor. Er.
        • Paxman: You started it!
      • Johnson: Well, I, I've had enough of it! I—
        • Paxman: Haven't you got a city to run?
      • Johnson: Say again?
        • Paxman: I say haven't you got—
      • Johnson: Yeah, I have got a city to run and that's exactly, that's exactly the point!
        • Paxman: Well go and do it then! Goodbye!
      • Johnson: The government of London, the government of London will carry on irrespective of the, er, temporary difficulties in providing a national government. Thank you.
        • Paxman: Bye bye, Boris!

2011

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  • When a regime has been in power too long, when it has fatally exhausted the patience of the people, and when oblivion finally beckons – I am afraid that across the world you can rely on the leaders of that regime to act solely in the interests of self-preservation, and not in the interests of the electorate. ...
    First-past-the-post has served this country well, and served dozens of other countries well. We would be mad to go to a great deal of trouble and expense to adopt a system that is less fair than the one we have. ...
    By all means let us have a referendum – the one we were promised, on the Lisbon EU Treaty.

2012

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  • The excitement is growing so much I think the Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go zoink off the scale.
    • On the forthcoming London Olympic Games. The Daily Telegraph, 27 July 2012.
  • They are like glistening wet otters frolicking.
    • Telegraph column, 31 July 2012
    • On woman's beach volleyball at the 2012 Olympic Games.

2013

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  • It is often useful to give the slight impression that you are deliberately pretending not to know what is going on, because the reality may be that you don't know what is going on, but people won't be able to tell the difference.
  • If we left the EU, we would end this sterile debate, and we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.
Peking university, Beijing (14 October 2013) Joint speech to students
  • Who, according to JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels, was Harry Potter's first girlfriend? Who is the first person he kisses? That's right, Cho Chang, who is a Chinese overseas student at Hogwarts school," he said, to laughs and scattered applause. "Ladies and gents I rest my case."
  • Now can I ask you a question," "Why is it that we're lucky to have so many Chinese students? Is it because of the weather? Is it because we have so many French restaurants? Is it because we have so many communist bicycles?"

2014

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  • [On deputy prime minister Nick Clegg] He's there to serve a very important ceremonial function as David Cameron's lapdog-cum-prophylactic protection device for all the difficult things that David Cameron has to do that cheese off the rest of the ... [ending absent] He’s a kind of shield. He’s a lapdog who’s been skinned and turned into a shield to protect.

2015

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2016

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  • The choice is really quite simple. In favour of staying, it is in Britain’s geo-strategic interests to be pretty intimately engaged in the doings of a continent that has a grim 20th-century history, and whose agonies have caused millions of Britons to lose their lives. History shows that they need us. Leaving would be widely read as a very negative signal for Europe. It would dismay some of our closest friends, not least the eastern Europeans for whom the EU has been a force for good: stability, openness, and prosperity.
    It is also true that the single market is of considerable value to many UK companies and consumers, and that leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty, while embroiling the Government for several years in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems of this country – low skills, low social mobility, low investment etc – that have nothing to do with Europe.
  • Think of Britain. Think of the rest of the EU. Think of the future. Think of the desire of your children and your grandchildren to live and work in other European countries; to sell things there, to make friends and perhaps to find partners there.
  • And then there is the whole geostrategic anxiety. Britain is a great nation, a global force for good. It is surely a boon for the world and for Europe that she should be intimately engaged in the EU. This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms: the membership fee seems rather small for all that access.
  • You look at the plan to increase the efforts to prop up the single currency with an ever denser system of integration, with more and more regulation about all sorts of social and economic issues which will impact directly on this country, I think the risk is increasingly in staying in the project. I think the best thing we can do is show a lead, show an example and strike out for freedom.
  • Something mysterious happened when Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in 2009. Something vanished from that room, and no one could quite explain why. It was a bust of Winston Churchill – the great British war time leader. It was a fine goggle-eyed object, done by the brilliant sculptor Jacob Epstein, and it had sat there for almost ten years. But on day one of the Obama administration it was returned, without ceremony, to the British embassy in Washington. No one was sure whether the President had himself been involved in the decision. Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President's ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender. Some said that perhaps Churchill was seen as less important than he once was. Perhaps his ideas were old-fashioned and out of date. Well, if that's why Churchill was banished from the Oval Office, they could not have been more wrong.
  • There was a young fellow from Ankara
    Who was a terrific wankerer
    Till he sowed his wild oats
    With the help of a goat
    But he didn't even stop to thankera.
  • Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically [...] The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.
    But fundamentally what is lacking is the eternal problem, which is that there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe. There is no single authority that anybody respects or understands. That is causing this massive democratic void.
  • Oh shit, we've got no plan. We haven’t thought about it. I didn’t think it would happen. Holy crap, what will we do?
    • Reported comments after the vote for 'leave' in the EU referendum result (24 June 2016), as cited by Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell in Johnson at 10: The Inside Story (Atlantic Books, 2023). Quote is from an extract published by The Times (London).
  • It is vital now to see this [Brexit] moment for what it is. This is not a time to quail, it is not a crisis, nor should we see it as an excuse for wobbling or self-doubt, but it is a moment for hope and ambition for Britain. A time not to fight against the tide of history, but to take that tide at the flood, and sail on to fortune.
    • During the announcement that he would not run to become Britain's prime minister. A reference to Brutus's "There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune" in Julius Caesar. [3] (June 30, 2016)
  • We can all spend an awfully long time going over lots of stuff that I've written over the last 30 years... all of which in my view have been taken out of context, but never mind... I'm afraid that there is such a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said that have been one way or another, through what alchemy I do not know, somehow misconstrued that it would take me too long to engage in a full global itinerary of apology to all concerned.

