Skip to main content

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

Boris Johnson: Nine moments of fibbing and fantasy from the former foreign secretary

Boris Johnson. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

When a judge overturned a summons for Boris Johnson to explain his mistruths during the EU referendum in court, campaigners said he had been given a ‘green light to lie’.

The court case intended to hold the Vote Leave co-chair and former foreign secretary to account for a claim on how much the UK spends on the EU which had been proven to be incorrect by a number of different sources.

Private prosecutor Marcus Ball, who brought the case to court, said: “We have just given the green light for every politician to lie to us about our money forever. That is a terrifying idea.”

He continued: “You don’t have the right to lie to the public about how their money is being spent.”

But Johnson – a contender to be the UK’s next prime minister – has a track record for fibbing, flip-flopping and fantasy.

Here are just nine examples.

Boris at the Oxford Union

Johnson has been changing his tune for his own gain since the very beginning of his political career. His first attempt to win office in 1984 failed when he ran as a Thatcherite Conservative to become president of the Oxford Union.

He learnt from his failure though and did an extraordinary volte-face – and it worked. Next time around he branded himself as an environmentalist and supporter of proportional representation.

Boris at The Times

After flip-flopping his way through university Johnson arrived at the Times eager to please – and seemingly not worried about breaking the rules. In a bid to impress his editors he claimed in an article that the location of Edward II’s long-lost palace on the South Bank had been discovered. He even invented a quote from Oxford don Sir Colin Lucas, saying Edward “had enjoyed a reign of dissolution with his catamite, Piers Gaveston”. But the palace had only been built in 1325 and Gaveston was beheaded 13 years earlier. His invention was discovered and he was fired.

Boris at The Spectator

Johnson managed to resurrect his journalistic career and by 1999 he was the editor of the Spectator. A deal-breaker on his appointment by owner Conrad Black was that he must not run for office. Yet just months later when Michael Heseltine stood down Johnson not only ran – but won. Black later revealed: “Boris confessed quite openly that indeed he had misled us but he had done so out of perhaps an excess of patriotic zeal.”

Boris on extra-marital affairs

When Johnson became editor of the Spectator one of his first acts was to reduce deputy editor Petronella Wyatt’s salary – but this did not dim the spark between the pair and they soon embarked on an affair. When news of their dalliances became public he denied the claims as “balderdash … an inverted pyramid of piffle”. But those lies came back to haunt the Foreign Secretary when in 2004 the truth became apparent and he was sacked as shadow arts

minister. He later had a further affair and fathered a child. The fall-out from that was played out in court where the Judge called Johnson’s behaviour “reckless”.

Boris on homosexuality

In 2000 Johnson was adamant in his support for Section 28: “We don’t want our children being taught some rubbish about homosexual marriage being the same as normal marriage.”

But just three years later talking about gay marriage his views seemed to have softened somewhat: “I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.”

Boris on his bikes

As London Mayor, Johnson claimed that he would introduce Boris bikes to London “at no cost to the taxpayer”. Even after repeatedly being questioned about the cost of the bikes he refused to budge. Then in 2013 it was revealed that each bike was actually costing Londoners £1,400 and that the annual £11 million subsidy could have bought each of the 38,000 annual users their own bicycle.

Boris on Brexit

In March 2016 Johnson wrote a version of his Daily Telegraph column extolling the virtues of remaining in the EU: “The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”

However he submitted a rather different version which was printed as he announced his support for Brexit: “There is only one way to get the change we need, and that is to vote to go.” He claimed he was “wrestling” over which campaign to back rather than waiting to see which route would better serve his political ambitions.

Boris on no-deal Brexit

In January 2019 he wrote an opinion piece that claimed “the British people won’t be scared into backing a woeful Brexit deal nobody voted for”. The IPSO regulator said the opinion piece “had construed the polls as signalling support for a no-deal, when in fact this was the result of the publication either amalgamating several findings together, or interpreting an option beyond what was set out by the poll”. The Daily Telegraph defended Johnson’s column as “clearly comically polemical” which could not be “reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters”.

Boris on Donald Trump

Before Donald Trump’s shock US election victory Johnson had been less than complimentary about the Republican candidate. In reply to claims about no-go areas in London Boris said he was “clearly out of his mind”. He also said the only reason he wouldn’t visit New York was “the real risk of meeting Donald

Trump” even going as far as saying he was “unfit” to lead America. His tune has changed: “Congratulations to Donald Trump and much looking forward to working with his administration on global stability and prosperity.”

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.