In defence of Boris Johnson

In defence of Boris Johnson


norman lebrecht

July 14, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, just after the Brexit referendum, I was accosted at a memorial service by Stanley Johnson, head of the clan.

‘Why won’t you take Boris seriously?’ he demanded.

‘Because I know him, Stanley,’ I replied. He had no answer to that.

Boris is Boris as sure as Brexit is Brexit.

But the fuss being made about his appointment as Foreign Secretary is inflated and absurd.

The UK media are having a field day, as you’d expect. But when EU ministers and politicians hurl abuse at Boris as a clown and a liar we need to get a spot of perspective.

Boris is Boris.


boris cartoon


He’s not the French president, a serial philanderer with a personal hairdresser on a 100,000 Euro salary.

He’s not Italy’s former prime minister, who blew tax money on Bunga-bunga parties.

He’s not Germany’s Chancellor, who stands by while a comedian is dragged through the German courts for remarks he made about the Turkish president (Boris won’t be seeing Erdogan any time soon).

He’s not the rightwing Polish prime minister, who routinely abuses foreigners.

He’s not the Hungarian…. oh, we could go on and on.

Boris is Boris. He was a bloody good Mayor of London who beefed up the Olympics, made the buses run (more or less) on time, cleaned up the air a bit and opposed a monstrous expansion of Heathrow. He nurtured the arts and launched a successful charity for young people to learn to play music.

He’ll be a decent Foreign Secretary. Get used to it.

boris veronica emmanuel


  • Ann Nomynous says:

    You can defend a liar as much as you want, but he’ll remain a liar nevertheless.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      He lied. He will probably always lie. So will all the others listed. That’s politics in 2016.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        We live in times where everybody is a victim and nobody is accountable for their own behaviour; the pc brigade and the courts regularly demonstrate this. Therefore, everybody should have equal opportunity to behave badly. Everybody. Otherwise that’s straight discrimination.

      • Una says:

        Well said, Norman. Boris is not stupid as many will make him out to be, or call us stupid who actually like him as a politician – a breath of fresh air with his non-stereotype personality. We have known him here in many guises and loved or loathed across all the social classes of England and your Commissioners in the EU. And certainly Theresa May is not stupid, knows him better than any of us on this site, and has appointed him because she thinks he will do an excellent job. One thing for sure he is not a British version of Trump – he is far more astute than that. And Boris is not President or ever will be. He is just the Foreign Secretary with a knowledge of history and languages – in any case, he also knows how to speak the language in English that they don’t want to hear but with Britain’s interest as paramount, not Junkers or anyone else’s. And given the awful tragedy in France last night, he will be there in the background with the right kind of support and not standing back. Poor France again and so many deaths again, children as well. So give him a chance. I have never known any politician no to lie, and to be honest, not sure we are all ourselves so whiter as white either.

        • Mike Schachter says:

          No, people with double 1st from Oxford are not usually stupid. he is undoubtedly a liar, and the vast majority of politicians have been since the Greeks and Romans invented the profession. But I still prefer him to some sanctimonious PC groveller. Probably the main thing that he did to annoy the intelligentsia was his refusal to denigrate Israel. As Atlee so neatly pointed out, the intelligentsia can always be relied on to take the worst position on any situation. I would certainly prefer him to the pompous nonentities criticising him.

          • Emil Archambault says:

            Don’t confuse ability to get good marks (a sign of problem-solving ability, knowledge, etc.) and judgment and wisdom. No one is saying that Johnson is dumb. However, that does not mean he is not politically inept, clueless, or dangerously misguided. If anything, that combination makes him only more dangerous (see Ted Cruz).

    • Hilary Davan Wetton says:

      Boris was a genuine supporter of the arts while he was Mayor. The Mayor’s Fund paid for one of the most exciting concerts I have ever conducted: the London Mozart players with the Youth Orchestras of the Boroughs of Croydon and Sutton in a performance of the first symphony of Mahler in the Fairfield Hall in October 2011. It will be long remembered by all 200 musicians who took part. The funds were provided through Boris’s personal intervention; no one with that level of imaginative response can be without merit. Perhaps he should have been Arts Minister?