2017

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  • I think Rex Tillerson is absolutely clear in his view, which is the same as mine. You have got to engage with Russia, but you have got to engage in a very guarded way. You have got to beware of what they are up to. There is no question that, when you look at Russian activity on the cyber front, when you look at what they are doing in the western Balkans, when you look at what has been happening in the Ukraine, you've got to be very, very cautious. I think it is entirely right to have a dual track approach. We don't want to get into a new Cold War. That's something London and Washington are completely at one on. But nor do we want Russian behaviour to continue as it is - and Rex Tillerson has been very clear about that.
  • There's a group of UK business people, wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte, on the coast, near where Gaddafi was actually captured and executed as some of you may have seen. And they literally have a brilliant vision to turn Sirte, with the help of the municipality of Sirte, to turn it into the next Dubai. The only thing they've got to do is clear the dead bodies away and then they'll be there.
  • [At a Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee meeting on 1 November 2017] When I look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it. [Neither] Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her family has been informed about what crime she has actually committed. And that I find extraordinary, incredible.
  • [In the Commons on 7 November 2017, after criticism his earlier comments might make Zaghari-Ratcliffe's position worse] My point was that I disagreed with the Iranian view that training journalists was a crime - not that I wanted to lend any credence to Iranian allegations that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been engaged in such activity.
    I accept that my remarks could have been clearer in that respect, and I'm glad to provide this clarification.

2018

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  • [The attack was] a sign [from President Putin that] no-one could escape the long arm of Russian revenge ... [The attack] was a sign that President Putin or the Russian state wanted to give to potential defectors in their own agencies: 'This is what happens to you if you decide to support a country with a different set of values. You can expect to be assassinated'.
  • If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you. If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran. I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes; and I thoroughly dislike any attempt by any – invariably male – government to encourage such demonstrations of "modesty".
  • If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled – like Jack Straw – to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly. If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto: those in authority should be allowed to converse openly with those that they are being asked to instruct.
  • I am against a total ban because it is inevitably construed – rightly or wrongly – as being intended to make some point about Islam. If you go for a total ban, you play into the hands of those who want to politicise and dramatise the so-called clash of civilisations; and you fan the flames of grievance. You risk turning people into martyrs, and you risk a general crackdown on any public symbols of religious affiliation, and you may simply make the problem worse.

