In the news today is the “bicycle crash” interview between Boris Johnson and the BBC’s Eddie Mair. Mair’s interview concluded: “Aren’t you in fact – 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”.
At the risk of sounding an apologist for Boris Johnson, let’s look at those issues briefly.
“Making up quotes”: This is about Johnson being sacked by the Times for faking a quote from his godfather, historian Colin Lucus, in an attempt to give validity to an article was writing. Not only was the quote false, but it was also factually incorrect, and caused Lucas some professional embarrassment.
So cut and dried, it was a bad thing to do. But Johnson did this as a trainee journalist, straight out of university – he is now 49. The way it is depicted by Mair, and others, is it is something that has recently happened. Don’t we all do stupid things when we are in our 20’s? Are our whole lives and professional careers to be measured by such mistakes?
“Lying to your party leader”: This is also apparently true, when Michael Howard asked Johnson if he was having an affair, and he said no. He was later found out, and sacked for lying. Again, Johnson was in the wrong, but it is not exactly as if he was lying over speeding points, or expenses fraud, or weapons of mass destruction.
“Wanting to be part of someone being physically assaulted”: This is the Darius Guppy incident, where Johnson’s old school friend, Guppy, phoned him up to get the private address of a journalist who had annoyed him, and that he said he was going to have beaten up. After being pressured to do so, Johnson agreed to give him the address and phone number. However, although he agreed to do this, he never did; and the journalist was never beaten up. I would say that had Johnson wanted to be part of a physical assault, he might have been more pro-active about coming up with the address information.
So although I might not vote for Boris, I think if anyone is a nasty piece of work, it is Eddie Mair. It looks like the knives are out for Johnson, as – to my incredulity – he seems to be a threat to Cameron’s leadership.