Boris Johnson described his political allies as “The Munsters” and regularly hummed the Addams Family theme tune while discussing them after he quit as foreign secretary over Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, it has been claimed.
The former prime minister, who had returned to the Conservative back benches in July 2018, also joked that he had “cornered the market in sex pests” among his supporters, according to a book by the Telegraph’s political editor, Ben Riley-Smith.
The alleged remarks, which Johnson’s office has denied, were alluded to in his final grilling from MPs at the powerful Commons liaison committee before he resigned as prime minister last July, when he failed to deny that he had said: “All the sex pests are supporting me.”
Johnson was eventually forced to quit over his handling of a series of scandals – including the row over the former Tory MP Chris Pincher, a close ally, who stood down from parliament earlier this month after losing an appeal against an eight-week suspension for groping two men at a private members’ club last summer.
The book, The Right to Rule, describes how Johnson, an isolated figure on the back benches who had failed to build up a substantial support base, was “scathing” in private about the calibre of those MPs who did back him.
“They were political offcuts – ‘The Munsters’, as Johnson would joke, in reference to the TV show featuring Frankenstein and other misshapen ghouls,” Riley-Smith wrote. “He even hummed the Addams Family theme tune when discussing them, according to two sources: ‘Duddle-der-der, click-click, duddle-der-der, click-click’.
“At times the humour was darker. ‘I’ve cornered the market in sex pests,’ he joked once, according to one source. Two leadership campaign figures, who did not hear the specific remark, provide contextual evidence – one said it was like the type of random, scattergun jokes Johnson cracked; the other made an almost identical comment unprompted, suggesting such humour was not uncommon among the group.”
Johnson’s former chief of staff, Edward Lister, to whom he later gave a peerage, described how Johnson was not a very “clubbable” man: “He doesn’t spend hours in the bar at the Commons, or the tea room, he doesn’t do that. He’s got no real friends amongst the MPs.”
The book also claims that Johnson sought to ignore the Office of Budget Responsibility’s fiscal forecasts before his first budget, scheduled for late 2019 but delayed by the election, in a move later mirrored by Liz Truss before her disastrous mini-budget.
The proposal contributed to the breakdown of Johnson’s relationship with his first chancellor, Sajid Javid, the book claims. Downing Street wanted to use the moment to signal the end of austerity, but was told by Javid that if taxes were not going to fund spending increases, then they would need to borrow to plug the gap in the public finances. His opinion was backed up by the OBR in its analysis.
“Johnson and his top adviser, Dominic Cummings, came up with an eye-catching suggestion: why not just NOT do an OBR forecast? The idea was voiced by the PM himself in one of the last meetings to discuss the package. ‘Can’t we just not bother with the OBR?’ Johnson asked Javid,” Riley-Smith wrote.
The request was “rejected point blank” by Javid at a meeting, according to the book. No 10 then wanted to ditch the Conservatives’ fiscal rules but was told by Javid that it would be an “absolute disaster” and set about trying to convince Johnson, the book claims. Johnson’s office denied both allegations.
Separate claims in a BBC documentary suggested that senior government officials spoke to Buckingham Palace to express worries about Johnson’s conduct in office, and discussed asking Queen Elizabeth to raise concerns with him during their private audiences.