2019

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  • Take that [Irish border] backstop out, or at the very least give us a legally binding change - within the text of the agreement - that allows for the UK to come out [of the EU] of its own accord, and then we will be able to say that the agreement is imperfect but at least tolerable.
  • We are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum. The Bill is directly against our manifesto - and I will not vote for it. We can and must do better - and deliver what the people voted for.
  • Interviewer: Can you give an example, in your political life, when you've set your own self-interest aside for the benefit of the country?
    Boris Johnson: Well, er, pfft, um, it's a good question, but er, I, I, I would, you know, I don't, obviously, it's an embarrassing but, but true that, um, er, it is obviously, possible, er, how should I put this, to make more money, er, by not being a full-time politician. Um, I don't, I don't want to put too finer point on it, er, but, you know, you have to, you have to, you have to, make sacrifices sometimes.
  • Andrew Neil: You talk about article 5B in GATT 24.
    Boris Johnson: Article 24, get it right Andrew, it's article 24, paragraph 5B.
    Andrew Neil: And how would you handle paragraph 5C?
    Boris Johnson: I would confide entirely in paragraph 5B.
    Andrew Neil: But how would you get round what's in 5C?
    Boris Johnson: I would confide entirely in paragraph 5B which is enough for out purposes.
    Andrew Neil: Do you know what is in 5C?
    Boris Johnson: No.
  • We are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on 31 October and take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring with a new spirit of can do. We are once again going to believe in ourselves, and like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self doubt and negativity.
  • I just say to everybody in the country, including everyone in Parliament, the fundamental choice is this: Are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum? Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people - and plunge this country into chaos. Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda?
  • [I would] rather be dead in a ditch [than ask the EU to delay Brexit beyond 31 October]
  • I've looked carefully at no deal, I've assessed its consequences, both for our country and yours, and yes, of course, we could do it, the UK could certainly get through it, but be in no doubt that the outcome would be a failure of statecraft.
  • Man: The NHS has been destroyed. It's been destroyed. It's been destroyed, and now you come here for a press opportunity.
    Boris Johnson: Well actually there's no press here.
    Man: [Points at camera crew] What do you mean there's no press here?

2020s

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2020

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  • We are embarked now on a great voyage, a project that no one thought in the international community that this country would have the guts to undertake, but if we are brave and if we truly commit to the logic of our mission - open, outward-looking - generous, welcoming, engaged with the world championing global free trade now when global free trade needs a global champion. I believe we can make a huge success of this venture, for Britain, for our European friends, and for the world.
  • We are telling cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow. To be clear they can continue to provide take out services. Night clubs, theatres, gyms and leisure centres should close on the same time scale. These are places where people come together and indeed the whole purpose is to bring people together. Some people will be tempted to go out tonight. Please don't. You may think you are invincible bit there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms. As far as possible we want you to stay at home - that's how we can protect our NHS and save lives.
    • Requested the closure of pubs, restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues, museums and galleries that evening due to the coronavirus pandemic, at his daily 5pm press conference on 20 March 2020 as quoted in The Daily Telegraph.
  • We have so far succeeded in the first and most important task we set ourselves as a nation to avoid the tragedy that engulfed other parts of the world.
  • At this stage I do not think that the international comparisons and the data are yet there to draw the conclusions that we want.
  • I am meant to be in control. I am the Führer. I’m the king who takes the decisions.
  • [On the assumption Carrie Symonds, now Johnson, had briefed against Dominic Cummings] She hasn't briefed anyone and my instructions to all were to shut the f*** up. How is any of us supposed to know where these briefings come from?
    Look at the claims made on behalf of allies of Lee [Cain] and Dom, that I'm out in six months, that I can't take decisions, that Carrie is secretly forging lockdown policy, and about a billion equally demented claims. Are you responsible for all that crap? No. Then look at it from my point of view.
    This is a totally disgusting orgy of narcissism by a government that should be solving a national crisis.

2021

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  • No more fucking lockdowns - let the bodies pile high in their thousands.
  • I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party, and that no COVID rules were broken.
  • I can tell you; I DO brush it! I have a comb in my office!
    • Johnson to BBC Reporter (2021)
    • On his untidy hair.

2022

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  • I believed implicitly that this was a work event. But Mr. Speaker, with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside, I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidelines, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way.

