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Boris Johnson: Britain’s new foreign secretary, a career of international gaffes


Turkey – May 2016

Boris Johnson wins a £1,000 prize for penning a rude poem about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, having sex with a goat. His limerick, published by the Spectator as a rebuff to Erdoğan’s efforts to prosecute a German comedian’s offensive poem, also calls the Turkish leader a “wankerer”.

United States – April 2016

The MP for Uxbridge and Ruislip is criticized for describing Barack Obama as “part-Kenyan” who harbored an “ancestral dislike” of Britain. He made the comments in a newspaper article after the US president supported the remain campaign during a visit to Britain.

Israel – November 2015

Johnson’s visit to the occupied Palestinian territories is severely curtailed by his hosts in protest at a series of strongly pro-Israel remarks. They included telling an audience in Tel Aviv that a trade boycott of Israeli goods was “completely crazy” and supported by “corduroy-jacketed, snaggletoothed, lefty academics in the UK”.

Japan – October 2015

Is filmed wiping out a 10-year-old Japanese schoolboy, Toki Sekiguchi, during a game of street rugby on a visit to Tokyo.

United States – June 2012

Johnson tell TV chat show host David Letterman that he “could be president of the United States, technically speaking” given that he was born in New York City on 19 June 1964.

China – August 2008

In Beijing for the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, Johnson said “respectfully to our Chinese hosts” that ping pong was “invented on the dining tables of England in the 19th century. It was. And it was called wiff waff”.

United States – November 2007

In a Telegraph column headlined I Want Hillary Clinton to be President, Johnson describes the Democrat: “She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”.

Papua New Guinea – September 2006

In another attack on Tony Blair in another Telegraph column, Johnson wrote: “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.”

After later apologizing for any offense caused, the then MP for Henley said he would be happy to “add Papua New Guinea to my global itinerary of apology”. However, he insisted he was not mistaken about cannibalism in the country: “My remarks were inspired by a Time Life book I have which does indeed show relatively recent photos of Papua New Guinean tribes engaged in warfare, and I’m fairly certain that cannibalism was involved.”


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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field