50 of Boris Johnson's most humiliating moments since he became PM a year ago today

50 of Boris Johnson's most humiliating moments since he became PM a year ago today

The old saying goes that 'a week in politics is a long time', but a year can feel like a lifetime and yes, we've only just hit a year of Boris Johnson as prime minister.

On 24 July 2019, Boris Johnson became the prime minister of the United Kingdom and a hell of a lot has happened since. From Brexit to coronavirus, Johnson has had to tackle some of the biggest issues to ever hit the UK.

He also fought and won a bitter general election, faced a first few rocky days in parliament, MPs leaving him without a majority, widespread flooding, heckling in the street from almost everyone, the Dominic Cummings scandal and that whole business with Jennifer Arcuri.

Needless to say, it has been quite a chaotic an unprecedented 12 months for the PM and few would disagree that he could have handled some of these moments just a tiny bit better. However, that is all history now and who knows how much longer Johnson will have in this role (probably a lot longer than some will hope) so now seems like a better time than ever to look back at a year of gaffes and embarrassments (50 of them) from Boris Johnson.

1. Quotes a Batman villain in his very first speech as prime minister

We should have suspected that something was up during Johnson's first speech as prime minister outside of Downing Street where he inadvertently quoted the Bane from The Dark Knight Rises by saying:

The time has come to act, to take decisions, to give strong leadership and to change this country for the better. My job is to serve you, the people.

2. The Rock disowns him

Things were looking up for Johnson just a few days into his reign as PM as he received a huge endorsement from Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, who bizarrely joked during a Good Morning Britain interview that he was related to the Tory leader due to them sharing a surname.

However, fans of the Hollywood superstar were quick to criticise The Rock for aligning himself with the divisive politician and quickly disowned him and offered to buy everyone a tequila.

3. Setting a new record by losing a seat in his first 11 days as PM

Things soon started to turn sour for Johnson in his new role after he set an unprecedented record by losing a parliamentary seat in just his first 11 days as PM.

This was thanks to the Tories losing a by-election to the Lib Dems in Brecon and Radnorshire, with Chris Davies losing his seat by 1,425 votes. The previous record had been just 16 days and had been set by Herbert Henry Asquith in 1908.

4. Resting his foot on Emmanuel Macron's table

This isn't necessarily embarrassing for Johnson but more of an example of very bad etiquette and disrespect from the PM. During a visit to Paris in August to discuss Brexit, Johnson made himself comfortable by kicking back and literally resting his foot on one of Emmanuel Macron's tables, much to the disgust of many on social media.

5. Depicted as The Joker in a French newspaper

Less than a month into the job and Johnson had found himself compared to not one but two Batman villains when French newspaper L'Opinion published a cartoon comparing him to 'the crown prince of crime' The Joker.

We're honestly disappointed that this trend didn't continue. Who knows what villain he would be getting compared to now? Two-Face? Scarecrow? Kite Man?

6. Drowned out by protesters shouting 'stop the coup'

Come September, Johnson was facing increased pressure to delay Brexit and threatened to hold an early general election in October before the second deadline of Halloween.

However, when he was trying to make his point to the public he found himself completely drowned out by protesters shouting 'stop the coup' which felt like a scene from a documentary about a failed state.

7. Called 'The Punisher' in a BBC subtitle blooper

Oh, you thought that we were done with the comic book references, did you? Not content with being likened to DC Comics characters, Johnson also found himself compared to Marvel's mercenary anti-hero 'The Punisher' albeit by accident.

During a BBC News report in September outside of Downing Street a BBC subtitle error saw Johnson called 'the punisher' rather than the prime minister which might be a telling slip-of the-tongue.

8. Losing his majority in parliament

In one of the most incredible moments in his first few months as PM, Johnson witnessed the Tories lose their majority right in front of his eyes as Dr Phillip Lee, the former MP for Bracknell, literally walked from one side of the House of Commons to the other to join the Liberal Democrats.

The look on Johnson's face deserved to be hung in the Tate but it wouldn't take him long to fix the government's lack of a majority.

9. Being obliterated in his first PMQs

A first Prime Minister's Questions session should be a proud moment for any PM but for Johnson, it's probably one that he'd rather forget.