2023

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  • He [Vladimir Putin] threatened me at one point, and he said, "Boris, I don't want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute" or something like that. Jolly.
    But I think from the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate.
  • To those who say we may be denuding our own arsenals by giving the support, I say what is the point in deploying tanks and planes in North Carolina or North Rhine-Westphalia when Ukrainians could be using them now, where they are needed to help assure our collective security for decades?
  • I have received a letter from the Privileges Committee making it clear - much to my amazement - that they are determined to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of Parliament. They have still not produced a shred of evidence that I knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons. They know perfectly well that when I spoke in the Commons, I was saying what I believed sincerely to be true and what I had been briefed to say, like any other minister. They know that I corrected the record as soon as possible; and they know that I and every other senior official and minister - including the current Prime Minister and then occupant of the same building, Rishi Sunak - believed that we were working lawfully together. I have been an MP since 2001. I take my responsibilities seriously. I did not lie, and I believe that in their hearts, the Committee know it. But they have wilfully chosen to ignore the truth, because from the outset, their purpose has not been to discover the truth, or genuinely to understand what was in my mind when I spoke in the Commons. Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts. This is the very definition of a kangaroo court. Most members of the Committee - especially the chair - had already expressed deeply prejudicial remarks about my guilt before they had even seen the evidence. They should have recused themselves.

Attributed

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  • The President is a cross-eyed Texan warmonger, unelected, inarticulate, who epitomises the arrogance of American foreign policy.
    • Unsigned editorial entitled "Infantile resentment" in The Spectator, 22 November 2003, p. 7.
    • On George W. Bush.
  • With friends like these, who needs Yemenis?
    • At a summit about the civil war in Yemen, Financial Times (19 September 2017)

Quotes about Boris Johnson

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The Prime Minister's advice to Her Majesty was unlawful, void and of no effect ~ Brenda Marjorie Hale
 
Boris Johnson, who is kind of a physical and emotional clone of the president [Donald Trump] ~ Joe Biden
 
In the name of God go ~ David Davis
Listed in chronological order.

1982–2006

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  • Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility.
  • I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.
  • Boris was told to engage his brain before speaking in future.
    • Conservative Party official, quoted in "Black Dog", The Mail on Sunday (12 September 2004) p. 26
  • You are a self-centred, pompous twit. Even your body language on TV is pathetic. Get out of public life. Go and do something in the private sector.
    • Paul Bigley (brother of murdered hostage, Kenneth Bigley) to Johnson on Radio City in Liverpool. Quoted in Nigel Bunyan, "Have we got views for you, Mr Johnson", The Daily Telegraph (21 October 2004) p. 3
  • Boris Johnson, people always ask me the same question, they say, 'Is Boris a very very clever man pretending to be an idiot?' And I always say, 'No.'
  • Boris Johnson voted in favour of scrapping section 28, although he had previously compared gay marriage to bestiality in a book he published, and referred to gay men as "tank-topped bumboys" while working as a journalist.

2012–2018

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  • Most politicians are ambitious and ruthless, but Boris is a gold medal egomaniac. I would not trust him with my wife nor – from painful experience – my wallet. It is unnecessary to take any moral view about his almost crazed infidelities, but it is hard to believe that any man so conspicuously incapable of controlling his own libido is fit to be trusted with controlling the country.
    His chaotic public persona is not an act – he is, indeed, manically disorganised about everything except his own image management. He is also a far more ruthless, and frankly nastier, figure than the public appreciates.
  • I would not take Boris's word about whether it is Monday or Tuesday.
  • Mr. Johnson ... made his name in Brussels not with honest reporting but with extreme euroskepticism, tirelessly attacking, mocking and denigrating the European Union. He wrote about European Union plans to take over Europe, ban Britain’s favorite potato chips, standardize condom sizes and blow up its own asbestos-filled headquarters. These articles were undoubtedly colorful but they bore scant relation to the truth.
  • I am surprised and disappointed that you have chosen to repeat the figure of £350 million per week, in connection with the amount that might be available for extra public spending when we leave the European Union. This confuses gross and net contributions. It also assumes that payments currently made to the UK by the EU, including for example for the support of agriculture and scientific research, will not be paid by the UK government when we leave. It is a clear misuse of official statistics.

