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7 Feb, 2022 16:30

Boris Johnson ‘not a complete clown,’ new comms chief says

The UK PM’s new press chief says they sang a disco ballad at their first meeting, but he insists it was mostly a “serious” discussion
Boris Johnson ‘not a complete clown,’ new comms chief says

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new top spin doctor Guto Harri has insisted the PM is “not a complete clown,” after revealing that Johnson welcomed him to the job by serenading him with lines from Gloria Gaynor’s 1970s disco anthem ‘I Will Survive’.

Recounting their first official meeting at Downing Street, Harri – who has been hired as communications director following a string of high-profile resignations amid the ongoing Partygate scandal – apparently told Welsh-language magazine Golwg360 on Monday that Johnson was a “very likeable character” and “not the devil like some have mischaracterised him.”

While noting that “90% of our discussion [at Friday’s meeting] was very serious,” Harri revealed that he had asked Johnson if he was “going to survive” the scandal over lockdown parties at the PM’s residence in violation of Covid-19 restrictions. To this, Johnson apparently answered by “singing a little” from the song, finishing with the line “I will survive.”

“Inevitably, he was inviting me to say, ‘you’ve got all your life to live,’ and he answered, ‘I’ve got all my love to give,’ so we had a little blast of Gloria Gaynor,” Harri was quoted by the BBC as telling the Welsh magazine. “No one expects that, but that’s how it was.”

“He’s not a complete clown,” Harri added, noting there was “a lot of laughing.” The two then “sat down to have a serious conversation about how we get the government back on track and how we move forward.”

He said that Johnson was “aware of the appalling misery” that the gatherings – which are under investigation by Scotland Yard – had caused, the Guardian reported.

Noting that the scandal had “shaken people’s trust in government and politics in general,” Harri said Johnson “has to persuade his party and people on the ground that he is still the man who got a comfortable majority as recently as two years ago.”

Johnson did not confirm whether the singing incident occurred, but he told reporters the government was “absolutely focused and working together in harmony to deal with the big problems the country is facing.”

The PM has been under pressure, including from within the Conservative Party, to resign over the gatherings, and had promised a shake-up of staff after an initial report into the scandal by senior civil servant Sue Gray said there had been “a failure of leadership.”

Johnson has continued to deny personal wrongdoing, but his initial defiant tone has softened as more details of gatherings have emerged in recent weeks. Following the release of an update to the Gray report, the PM issued an apology, saying he had learned valuable lessons about running the government and promising to “fix it.”