From the word go the knives were out for Johnson with Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Blackford and even Tory MPs giving him their best shots. However, the most excruciating (and arguably exhilarating) moments occurred when Labour's Tamanjeet Singh Dhesi absolutely unleashed upon Johnson, calling him out for many of his racist comments from the not-so-distant past.

10. Loses first six votes as PM

The commons really wasn't a happy place to be for Johnson in his first few months. After losing his majority and being singled out by just about everyone, he soon discovered that it was very hard to even win a vote in parliament as he lost his first six votes as prime minister, which is more than Tony Blair's Labour government lost during their entire tenure.

11. Sees his own brother quit government

In trying times, many of us can turn to our family for a shoulder to cry on and for some hope of condolence.

Unfortunately for Johnson, the person who should be his closest ally in government, his brother Jo Johnson, decided on 5 September that enough was enough and left his role as the MP for Orpington. This was after he had been made the minister for universities and science.

12. A police officer collapsed from exhaustion during one of his speeches

After a chaotic week in parliament, Johnson made a trip to West Yorkshire where he gave a rambling speech in front of a wall of police officers, which certainly made for a striking if not controversial image.

However, the speech went on for so long that it seemed it was too much for one of the police officers to bear any longer and appeared to have a dizzy spell before sitting down, much to the embarrassment of Johnson.

13. Told to 'please leave my town' in a glorious piece of heckling

Proving that it wasn't even safe for him outside the Commons, Johnson was given both barrels by the people of Morley, a small town near Leeds.

While trying to act like a man of the people and shake everyone's hands for a nice bit of PR, he was very politely told to 'please leave my town' by one man.

Another man, who was much more vigorous in his heckling took Johnson to task and asked him what he was doing in Morley when he should have been negotiating a trade deal with the EU in Brussels.

14. Humiliated by Leo Varadkar in a speech, who points out all the benefits of staying in the EU

Perhaps he would find some friends in Ireland in the form of former Irish Taoiseach Le Varadkar? Incorrect. In an uncomfortable few moments, Varadkar lays out just how chaotic Brexit will be for both the UK and Ireland all the while standing next to Johnson, who looked liked he'd rather be anywhere else but there.

15. Suspending parliament deemed 'unlawful'

One of Johnson's first biggest scandals as PM was the highly publicised proroguing of parliament, which was believed to be in order to try and force through a Brexit deal and prevent another extension.

That wasn't meant to be after SNP MP Joanna Cherry lodged a case against Johnson, which ended in a court in Edinburgh ruling that the suspension was unlawful. The UK's Supreme Court later added to Johnson's humiliation by also deeming the suspension 'unlawful'.

16. The Godfather director is not happy that it's Boris Johnson's favourite film

In July 2019, Johnson had declared that "the multiple retribution killings at the end" of the iconic gangster movie The Godfather was his favourite scene in film history.

This didn't sit too well with the director of the movie, Francis Ford Coppola, who expressed his embarrassment upon learning such a fact. Speaking to Market Watch the director said:

I feel badly that scenes in a gangster film might inspire any activity in the real world or [provide] encouragement to someone I see is about to bring the beloved United Kingdom to ruin.

I love the United Kingdom and its many contributions to humanity, ranging from our beautiful language and Newtonian physics to penicillin, and am horrified that it would even consider doing such a foolish thing as leaving the European Union.

17. Bizarrely compares himself to The Incredible Hulk, an out of control monster who struggles to make friends

Yet more comic book references, which just about sums up Johnson's fantasy-laden premiership so far. When speaking to the Mail on Sunday in mid-September, Johnson likened himself to the Marvel hero The Hulk in a vague attempt to show how determined he is to take on the EU and get a deal. He said:

The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets. Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them. Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done.

This comparison didn't appear to have been thought through very well at all as people soon started to point out that many of the Hulk's characteristics are not things that a world leader should be aspiring towards.

18. Dodges a press conference in Luxembourg because of 'too much noise'

A trip to the small nation of Luxembourg in September once again proved that Johnson is just as unpopular abroad as he is the UK.

After being widely heckled upon his arrival, Johnson decided to not take part in a press conference with Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, because he feared that it would be 'too noisy' and that it would have been 'unfair' to Bettel.

