Bear is being pushed around by Kung Fu Panda: Boris Johnson’s wittiest quotes from HTLS 2022

Updated on Nov 14, 2022 03:20 PM IST

I and the public know what all schoolchildren learn. Boris is always box office, an orator as good as him, there are none.

Boris Johnson at HTLS 2022 (Rajkumar Rao / HT Photos)
Boris Johnson at HTLS 2022 (Rajkumar Rao / HT Photos)
ByNirmalya Dutta

I and the public know what all schoolchildren learn.

Boris is always box office, an orator as good as him, there are none.

With apologies to WH Auden, anyone who has followed Boris Johnson’s long political and journalistic career knows he has always had a superlative gift of both the pen and gab. Johnson’s sardonic wit has often seen him get into trouble from time to time but there’s no denying that he can bring down any crowd. The former British PM was in – to use a cricketing phrase – in full-flow at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2022 which saw him enthral the audience with hilarious analogies, anecdotes and euphemisms about India, the UK, the Covishield vaccine and even Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It was a reminder why dry and sardonic wit remains one of Britain’s greatest exports.

Here are some of his wittiest utterances from the event:

Full coverage of HTLS here

1) On his previous India shenanigans

I came here (Taj Palace Hotel) for the first time for a family wedding. I exhibited my mastery of Indian wedding dances - the light bulb and motorbike (does hand gestures).

2) The Shrimp-Apple Deal

We signed the Modi-Johnson Shrimp-Apple Deal in which we agreed to take more Indian shrimp and you agreed to take more British apples. I don't know who's fulfilled that side of the bargain.

3) On having lots of Indian-origin members

The government that I led could trace their origins to India more than any other government, other than India obviously. I had a lot of Indians. I had a home secretary, a business secretary, a financial secretary, an attorney general and a chancellor. I promoted them all. And even my replacement is of Indian origin.

4) On India’s Covid-19 vaccine

I am the beneficiary of AstraZeneca masala. I got it running in my veins. And I've not had Covid since.

5) On the success of Covishield

I rang my father a few days ago. He was in Chengdu in the Serengeti Hotel on the 24th floor and he had been there for 10 days. He was doing his best. He had watched Godfather I, Godfather II and even Meet the Fockers which was funnier in Chinese. When he finished his quarantine, he found the whole city was put into lockdown. Even today, Chinese cities are being put into lockdown. And look at us at the Taj Palace Hotel, shaking hands, no mask. We are living advertisements for a democratic, free market, capitalist, pharmaceutical companies and India-UK collaboration.

6) On rising temperatures in the UK

In July, the temperature exceeded 40 degrees in Westminster in London. We find that to be more or less unbearable. British people can't take decisions in that sort of heat. Which saw many political convulsions. For which I blame global warming.

7) On the Free Trade Deal

We must develop that Free Trade agreement which seems to have developed a flat tire since I left office. Prime Minister Modi and I said it will be done by Diwali. Well, I am not going to wait till the next Diwali before we do that Free Trade deal. I don't know what the hold-up is.

Is the Indian dairy lobby determined to keep out British cheddar? What about Stilton? How can you live without Stilton? Not even Make in India will come up with an Indian version of Stilton. I will say nothing about Scotch Whisky which was the theme of one of my most disastrous speeches.

8) On Putin’s “propaganda”

He is after all a master of propaganda. He is able to persuade the Russian people that black is white. When this happens, he will be able to claim he has vapourised the so-called Nazis in Ukraine like the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

9) Putin’s missiles are less accurate than my first serve in tennis

Russia's exports will be badly affected. This has been a disastrous advertisement for Putin's war machine. 60% of his precision-guided missiles have turned out to be duds. That is less accurate than my first serve in tennis. The tanks have had their lids blown off like biscuit tins. Chinese-made tires have exploded beneath their armoured cars. Even now Putin's planes don't control Ukrainian airspace.

10) Bear being pushed around by Kung Fu Panda

Across the whole of Asia, this disastrous miscalculation will severely weaken Russia. We can see what's happening in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other countries of the Soviet Union. The Bear is looking increasingly moth-eaten and forlorn and being pushed around by an assertive giant Kung Fu Panda. The only world leader he consulted... he went to the Beijing Olympics and was given the green light. He is the punk of Xi Jinping.

Look at Putin's decision to invade Ukraine, made virtually in a Covid bubble with no one to contradict him, relying on the advice of strange, bearded orthodox Rasputin types. What the last year has taught us, when a leader of an autocracy embarks on a disastrous policy, in which his, and it's almost always his, in which his ego is fatally engaged, there's nothing or no one that can stop him. And that's why democracy matters. And that's why it's the worst system in the world except for others.

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