Boris Johnson is not “all that clownish”, his new spin doctor has insisted despite revealing he sang “I Will Survive” last week when questioned about his position in No 10.
Recalling the conversation — the day before his appointment as Downing Street’s new director of communications — Guto Harri claimed the prime minister channelled the American singer Gloria Gaynor’s 1970s hit.
Asked by Mr Harri whether he would “survive”, amid calls for his resignation from over a dozen Tory MPs, Mr Johnson was said to have “started to sing a little while finishing his sentence, saying ‘I Will Survive’”.
The comments from No 10’s new director of communications – in a rare interview for a serving adviser – follow the resignation of key aides to the prime minister after a week of turmoil at the heart of government.
Former spin doctor Jack Doyle, alongside chief-of-staff Dan Rosenfield and principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, all quit their posts last weeks as part of the fallout from parties held in No 10 during Covid restrictions.
A fourth aide and longstanding ally of the prime minister, Munira Mirza, quit her post as No 10 policy chief over Mr Johnson’s refusal to withdraw his “scurrilous” Jimmy Savile attack on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
In an interview with the Welsh language website Golwg 360, Mr Harri, a former adviser to Mr Johnson during his tenure as London mayor, said he met with the prime minister on Friday and told him: “Guto Harri reporting for duty”.
Referring to an incident when Mr Harri quit GB News — after taking the knee live on air — the prime minister then “stood up from behind his desk and starting taking the salute but then he said, ‘What am I doing I should take the knee for you’,” Mr Harri added.
“And we both laughed. Then I asked ‘Are you going to survive Boris?’ And he said in his deep, slow and purposeful voice, and started to sing a little while finishing the sentence, saying ‘I Will Survive’
“In an inevitable way that invited me to say ‘You got all your life to live’ and he replied, “I got all my love to give’, so we had a little blast from Gloria Gaynor! There was a lot of laughter and we sat down to have a serious conversation about how to get the government back on track and how we are moving forward.”
Mr Harri went on to insist: “He ’s not all that clownish, but he’s a very likeable character”.
“90 per cent of our discussion was very serious but it shows that he is a character and has fun. He is not a vicious man as some misrepresent him”.
Responding to the interview, the Scottish first minister and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “So many people still struggling with the impacts and trauma of Covid, or worrying about the spiralling costs of living... but for Boris & Co it’s all just a bit of a laugh.
“This isn’t funny – in the current circumstances, it is offensive”.
A Labour spokesperson added: “Britain faces a combination of spiralling bills, rising prices and Tory tax rises. But the PM’s new team have decided to kick off their much-vaunted ‘reset’ with yet more clown show nonsense.
“It’s already clear that another round of deckchair shuffling in Downing Street hasn’t changed the fact this Tory government is utterly incapable of getting on with its job.”