Boris Johnson compares Truss mini-Budget to comedy classic

Morecambe and Wise - Arthur Sidey
Morecambe and Wise - Arthur Sidey

Boris Johnson has compared Liz Truss’s mini-budget to a badly played piano, in a reference to a Morecambe and Wise sketch.

Asked by CNN what he thought of his successor’s disastrous tax-cutting plans, the former Prime Minister originally tried to sidestep the issue - saying it was rude to criticise a British government abroad.

But then, in his first comments on the mini-budget, he said: “It’s kind of like when I play the piano. The notes individually sound perfectly OK, but they’re not in the right order, or occurring at the right time.”

This reflected the famous 1971 sketch in which conductor André Previn criticised Eric Morecambe over his bad playing of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, prompting him to reply: “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.”

Mr Johnson also rejected suggestions he could return as prime minister, saying the chances were “impossibilia cubed or squared”.

He said: “I’ve always said for about 20 years that my chances of becoming PM were about as good as my chances of becoming decapitated by a frisbee, or blinded by a champagne cork or locked in a disused fridge…

“I then did become PM so my chances of becoming PM again I think are those impossibilia cubed or squared.”

Boris Johnson - Toby Melville
Boris Johnson - Toby Melville

The former prime minister also rejected claims that Brexit had damaged the UK economy as “complete and utter nonsense” and “confirmation bias”.

And he said his greatest mistake was not listening to his MPs enough during the Covid pandemic, which he described as a “bummer”.

Asked for one thing he would have done differently as prime minister, Mr Johnson said: “Covid was a bummer. Covid was really very difficult. I think the thing that I should have done more of is I should have spent more time talking to my troops rather than just trying to get on and manage the pandemic, and that’s an honest answer.

“It was very, very difficult trying to run the country while we were going through this thing and we had a huge number of MPs who’d never been elected before, who didn’t think they’d be elected and who hardly knew me at all. And I’ve got to put my hands up, I didn’t spend enough time with them. That was my fault.”

Meanwhile, Berlin described Mr Johnson’s claim that Germany wanted Ukraine to quickly "fold" following Russia's invasion as "utter nonsense".

The former prime minister, who was in office when Vladimir Putin's troops invaded in February, told CNN that Germany wanted Ukraine to quickly lose, rather than have a lengthy war, for "all sorts of sound economic reasons".

'Facts speak against his claims'

But German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on Wednesday sharply denied his comment.

"We know that the very entertaining former prime minister always has a unique relationship with the truth; this case is no exception," he said.

Berlin swiftly decided to send arms to Ukraine after Moscow launched its invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz's spokesman said, saying the "facts speak against his claims".

Switching to English, Mr Hebestreit added: "This is utter nonsense."

Mr Johnson had told CNN: "The Germans, for all sorts of sound economic reasons, really didn't want it to... I'll tell you a terrible thing - the German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly and for Ukraine to fold.

"I couldn't support that. I thought that was a disastrous way of looking at it, but I could understand why they thought and felt as they did."

The ex-PM also said France was in denial "right up until the last moment" when Russian forces crossed the border.

"This thing was a huge shock. We could see the Russian battalion tactical groups amassing but different countries had very different perspectives," he said.

"Be in no doubt that the French were in denial right up until the last moment."