Mark his words: Why Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversies

  • Aparna Alluri, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jul 15, 2016 00:27 IST
Boris Johnson, when he was the London Mayor, boxes with a trainer during his visit to Fight for Peace Academy in North Woolwich, London in October 2014. (AFP)

Boris Johnson is the UK’s foreign secretary, and the initial reactions are in . They are not good. In his former life as a swashbuckling conservative columnist, Johnson said a lot of things that are at odds with the buttoned-down rules of diplomacy. Excerpts from columns Johnson wrote years ago are now surfacing as Britons (and others) wince at the thought of their new foreign minister.

Johnson has insulted presidents, tackled schoolchildren, referred to citizens of the Commonwealth as “cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies,” and written that the “problem” with Africa is that Britain is no longer “in-charge.” Whatever else Johnson may be up to as Foreign Secretary, it won’t be dull. (Neither are our 9 Boris Johnson gifs . You’re welcome!)

Johnson’s shaggy blonde flamboyance got him a lot of attention on his week-long visit to India in November 2012 as the London mayor. The goal: to strengthen business and trade ties between India and the UK. He declared that his trip had shown that India “matters deeply to the future of the UK.” He was thrilled to discover a Jaguar, one of Britain’s “proudest motoring marques” at a traffic light in Delhi. He joked with Kamal Nath , India’s then urban development minister, that men should not compare the size of their metro systems.

Some people mistook Johnson for Boris Becker. A commentator gushed about his “rockstar image,” calling him witty and spontaneous. He appeared for a sober, largely uninterrupted 13-and-half minutes on Arnab Goswami’s Newshour. He earned compliments from the anchor (“You were a great advertisement for London”) who even predicted that “Boris could be Prime Minister,” a feat Johnson nearly achieved.

Indian media avidly followed him as he met with businessmen, Bollywood directors and schoolchildren, played cricket on Juhu beach, cycled along downtown Mumbai, and grabbed the horns of the bronze bull at the Bombay Stock Exchange. By the end of the week, the BBC sounded weary of the “whistlestop tour of different meetings and speeches, but the same gags.”

When he returned home, he wrote about his trip . He was struck by India’s “reproductive energy” and apparently inevitable “fecundity,” which he witnessed at the Akshardham Temple.

And the size of the Indian market: “Imagine selling a Jag to one in every 100,000 Indians. That’s a lot of Jags, and a lot of jobs.”

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