Boris Johnson is currently the firm favourite to become leader of the Conservative Party and the next PM to replace Theresa May when she leaves Downing Street on June 7, but despite winning over MPs the former foreign secretary has a controversial past that may yet come back to bite him.
recently said that “of course” he will run for the Conservative leadership when a vacancy becomes available – but he has an a spotty record when it comes to things he has said about Africa, Muslims and women in the past.
Johnson threw himself forward as a candidate last month when the former mayor of London was asked during an on-stage interview with broadcaster Huw Edwards if he intended to run in the leadership, to which Johnson responded: ‘”Of course I’m going to go for it.”
In light of this, we thought we’d present a list of the most controversial things this potential Prime Minister has said.
1. He has made discriminatory comments against Muslims.
In August 2018, he wrote a column in the Telegraph opposing Denmark’s ban on burqas and niqabs in public spaces, though he still believed it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
He added that if a constituent came to his surgery wearing a burqa or niqab, he would “feel fully entitled to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly” and added female students who turn up to school or university “looking like a bank robber” should be asked to uncover their faces.
2. He has criticised the police for spending money on historic cases of child sex abuse in comments deemed “disgusting, ignorant”
He told LBC: “Keeping numbers high on the streets is certainly important. But it depends where you spend the money and where you deploy the officers.
And one comment I would make is I think an awful lot of money and an awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this mullarkey.
“You know, £60m I saw was being spaffed up a wall on some investigation into historic child abuse.”
3. He’s historically used racist language
In 2002, Johnson wrote in the Telegraph: “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-wearing picaninnies.”
The word “picaninnies” is a racist term used to describe black children.
In the same column he also talked about then prime minister Tony Blair, and wrote: "They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and their tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down his big white British taxpayer-funded bird."
Johnson later apologised for these comments.
4. He’s also talked about Britain reinstating its control over its former African colonies
Writing for The Spectator in 2002, he suggested: “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”
Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. The British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right. If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain.
“The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”
5. And he saw racist content be published on The Spectator whilst he was editor
He has been criticised for allowing a number of articles deemed racist by some, to make it on to the website, including one article about racial eugenics that said “orientals” had “larger brains and higher IQ scores” while “blacks are at the other pole.”
6. When he offended all of Papua New Guinea
Johnson apologised for comments he made about the country in 2006: “For 10 years we in the Tory party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party."
7. When he implied Barack Obama had an “ancestral dislike” of the British Empire
After then US president Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval office, Johnson wrote a column in The Sun in which he claimed the move was “a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”
He was accused of racism for this comment.
8. He’s made light of speed limit laws
Writing in the Telegraph in 2001, he titled a comment piece: “No one obeys the speed limit except a motorised rickshaw.”
He went on to disparage the law, which was created to keep people safe:
If you see anyone who is obeying the law, apart from the odd motorised rickshaw, please give me a ring. The national speed limit is, de facto, 99mph, because everyone knows that you lose your licence at 100mph. The law of the land is disregarded by good people, held in contempt by Middle England, and scorned by no less a person than Jack Straw, who saw fit to scream through the sound barrier when he was Home Secretary.
9. He fat shames
In May 2004 he wrote a column for the Telegraph about obesity titled: “Face it: it’s all your own fat fault.”
10. When he penned an offensive poem about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Then the new foreign secretary, Boris inaugurated his new position by penning a poem about Erdogan after an attempted coup in Turkey that left more than 161 people dead.
In the poem, Boris called the president a “wankerer” had wrote that he “sowed his wild oats with the help of a goat.”