2019–2020

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  • Boris is an intellectual. They are rare among PMs. Gordon Brown was one, as was A J Balfour at the beginning of the 20th century. Boris should write a book a year to keep his mind engaged and active.
  • Boris will be the most fun prime minister since Harold Wilson. We need that quality back into the heart of the nation and recognise that quality of life matters as much as economic statistics.
  • Boris is a big man who doesn’t bear grudges. He should have a broad-based government of all talents. Once Brexit is resolved, there'll be long overdue challenges to solve.
  • We must let Boris be Boris — and watch the fun begin.
  • What still puzzles some people is that so many old-fashioned Tories should have fallen for such a seedy, treacherous chancer. In fact, I think Johnson has succeeded because of his amorality, not despite it. The transgressive sayer of the unsayable breaks through the carapace of conventional politics with a mixture of humour and vituperation, slang and high-flown rhodomontade. Clowning is part of the act for the leader who wants to reach beyond good and evil in the fashion Nietzsche recommended. A cartoon Superman? Yes, but they all are. See Charlie Chaplin, passim.
    How long will he last – five weeks, five years? I have no idea. All I can say is what I see. And it is not a pretty sight.
    • Ferdinand Mount "How bad can it get?" London Review of Books 41:16 (15 August 2019)
    • Ferdinand Mount was one of 17 contributors to the LRB to reflect on the situation in Great Britain after Johnson became prime minister in summer 2019
  • 90,000 Conservative members, whose views have become more extreme as their numbers have fallen, recently selected Boris Johnson as their new leader, and thus as the country's new prime minister. In doing so, they have chosen a mendacious chancer. It is no exaggeration to say that Johnson has lied his way to the top, first in journalism and then in politics.
  • My brother is using words like surrender and capitulation as if the people standing in the way of the blessed will of the people as defined by 17.4m votes in 2016 should be hung, drawn, quartered, tarred and feathered. I think that is highly reprehensible language to use.
  • Look what happens when the Labour party moves so, so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly. You're also going to see people saying, my God, Boris Johnson, who is kind of a physical and emotional clone of the president, is able to win.
  • The most accomplished liar in public life — perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister.
  • He has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and the half-truth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie, and the bullshit lie – which may inadvertently be true. And because he has been so famous for this skill for so long, he can use his reputation to ascend to new levels of playful paradox.
  • Calling Johnson’s radicalism “hard right” might sound overdrawn. He did not set out to lead the party further to the right or, indeed, to lead it anywhere. His primary aim was to lead the party. Finding a label for his outlook is accordingly in one way pointless. Like Trump, he has no settled outlook. Nor is he unique in that regard among British Conservatives. Since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Thatcherism, the Conservative Party has had no clear viewpoint. Anti-Europeanism, which appeared to fill the gap, was negative and temporary. Lacking aims or content of its own, Johnson’s radicalism lies in his forceful, hard-right style, with its disregard for familiar liberal-democratic norms and its claims to speak for “the people” against the elites and institutions. As a superbly skilled “trimmer,” Johnson is suited to improvisation by character and driven to it by predicament. Britain’s divided hard right, which he took over and found himself having to manage, promised implausibly to please both global-minded business and voters fed up with neglected public services, insecure work, and lack of housing.

2021–2022

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  • [Response to Q1109] Fundamentally, the reason for all these problems was bad policy, bad decisions, bad planning and bad operational capability. It doesn't matter that you have great people doing communications if the Prime Minister changes his mind 10 times a day, and then calls up the media and contradicts his own policy, day after day after day. You are going to have a communications disaster zone. Few things are discussed more inaccurately than communications
  • [Response to Q1126] nobody could find a way around the problem of the Prime Minister just, like a shopping trolley, smashing from one side of the aisle into the other.
  • [Response to Q1194] The heart of the problem was fundamentally I regarded him as unfit for the job.
  • He rewrites reality in his mind afresh according to the moment’s demands. He lies — so blatantly, so naturally, so regularly — that there is no real distinction possible with him, as there is with normal people, between truth and lies.
  • He [Johnson] is totally untrusted by anybody in No 10 yet has a superpower for making people feel sorry for him — "I feel sorry for him like my old dead-beat boyfriend, I hate myself for it but I can’t help it," said one in despair after a particularly dreadful meeting.
  • His natural instinct is not to be open, not to be transparent, not to be accountable, but narcissitically to think 'what suits me, how can I extricate myself from this awkward situation, by what means can I arrogate blame somewhere else?'
  • Now think of Boris Johnson. All of these feelings will apply to him. He is going to be Heath with jokes added in, and Thatcher with consistency taken out, all rolled into a bundle of resentment, denial, attention-seeking and attempted vindication that will be a permanent nightmare for the new prime minister. That he wants revenge on Rishi Sunak is already apparent, but if Liz Truss is elected, she will face the identical problem. The chances of her loyalty to him being repaid are close to zero. Boris lives his life as a performance, and he will want the next act to fill every seat in the theatre of British political life. The Conservative Party had no choice but to remove Johnson from office. His standards of governance and veracity had fallen below what reasonable people could defend. The downside is that the party will always have the problem of what he will say next.
  • Q: You have supported a Prime Minister that has continually lied to the Queen, Parliament and the entire United Kingdom, therefore does this not bring into question your own personal integrity and honesty?
    A: I don't agree with that. Boris Johnson has been an excellent prime minister. He delivered on Brexit. He delivered on the Covid vaccine and he delivered on standing up to Vladimir Putin and backing the Ukrainians. I am proud of what he did.
  • In some sense, him running is the dream [...] Droning on about how they need a sensible, serious person to fix the mess they’ve made then that honking pudding turns up with his travelling circus trailing behind. ...
    Is he a greased piglet any more? He became deeply unpopular with the public because the joke wore thin, he got humiliatingly booted out as PM and he set the Tories on a path to ruin.
    He was booed at the Queen’s Jubilee. The public tolerance for him would be so, so thin.

