From bulldozers to bodies: BoJo’s gaffes as foreign secretary
Johnson’s departure from Theresa May’s cabinet quickly follows that of fellow Eurosceptics David Davis as Brexit secretary and his minister Steve Baker – all three jumping ship in a 24-hour period as a result of the PM’s proposals for a ‘soft Brexit’, with her plan to “maintain a common rulebook for all goods.”
The former London mayor is said to have been less than impressed with the PM’s plans, labeling them an “absolute stinker,” adding, “Anyone defending the proposal we have just agreed will find it like trying to polish a turd,” the Sun reported. In a statement released by Downing Street, May thanked Johnson for his work.
It’s certainly been a memorable journey for Johnson as Britain’s top diplomat – rarely out of the headlines for a catalogue of cringeworthy foreign affairs gaffes.
‘Part-Kenyan’ outburst at Obama
Johnson, a vocal Brexiteer, wrote an article in the Sun newspaper in April 2016 suggesting US President Barack Obama’s decision to replace a bust of Britain’s Winston Churchill with one of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was a “symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”
After reading the article and becoming riled by the foreign secretary’s “racially-tinged” remarks, Obama reportedly said: “He is their Trump,” according to Ben Rhodes, the former US president’s deputy national security adviser.
Boris ‘I’d lie in front of the bulldozers’ Johnson misses key Heathrow debate
During his 2015 general election victory speech when he became Tory MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip – a west London constituency affected by Heathrow Airport’s contentious third runway expansion – Johnson claimed:
“I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of that third runway.”
The ex-foreign secretary was subsequently mocked by a myriad of politicians, including Tories, for avoiding voting against the government's plans to expand.
.@BorisJohnson I was in the room when you said you'd lie down in front of bulldozers to stop a third runway at Heathrow.— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) June 21, 2018
Where will you be on Monday when I vote against Heathrow expansion? pic.twitter.com/SvMgCCGTaP
It transpired that Brits would not be afforded the spectacle of the foreign secretary lying prostrate in front of oncoming bulldozers, as his strength of feeling appeared to quickly evaporate with revelations he would miss the vital vote to fly out to Afghanistan and meet with the country's deputy foreign minister.
‘Dead bodies’ in Libya & a colonial poem in Myanmar
He suggested in October 2017 that Libya could become the next Dubai, but it had to clear away the “dead bodies” first. The comment was made at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event, prompting calls for him to be sacked.
“There’s a group of UK business people, actually, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, near where Gaddafi was captured and executed, as some of you may have seen,” Johnson said.
“They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai,” he continued. “The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away.”
Johnson was also accused of being remarkably undiplomatic after a video emerged of him reciting a colonial poem by Rudyard Kipling on his visit to Myanmar earlier this year. At one point, the British ambassador interjected to point out that it wasn’t the best choice of literature for the occasion.
100% unacceptable from anyone, let alone foreign sec. Boris must be sacked for this. He does not represent my party. https://t.co/v2RHlbjlnB— Heidi Allen (@heidiallen75) October 3, 2017
Jumps headlong into Russia blame game over Novichok – despite lack of evidence
In the wake of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March, Johnson was asked by German TV about his conviction that Russia was the root of the toxic material. “How did you manage to find it out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of it?” they asked.
“Let me be clear with you… When I look at the evidence, I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory,” he replied, before the presenter interjected, “So they have the samples?”
“They do. And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said there’s no doubt,” Johnson replied.
However, Johnson’s conclusion was at striking odds with Porton Down’s own chief executive, Gary Aitkenhead, who just weeks later insisted that, while the experts had identified the agent as A-234, or Novichok, they had “not identified the precise source.”
Wrongly stating that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was a trained journalist visiting Iran
The strongest calls for Johnson’s resignation came in November, when Johnson told a Commons select committee that jailed British mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalism on behalf of her former employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, when she was visiting family in Iran.
The charge almost resulted in her five-year sentence being doubled. He was later forced to apologize for his comments after a significant backlash.
If truth be told, Boris Johnson has committed enough blunders to qualify for a Guinness World Record under the achievement: “Record number of gaffes recorded by a British foreign secretary.”
Two final nuggets to detail include the bumbling Johnson entering the Spectator’s 2016 competition to write the most offensive poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His contribution described Erdogan masturbating and having sex with a goat – not the greatest diplomatic move.
He was also forced to apologize for using several racist words in a 2002 newspaper column to describe people that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair would be visiting on a trip to the continent of Africa.
He suggested Blair would be greeted “with crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” – a highly offensive term for a black child. He added that when Blair touched down in Congo, the “tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles.”
Omar Baggili, RT
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