19. "No press here"

In perhaps the most shameless moment of Johnson's time as prime minister to date, he was accosted by a member of the public during a visit to Whipps Cross hospital in east London.

The man's seven-day-old daughter was being treated at the hospital but he wanted to know why the PM was there with press when the NHS was struggling under such restraints. Johnson's answer was to basically dismiss the man and claim that "there's no press here" despite the fact that members of the press were at the other end of the corridor filming the very incident.

20. Jennifer Arcuri

We hardly need to bore you with all the details of the Jennifer Arcuri scandal, who was a US businesswoman who had an alleged relationship with Johnson.

The whole thing was pretty humilliating for the PM, but perhaps the most awkward part was when Lorraine Kelly said what everyone was thinking following Arcuri's interview on Good Morning Britain, asking her "what was the point in that?" when she refused to answer any questions.

The moment went viral and drew even more attention to the whole ordeal.

21. Without irony, claimed the Conservatives don't do deals with other parties

We shouldn't be surprised when Johnson says something that isn't true but he told a real whopper on The Andrew Marr Show on 29 September when he said:

The Conservative Party is the oldest and greatest political party in the world, it's a big broad church and we don't do deals with other parties.

This was after it had been speculated that the Tories might make a deal with Nigel Farage's Brexit Party but as it was soon highlighted, the Tories have struck deals with both the DUP and the Lib Dems in the past 10 years alone.

22. "No disposable cups"

The current government has been routinely compared to The Thick of It but life truly imitated art last October during the Tory conference in Manchester where Johnson had a disposable coffee cup snatched out of his hands by an aide, perhaps in an attempt to show that the party were now eco-friendly and had begun to use reusable coffee cups instead. Either way, it was completely bizarre.

23. "Filthy piece of toe rag"

Sadly Johnson wasn't present for this astonishing put down but it must have been reassuring for him to learn what one of his own constituents in Uxbridge and South Ruislip thinks of him.

24. His Rugby World Cup tweet

England lost the Rugby World Cup to South Africa on 2 November and nothing quite summed up this disappointing result quite like this tweet from Boris Johnson who appeared to be watching the match on quite a dangerous television set up, while wearing a rugby jersey over his shirt and clinging onto his dog for dear life.

He also posted this three minutes before the game finished, when an England comeback almost impossible.

25. Tiny general election campaign launch

Photos can be very deceiving but few have been quite as deceiving as when Boris Johnson launched the Conservative Party's general election campaign with a rally in Birmingham on 7 November. At first, it looked like the prime minister had been flanked by thousands of people but as later photos revealed it was just a few hundred. A lesson for any budding campaign manager there.

26. Trying and failing to mop up flood water

Early into the election campaign, northern parts of England were hit by widespread and devastating flooding.

To show his solidarity to those attempting to overcome this natural disaster Johnson arrived in Matlock, Derbyshire and tried to help mop up some flood water in an optician's, only to demonstrate that he might have never operated a mop and bucket before in his life.

27. Heckled again by people from Yorkshire in flood-hit areas

When will Johnson learn that he really shouldn't travel 'up north'? After his fiasco with a mop, he went to another flood hit area, this time Stainforth in South Yorkshire where he was given another warm welcome by the locals.

28. Trying to sing 'The Wheels on the Bus'

It might sound strange to say but Boris Johnson is probably at his best when he's making a fool of himself.

So, here is a video of him trying (and failing) to sing the nursery rhyme 'The Wheels on the Bus' in front of a group of toddlers.

29. Talking to a man about dog poo

When Boris Johnson called the general election, he probably envisioned that he would be talking to people up and down the land about the many great things he had planned for Britain outside of the EU and the revolutionary policies that he had in store.

The reality was that he ended up talking to a man in Wythenshawe, Manchester about dog poo...

30. Replaced as an ice sculpture in a climate debate

Being interviewed and debated wasn't something that Johnson was too fond of during the general election.

So much so, that he decided that he didn't want himself or any member of the Tory party showing up for a unique Channel 4 debate on the climate crisis. Rather than just ignore his absence the replaced him with an ice sculpture of a slowly melting planet Earth, with another one being put in place for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party who didn't send anyone either.

31. Andrew Neil publicly addresses the PM ducking an interview with him

The BBCs Andrew Neil has a reputation of being a rather ferocious interviewer, which more than one politician found out during that election.