2023–present

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  • In his resignation speech, Boris Johnson showed no awareness of any personal failings that had led his party to turn on him. "When the herd moves, it moves," he complained, without apparent thought as to what might have provoked the herd into stampeding. He later complained the rules had been changed halfway through the relay race that the premiership had become. There had indeed been no rule against No 10 parties, but by the time they happened in lockdown it was against the law. There was no rule that a PM must resign if more than 50 of their ministers quit, but since being able to form a government that commands a Commons majority is the basis for being in power it should hardly need saying that these are circumstances that make resignation inevitable. Boris tried to break rules that no one had previously thought it necessary to state.
  • Johnson and I really loathed each other. It was obvious. We really never spoke behind the scenes very much.
  • [Sir Keir Starmer on being referred to as Sir Crasheroonie Snoozefest by Johnson.] It doesn’t matter — because I really couldn't give a toss and, you know, I really loathed him.
    He didn't stand for anything, he had no principles, he had no integrity, he lied through his teeth and he brings everybody down with him. Is there anybody who's had any relationship with Johnson — in any sense of the word — who hasn't ended up in the gutter?
  • [H]is inner emptiness made it imperative for him always to be the centre of attention, craving affirmation and breaking truth and convention to achieve it.
  • The damage that Johnson has done to the country is beyond measure. Has any prime minister done so much harm? Covid-19 was the most serious crisis to hit Britain since the Second World War. He ran the government as if he were the wayward manager of an amateur theatre company, full of histrionics, changes of mind and cliques.
  • Much as Boris is not prone to getting really cross, nor using particularly strong language, this was one [time] where he really flipped. At our morning meeting, with a small gang of us, he just launched into a violent attack on Emmanuel Macron.
    And basically saying: "He’s a four-letter word that begins with 'c'’, he's a weirdo, he's Putin's lickspittle, we need to go studs up on this one" – a rugby term that basically means gloves off - "we need an orgy of frog-bashing, I’m going to have to punch his lights out"... Pretty strong stuff.
  • [In 1964 or 1965] There was her baby, Alexander, a few months old, lying naked on a bath mat, kicking his feet in the air, round, pink and fat, with a remarkable shock of electrically bright blond hair. As I gazed at him, I didn't find that baby at all appealing, too pink and too noisy.
  • That baby on the bath mat, who so decisively put me off the idea of teen motherhood, grew up to be the most disgraced prime minister under his ludicrously changed name of Boris: he looks much the same.
  • As for Boris Johnson, I look back with a morbid incredulity at what that baby grew up to be. It’s a not particularly good joke to surprise people with the fact that I am one of the many women to have seen him naked.
  • He's not a Tory, he’s somebody who used the Tory party ... he attacks what he calls the Westminster elite but he is so Westminster elite at heart - he’s wealthy, socially liberal, believes in animal rights, carbon net zero - he is not some Lee Anderson.
  • [T]he interesting thing about him is that he has persecution mania. And people with persecution mania think that it's all a conspiracy and everybody's out to get them - that isn’t the case.
    The fact is with Boris he arouses ... such uncontrollable irritation that you just want him to go away. He brings everything on himself, he's not this victim.
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