11 of Boris Johnson’s most calamitous moments and awkward gaffes from 2021

11 of Boris Johnson’s most calamitous moments and awkward gaffes from 2021

This year marks another year of Boris Johnson, and given how dreadful some would say his premiership has been so far you’d be forgiven for thinking he has lorded over us for longer, but he’s only been top dog for around two and a half years.

And in his second full year of office, he has managed to piss off just about everyone, from business leaders to John Lewis and as the year is not yet out we shudder to think what his next mistake will be.

It’s hard to choose but some of the things he has said and done stand out more than others.

So, here are eleven of Johnson’s biggest clangers of the year.

Attributing the vaccine rollout success to “capitalism and greed”

In March, happy about the UK’s vaccine rollout, Johnson reportedly took things a bit far, allegedly telling a group of Tory MPs that the concept of greed was on the top of his Christmas card list. He said:

Sign up to our new free Indy100 weekly newsletter

“The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.”

The Sun reported that Johnson told MPs that he “[regretted] saying it” and repeatedly asked colleagues to “forget I said that” but it was too late and a chatty rat got chatting and - upon hearing about the comments - people were rather critical indeed.

“Let the bodies pile high in their thousands”

In April, sources alleged to the Daily Mail that Johnson said he would rather let “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order another national lockdown in October.

Johnson denied the allegation but if it is true, it is a pretty sickening attitude from a world leader.

Wearing an England top over his shirt and tie


During a Euro 2020 game in July, Johnson turned up to cheer the players on, with an England top dragged over his usual formal gear.

He looked pretty odd, and people questioned whether his apparent love of football was actually sincere, especially given his flip-flopping over taking the knee.

Struggling with an umbrella

Also in July, Johnson had a bit of a nightmare with an umbrella, as he struggled to open it.

Oh well, it’s not like he was sitting next to Prince Charles at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire where the royal was unveiling a new 12-metre high £4 million memorial that recognised police officers who have died in the line of duty or anything.

Oh he was? Ah...

Joking about Thatcher closing the coal mines

In August, Johnson chipped a massive hole in his (formerly red) blue wall by making a joke about Margaret Thatcher closing coal mines.

Asked during a visit to Scotland about whether the country should stop relying on oil and gas for energy, Johnson said that former prime minister gave “a big early start” to green energy by closing the mines, appearing to forget that this decision was - and still is - hugely controversial and led to the miner’s strikes.

Running in a shirt and shoes

When Johnson wasn’t wearing sports gear over his normal get up, he wasn’t wearing it at all and the PM triggered jokes and ridicule when he went on an October jog wearing a shirt and dress shoes during the Tory party conference.

We guess you have to take your opportunities to exercise when you can, but seeing a world leader cut about Manchester utterly inappropriately dressed sadly symbolised another way he incompetently runs - runs the country, that is.

“John Lewis nightmare”

In April, Johnson’s refurbishment of Downing Street caused a big scandal. There was speculation about who funded his refurb - which involved rolls of £850 gold wallpaper - and whether he accepted Tory donors help. He maintains he paid for it himself but in December, the Electoral Commission fined the Conservative party £17,800 for “failing to accurately report a donation and keep a proper accounting record” over the refurb.

But what caused the nation to get most upset was the apparent description of the flat as a “John Lewis furniture nightmare” as cause for the renovation.

His conduct at Cop26

Boris Johnson and David Attenborough at the Cop26 UN Climate Change ConferenceBoris Johnson and David Attenborough at the Cop26 UN Climate Change ConferencePOOL/AFP via Getty Images

While representing the UK on the world stage, our PM made gaffe after gaffe, appearing to fall asleep, sitting maskless next to David Attenborough and turning up late.

TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham even accused him and other world leaders of making “appalling gaffes” that demonstrated a “conspicuous lack of compassion”, because he and others flew back to their countries on private jets, which isn’t exactly environmentally friendly.

Not wearing a mask in a hospital

Johnson royally annoyed medics and just about everyone who is trying to avoid getting ill this winter after he was papped in a hospital without a mask. The NHS trust in question defended him but sources later told the Mirror that the PM was asked to wear a mask three times.

He was later spotted on a train without, you guessed it, a mask.

CBI speech

In November, Johnson slumped in the polls following revelations of his party’s sleaze crisis. Given the opportunity to turn things around at an important meeting of business leaders, he instead wanged on about Peppa Pig World, impersonated a car, and lost his place in his speech for 25 incredibly awkward seconds.

People weren’t that forgiving, despite how many times the PM mumbled “forgive me” in the speech.

Downing Street ‘parties’

If Johnson was hoping he could take it easy in the run up to Christmas this year, he was sorely mistaken after it was alleged that Downing Street held parties during December 2020 while the rest of the country sat at home facing strict Covid rules.

Following backlash, denials and ministerial gaffes on the broadcast rounds, the PM announced that cabinet secretary Simon Case will investigate whether a party took place on 18 December, but it has also been alleged that Case himself was involved in parties so now he’s stepped down from this role and the public aren’t happy.

We’re sure rounding up just eleven of his gaffes only scrapes the surface. Our PM, ladies and gentlemen.

The Conversation (0)