  • Olassus says:

    Well said!

  • Richard Gibbs says:

    What has BoJo got to do with classical music? He has such a broad back, he’s unlikely ever to suffer from a Slipped Disc

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Sounds like the British Trump except he is a US citizen.

  • Lindsay Smith says:

    I like the comment that Boris supported the Arts in London, but there it ends. Your comment about the SBC hosting Corbyn applies equally surely to a website dedicated to the Arts and particularly Music. Boris is Boris and has sweet nothing to do with either so you are running into political territory and supporting someone not even particularly skilled in the art of lying, how many times has he been caught out and FIRED? Boris is Boris and as a politician, rather than a stand up comedian, is a liar, but as a stand up comedian he would not make it.
    A lying, philandering, self serving egotist: he was born in the USA maybe he should stand for president there after all he has the job qualifications,
    Disappointment that you use yhis column to curry favour with that over ambitious, underqualified little Englander.

    • MWnyc says:

      That’s the thing, though: Boris is not really a Little Englander.

      He pretended to be one for the sake of his personal advancement.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      I don’t quite grasp why Norman would want to that, I doubt if he has ambassadorial ambitions. As so often from so-called progressives, no-one is entitled to an opinion that differs from theirs

  • Hilary says:

    To the list of BJ’s achievements as mayor of London i’d add one thing: a well executed bike hire scheme. The infrastructure was initially poor, but eventually the appropriate steps were taken ( the super highways which are being built). This will eventually help make London a slightly more eco-friendly city.
    However, I have grave doubts about his integrity. His position on Brexit altered dramatically within the space of a few months.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    He made the busses run on time….now where have I heard something like that before? Oh, btw, it took me over an hour to get by bus from Waterloo to Bermondsey this afternoon. Route 188, since you ask.

  • Euro2cent says:

    Hello there, darn furriner here.

    I like Boris, and I like to see the apoplectic reactions he gets from all the right (or left, whatever) thinking people.

    He should’ve been PM, but FO will be nice too.

    (Just passing through enjoying the shouting, by-bye, keep well.)

  • Steven Holloway says:

    “Because I know him, Stanley,” I replied. In that sentence is the whole point in posting this strange farrago (not the first tortuous name-dropping around here). No one seems to disagree that Johnson is a liar, and I’m sure all would concur that he has the diplomatic finesse of Genghis Khan. Recommending him on the grounds of his supposed ability to make buses run on time will do nothing but cause people to have a second look at the writer’s politics. Do say hello to Theresa, Angela and Volodya next time you bump into them.

    • Mick says:

      I beg to disagree. The main point here is the frantic, desperate plea by the “head of the clan” ‚ÄėWhy won‚Äôt you take Boris seriously?‚Äô As if it were of any consequence whatsoever, whether or not Mr. Lebrecht takes Mr. Johnson seriously

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Does it not occur to you that if it didn’t matter, he would not have asked me?

        • Mick says:

          Fair enough. I meant it might not matter so much in the larger scheme of things though.

        • Steven Holloway says:

          He may have thought you were still working at the Standard and he was using the ‘editorial you’. Or, for aught we know, he may have said, “Why won’t YOU take Boris seriously? I can understand why no one else does, but…”.

  • Ken Scott says:

    He was not a good Mayor. He is a demagogue. Your politics seem to be showing, and not to your credit.

    • V.Lind says:

      He is certainly not a demagogue. Nor does he resemble Trump. He is oblivious to political correctness, which I find refreshing.

      I find this a shrewd and imaginative appointment and hope he manages to keep his proverbial nose clean (though have my doubts!). Britain needs to up its image, especially in Europe, and Boris has just the schweppes to do it.

      • Furzw√§ngler says:

        Absolutely agree. At least Boris has given the Eurocats in their rotting Euro-edifice something to talk about.

      • Mark Henriksen says:

        “Nor does he resemble Trump. He is oblivious to political correctness, which I find refreshing.” QED

  • lachera says:

    As much as I do not like Silvio, I have to admit that he paid his bunga-bunga parties out of his personal money. He made a fool of himself but saying tax money was spent on his girls is a big lie.

