In an attempt to defend his son from accusations of being a liar, Stanley Johnson has suggested that the ‘great British public’ does not have the degree of literacy to know who Pinocchio is.
Appearing on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, the prime minister’s father responded to a viewer comment that Boris Johnson is like the children’s story character.
To the puzzlement of host Joanna Gosling and fellow guest Sonia Sodha, Johnson said: “That would require a degree of literacy which I think the great British public doesn’t necessarily have.”
“Sorry, what do you mean by that?” asked Gosling.
“I’m not getting into that,” replied Johnson.
“Well, that’s quite a pejorative thing to say about the great British public,” pressed Gosling.
“They couldn’t spell Pinocchio if they tried, I should have thought,” said Johnson, before asking actually asking Gosling if she could spell it.
The presenter tried to point out that this fundamentally shouldn’t matter to the critique, but Johnson said he was only trying to make his point in a “humorous way”.
“I think it is utterly absurd and wrong that you can read out, on air, a tweet coming in from one of your readers which calls the prime minister a liar. I just think it’s amazing you can do that.”
Observer journalist Sodha later tweeted that the encounter was “one of the most surreal media things I’ve done”.
He was later asked about an article in the Spectator from 1995 where the prime minister discussed single mothers and described their children as “ill-raised, ignorant and aggressive”.
Johnson said: “Hang on, whose record are we talking about … we’re talking about a column in the Spectator written, according to you, in 1995.
“I have a great collection of books written by Boris. I have a collection of books which I have written, 25 altogether.
“I’m sure there’s some things in those books – for example, I once wrote a book about birth control where I attacked the Pope and I called him ‘the greatest hazard to humanity’ because of the line he has taken on birth control.
“I’m sure in a political campaign that would be brought up against me. This is all nonsense.”Johnson hit the headlines previously this week when he accompanied Michael Gove on a bizarre stunt at the Channel 4 studios prior to its climate change-themed leaders’ debate.
Gove and Johnson senior, accompanied by a film crew, demanded that the minister be able to join the debate at late notice.