Rather than subject himself to the same scrutiny, Johnson avoided the interview despite every other party leader taking part in one. Sensing that he wasn't going to get an interview at all, Neil made one last public plea to the PM as part of a sensational takedown of the Tory leader.

32. Accused of racism by Gary Neville live on Sky Sports

Manchester United legend Gary Neville is well documented as being a Labour voter and a firm critic of Boris Johnson.

After it appeared that current United stars Fred and Jesse Lingard had been racially abused during their team's 2-1 win over Manchester City on 7 December, Neville, who now works as a pundit for Sky Sports, accused Johnson's own rhetoric of stoking racial divide and hatred in the English game.

33. Playing as a goalkeeper in a children's football match

As we said, Johnson is at his best when he's making a fool of himself. So, here is a picture of him getting struck in the genitals while playing as a goalkeeper in a children's football match.

Picture:Picture: Getty Images

34. Refuses to look at photograph of child lying down on a hospital floor

Just days before the election, Johnson was interviewed by Joe Pike of ITV News who attempted to show the PM a picture of a young boy who had been forced to lie down on a pile of coats while he awaited treatment for suspected pneumonia at Leeds General Infirmary due to a lack of beds.

Rather than look at the photo which was on Pike's phone, Johnson instead grabbed the device from the reporter's hands and hid it in his own pocket.

35. Hides from Piers Morgan in a fridge

While he did his best to hide from Andrew Neil, Piers Morgan was ruthless in his attempt to get an interview with Johnson, who he had also been avoiding.

Just a day before the election, Good Morning Britain cameras caught up with Johnson on a farm in Yorkshire but rather than speak to Morgan, Johnson literally decided to hide in a fridge instead. Yes, really.

36. Stayed on holiday as war appeared to be breaking out

After winning the election, Johnson whisked himself and his partner Carrie Symonds off on holiday to Mustique, an island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, on Boxing Day and stayed there well into the New Year.

However, a potentially major conflict was erupting in the Middle East after Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed the Iranian military official Qassem Soleimani.

People were seriously concerned that a huge war on the brink of breaking out, but Johnson stayed in the Caribbean, leaving Jeremy Corbyn to try and sort the mess out.

37. Meeting Prince Harry

We rarely get to see politicians interact with members of the Royal Family and judging by this picture it's easy to see why.

This was one of Harry's final appearances as a member of the Royal Family and we can only guess he was thinking 'Thank God I don't have to do this anymore.'

38. That time he couldn't remember what shampoo he used

At the start of the year, the government launched something called 'People's PMQs' where the public could ask the prime minister questions via social media. It wasn't great and was soon dropped.

The only highlight proved to be the time Johnson was asked what shampoo he uses and he was left completely perplexed. All he knew is that it was blue...

39. Jeremy Corbyn asks Johnson if he would deport himself

In one of their final interactions as opposing leaders, Jeremy Corbyn managed to deliver one of his biggest ever clap-backs to Johnson while debating the issue of deportations to Jamaica.

The former Labour leader said:

The government has learnt absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal. This cruel and callous government is trying to mislead the British people into thinking it is solely deporting foreign nationals who are guilty of murder, rape and other very serious offences.

This is clearly not the case. Take the example of a black boy who came to the UK aged five and is now being deported after serving time for a drugs offence.

If there was a white boy with blond hair who later dabbled in class A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would he deport that boy or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the US?


40. Bragging about exposing himself to coronavirus

Coronavirus arrived in the UK at the end of January but it wasn't until 3 March that Johnson actually gave a press conference on the pandemic, which had already become a major problem by that point.

As we know by now, Covid-19 is highly contagious and can be transferred by merely shaking hands with someone, which is exactly what Johnson did when he visited patients in hospital with coronavirus and then bragged about it during his briefing.

It wasn't long after this that Johnson was confirmed as having coronavirus and spent time on a ventilator in hospital.

41. His own father ignores his warning to not going to the pub or on holiday

You would think that if your own son was the prime minister of the UK then you might have the decency to listen to him.

Unfortunately for Johnson his dad is Stanley Johnson who appears to not be concerned about spreading or catching coronavirus at all. Not only did he say that he'd still go to the pub when the PM had asked everyone not to but he also went on holiday to Greece in a flagrant disregard for the 'essential travel only' rule.

42. Trying to take on Keir Starmer in PMQs

After becoming Labour leader Keir Starmer was flung into an awkward situation where he had to be a leader of an opposition party in a Commons, which was hardly allowed anyone in there.

His supporters needn't have worried though as Starmer took to PMQs like a duck to water, and has caught out Johnson on an almost weekly basis by mostly using the government's own statistics against them and Johnson's own lack of research.

43. The Dominic Cummings scandal

Most of the UK could have been forgiven for not knowing who Dominic Cummings was before lockdown, but he became public enemy number one after he drove more than 200 miles to Durham for 'childcare' after he was told he had coronavirus, despite the rules telling people not to make such a lengthy trip.

Rather than condemn Cummings for making the journey, Johnson instead tried to argue that he had behaved responsibly.

What I can tell you is that, when you look at the guidance and the childcare needs at the time, it was reasonable of him to self-isolate as he did for 14 days or more with his family where he did. 

I think that was sensible and defensible and I understand it.

As for all the other allegations… I’ve looked at them carefully, and I’m content that at all times, throughout his period in isolation – actually on both sides of that period – he behaved responsibly and correctly with an view to defeating the virus and stopping the spread.

44. That Civil Service tweet

Among the Cummings scandal emerged a rather incredible tweet from the official Civil Service Twitter account which lashed out at the government and said:

Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?

Although it was soon deleted, it has now gone done in British Twitter infamy and was made even better when it was read out by Clive Myrie on BBC News.

45. Claiming that the UK is not a racist country

Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in the United States, millions of people from around the world took to the streets as part of the Black Lives Matter movement to demand an end to injustice and inequality.

Johnson's response to the mostly peaceful protests was to boldly claim that the UK was 'not a racist country' which went down well given his own record with racism.

46. Claiming he hadn't heard of Marcus Rashford's school dinners campaign

One of the small glimmers of hope that we've experienced this year was when Man Utd and England footballer Marcus Rashford managed to convince the government to overturn a decision that would have ended a scheme that gives free school meal vouchers to thousands of vulnerable children during the summer holidays.

Rashford's much publicised campaign was championed by many, but Johnson initially rejected it before deciding to back it only for him to claim that he had never heard of it in the first place.

47. Doing press-ups to prove his fitness

In a completely bizarre photo-op that was printed on the front page of The Mail on Sunday on 28 June, Johnson apparently did some push-ups (no idea on how many) to prove he was as "fit as a butcher's dog" and "full of beans."

Why did he do this? Just to announce a new revival plan for the economy following the pandemic.

48. Says he doesn't like gestures after being asked if he was willing to take the knee

In an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio on 3 July, Johnson was asked if he would be prepared to take the knee to show support for the Black Lives Matter. Rather than say 'yes' or 'no' Johnson replied that he didn't like 'gestures' and didn't want to see people 'bullied' into doing something that they didn't want to do.

I don’t believe in gestures, I believe in substances... I don’t want people to be bullied into doing things that make a practical difference.

Funny thing is that things like 'clapping for carers' and almost anything that he's promised about Brexit could be considered a gesture.

49. Supermarkets refusing to stock chlorinated chicken

With the Brexit deadline just over the horizon and a trade deal looking less and less likely, the prospect of seeing the US's derided 'chlorinated chicken' arriving on our supermarket is looking inevitable.

That was until several major supermarkets, namely Waitrose, Aldi, Co-Op, Marks & Spencers and Sainsbury's told Boris Johnson that they wouldn't be stocking the chicken at all. Ooops...

50. Accused of hypocrisy on LGBTQ+ rights after congratulating the president of Poland on winning an election

We'll end on a rather current issue for Johnson.

On 20 July the PM pledged to ban conversion therapy, which is shockingly still technically legal in the UK.

However, just a few days before he had congratulated Andrzej Duda on being elected as the president of Poland.

Duda is the leader of the right-wing, nationalist Law and Justice Party and has previously accused of having homophobic views. The contrast of on one hand supporting LGBTQ+ rights, while also supporting a homophobe didn't sit right with some.

All this and we've only had a year of Johnson as prime minister. Goodness knows what the next 12 months and beyond have in store for us...

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