  • Will Duffay says:

    Boris was a hopeless mayor, who wasted vast amounts of public money on badly-designed vanity buses, crowd-control water cannon which the Home Secretary (oh – now PM…) said couldn’t be used, and a huge army of over-paid advisers who actually did his job for him. The man is a bully, a liar, a political chancer, somebody with few solid beliefs and opinions, and the capacity to offend and not care.

  • Gabriela Harvey says:

    A boor…

    • Holly Golightly says:

      As was Beethoven himself.

      • Steven Holloway says:

        “As was Beethoven HIMSELF?” You mean…as opposed to Beethoven who is Boris’ musical hero? His role model? Actors who’ve played LvB on screen? Beethoven who also had a lot of hair? I’m just trying to find some, any, sequitur in your ‘comment’.

  • Edgar says:

    Boris will be a decent Foreign Secretary, and as such not play the main part in the Brexit talks with the US. That’s Mr. Davis’s job. Mr. Fox will have to prove himself in foreign trade, and Mrs. Leadsom will be responsible for the UK’s glorious post Brexit agricultural future. Quite a quartet, skillful if course, but given the task by Prime Minister May to clean up the mess and produce the paradise they promised. Boris needs to be careful. When things go wrong, the PM will send him into political oblivion. He has no one to blame, or to be grateful to, than himself as he takes on the role of emasculated Foreign Secretary (by virtue of PM May running foreign relations. If Boris makes a fool if himself, she gets rid of him. His reputation will be gone, that of the UK will not be influenced in the least).

    So, let’s see how Boris behaves. He might indeed surprise Europe and the world. If, in the coming years, the UK electorate has fully realized the consequences of Brexit and begin to move away from Brexit and back to the EU, Boris might come to the aid of the people on the beleaguered island by campaigning for Brexit’s exit.

    Jolly times ahead in Albion…

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    This is the man who has made an art form out of bumbling. May is mad. The trick he uses is to surround himself with many able people who cover for him
    .Imagine Trump as President meeting him, then we will know that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    A brilliantly articulate buffoon, with a strong track record of offending others in the international scene: how Boris Johnson is fit to be the UK’s top diplomat is beyond me.

  • V.Lind says:

    He follows a British tradition established by another British “ambassador to the world,” HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

    I know, I know, he’s Greek (whenever he comes in for a crit). Well, Boris is descendant of a Turkish immigrant. Something in the air down that way?

    Political correctness be damned!

  • Michael VC says:

    Why didn’t you apply the same description you applied so gratuitously and so insultingly to the French president to your new best friend? See, for example,

    The only difference to me seems to be that his hairdresser (no-one can appear coiffed like Mr Johnson without professional help!) is probably paid less and almost certainly not in euros.

  • Ray Richardson says:

    How can a man who publishes a limeric about the President of Turkey, rhyming Ankera with wankera, possibly represent Britain as Foreign Secretary? You could say he doesn’t give a toss for anyone but Boris Johnson.

  • NightFlightToVenus says:

    I don’t care if he was keen on the arts or hugely intelligent.
    Hitler was keen on the arts and Goebbels was bright. (Just using Nazi comparisons as Boris is so keen on them).
    Neither quality make a principled or respectable politician.
    BoJo is a ridiculously ambitious, talent free, lying conman has come very close to destroying our country. One only need listen to this infamous phone conversation to get a sense of his murky character:
    In every way contemptible.
    But yet, in a stroke of evil genius our new PM has offered him a lifeline to sort the mess.
    The evil bit, is that should he fail, his career will finally be over. I reckon, by Christmas.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      Very well said. This was a pretty weird post even for SD. But, then again, I wonder if others have noticed how it is slowly but steadily becoming a more political blog, and many commenters of the right-wing complexion, those who normally function as trolls on more liberal/progressive sites but have found a home here.

  • Holly Golightly says:

    Boris and I both agree with this, wholeheartedly: