Politics

‘Slowly masticating’: The words of Boris Johnson

Let’s revisit Boris Johnson’s younger, happier days with a mini dictionary of quotations, dating from his first parliamentary incarnation, the time between 2001 – when he was elected MP for Henley – and 2008, when he was voted in as Mayor of London.
‘I don’t plan any of it,’ he said once. ‘I’ve lived the life of a panda, with panda-like slowness. I slowly eat bamboo shoots, slowly masticating.’


ambition
‘I have as much chance of becoming prime minister as of being decapitated by a frisbee or of finding Elvis.’ 2003
‘The awful truth is that, with the best will in the world, I may not be the answer to the Tory Party’s problems. It’s highly unlikely I’d be called on to serve as prime minister.’ 2004

art, modern
‘We are going to convene a summit with Damien Hirst and the rest of the gang, at which they are going to explain to the nation what it all means. Let’s have a “mission to explain” by the Saatchi mob.’ 2004

Beckham, David
‘Is Spain yet ready for a sarong-wearing footballer who wears his wife’s underpants?’ 2003

bird flu
‘As far as I can see, you would need to enter into a civil partnership with one of Bernard Matthews’ turkeys, and then perform prolonged mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the startled bird, in order to contract the new type of avian flu.’ 2007

Blair, Tony
‘He can do cool, he can do Churchill, he can do a cool Churchill.’ 2002
‘He is a mixture of Harry Houdini and a greased piglet.’ 2004
‘Sometime soonish, Tony Blair and the Labour Party will part company with many a dry eye on either side.’ 2007

Black, Conrad
‘He is the most wonderful proprietor.’ 2003

Brown, Gordon
‘He is, you might say, a one-man weapon of maths destruction.’ 2003

bureaucracy
‘Where there is bureaucracy, let us sow clarity. Where there is red tape, let us have common sense.’ 2004
‘If there is one thing wrong with us all these days, it is that we are so mollycoddled, airbagged and swaddled with regulations and protections that we have lost any proper understanding of risk.’ 2005

classics, teaching the
‘I genuinely believe that it is tragic if we ignore the roots of our civilization and write that stuff off. It makes me weep. I think it’s so stupid, so wrong.’ 2003
‘If we can’t study ancient languages, culture and art, we are deracinating ourselves.’ 2004

Conservative Party, the
‘The funkiest, most jiving party on Earth.’ 2001

Conservative Party, feuding in the
‘One thinks of Erysicthon, the person who ended up self-cannibalistically gnawing his entrails; or of Narcissus, also commemorated by Ovid, who spent so long gazing at his own reflection in a pool that he went into a trance, toppled in and drowned. The behaviour of Onan does not seem entirely irrelevant.’ 2003

Conservatism
‘Voting Tory will cause you wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chance of owning a BMW M3.’ 2005

constituency work
‘The dreadful truth is that when people come to see their MP, they have run out of better ideas.’ 2003

culture wars
‘This is a war over culture, which our side could lose. Why should children be taught that the British Empire was an unadulterated evil, when it plainly wasn’t? You won’t encourage Britain’s minorities – the vast majority of whom think of themselves as British – to achieve more, or feel more at home, by deprecating the achievements of dead white men.’ 2000

cussedness
‘No great human advance has been achieved without cussedness, and a refusal to go with the flow.’ 2003

cycling
‘There is no love lost between cyclists and motorists. My political mission is to heal the rift. As between the Hutus and Tutsis, we must have a grand rapprochement.’ 2004

cycling, using a mobile phone when
‘I do and to hell with it. It isn’t against the law. If I was a one-armed cyclist you wouldn’t kick me off my bicycle, and I am just doing something with my free arm, aren’t I?’ 2004

Daily Telegraph, the
‘If you can’t believe the Daily Telegraph, who can you believe?’ 2001

disagreements
‘I could not fail to disagree with you less.’ 2004

disasters
‘As I have discovered for myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.’ 2004

drugs
‘Cannabis is dangerous, but no more than other perfectly legal drugs.’ 2001
‘I can’t remember what my line on drugs is. What’s my line on drugs?’ 2005
‘I think I was once given cocaine but I sneezed so it didn’t go up my nose. In fact, it might have been icing sugar.’ 2005
‘I tried it [cocaine] at university and I remember it vividly. It achieved no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever.’ 2007

England
‘I love England.’ 2004

England, holidaying in
‘I say stuff Skegness. I say bugger Bognor.’ 2008

ethnicity
‘I’m down with the ethnics. You can’t out-ethnic me. My children are a quarter Indian, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.’ 2008

Europe
‘It is not because we are too narrow, or too British, that we resist moves towards a federal Europe. It is essentially because we are keen to preserve our democracy.’ 2000

‘There is a chance that someone in Brussels may decide to bring homemade jam within the scope of the regulations – and then what? We jam-makers would be obliged to state, on oath, the exact sugar content.’ 2007

football
‘In English football, you are called “Prof” if you have two GCSEs. No wonder we are outwitted on the pitch.’ 2007

Gatwick Airport
‘To call this service “Third World” is an insult to the many gleaming and efficient airports of developing nations.’ 2008

gravitas
‘If I tried hard the whole time to exude gravitas, I feel that I would fall on my face even harder.’ 2003

Hamza, Abu
‘Apparently not as nice as he looks.’ 2003

hangover cure, a
‘Find any grill pan with the fat residue of cooked bacon, add oats, form the resultant sludge into patties, toast and serve with marmalade.’ 2003

Henley, canvassing in
‘Somebody opened the door and wordlessly thrust a glass of wine into my hand. That probably wouldn’t happen in many other constituencies.’ 2001
‘Terrible outbreak of afternoon kipping in Henley. Always in their dressing gowns, hard at it.’ 2005
‘The trouble with campaigning in the wilds of Oxfordshire is that you lose touch with the main battle. I feel as if I’m lost in the jungle, way up the Nong river, seventy-five clicks beyond the Do Long bridge.’ 2005

Howard, Michael
‘Michael Howard embodies radical chic. He’s tremendous. He’s brilliant, He’s charismatic.’ 2004
‘Howard was the most effective home secretary since Peel. Hang on, was Peel home secretary?’ 2005

Iraq, invasion of
‘The longer this goes on, the clearer it will be that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction did not present a direct threat to this country; or about as much threat as a tub of superannuated taramasalata.’ 2003

Johnson, Boris
‘Beneath the elaborately constructed veneer of the bumbling buffoon, there may well be a bumbling buffoon.’ 2003
‘My temperament is so generally peaceful that some mornings I wake up and think I have no enemies in the world.’ 2005
‘I have bright red cheeks and look like a squashed tomato.’ 2006
‘One of my friends told me he was quite put off his breakfast by the sight of me jogging round the local park at the speed, he claimed, of an elderly hippopotamus.’ 2007

artwork-boris-henley

leadership elections
‘Iain Duncan Smith will win. Take my advice and go to the bookies and place a bet on him. There’s lots of money to be made.’ 2001
‘I’m backing David Cameron’s campaign out of pure, cynical self-interest.’ 2005
‘For ten years, we in the Tory party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing; and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party.’ 2006

Liberal Democrats, the
‘The Lib Dems are not just empty. They are a void within a vacuum, surrounded by a vast inanition.’ 2003

Liverpool
‘I must take responsibility for enraging my party leader and alienating the people of a great city.’ 2004
‘I’m going to have to come back when I’m less likely to be pelted with eggs.’ 2004

localism
‘Are we ready for complete autonomy if it means sharia law?’ 2006

management consultancy
‘Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious.’ 2004

Millennium Dome
‘The Marquee de Sad.’ 2006

National Health Service
‘Across the country, we are seeing what happens when you fire-hose cash at the National Health Service without properly reforming it, and then decide to turn the tap off.’ 2006

Neil, Andrew
‘Andrew Neil is a pussycat. Tiggerish. Zestful. He’s a charming fellow.’ 2005

Northern Ireland
‘The story of Ulster teaches us that a scared, bourgeois western democracy will bend over backwards in the end to make peace with the terrorists.’ 2001
‘I really, really, really hate the IRA. I really hate them. I think they’re a bunch of sinister creeps, cruel, calculating creeps.’ 2004

Obama, Barack
‘Unlike the current occupant of the White House, he has no difficulty in orally extemporizing a series of grammatical English sentences, each containing a main verb.’ 2008

obesity
‘Instead of whimpering about obesity, we should reclaim the word fat. Sometimes people call me fat. It stings.’ 2004

Portsmouth
‘Too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs.’ 2007

predictions, correct
‘It’s lightening over there through the windows, and it is the darkest hour that comes before dawn. Bethink ye of that, all those who voted against the Tory party. We will be back and we regenerate ourselves.’ 2001
‘King Newt’s days are numbered.’ 2007

rage
‘There are times when I think I am going to pop with rage.’ 2002

railways
‘To rely on a train in Blair’s Britain is to engage in a crapshoot with the devil.’ 2003

referendums
‘Give us a referendum, Blair, you pasty-faced coward.’ 2002
‘Mr Blair will not hold a referendum on the euro or any European question, because he is a great quivering jelly of terror.’ 2003

resignation from cabinet, Peter Mandelson’s
‘Weep, O ye shirt-makers of Jermyn Street, ye Cool Brittania tailors and whatever exists of human finer feeling. In the Ministry of Sound, the tank-topped bum boys blub into their Pils. In the delicatessens of Elgin Crescent, the sawdust is sodden with tears. For months, years, Carla Powell will go into mourning, her plumage as black as night. For Mandy is dead, dead ere his prime!’ 1998

resigning
‘I’m a bit of an optimist so it doesn’t tend to occur to me to resign.’ 2003

rock and roll
‘Don’t forget: Lennon and McCartney and Mick Jagger benefitted from a Tory education.’ 2004

royal relatives
‘We are all probably related to the Royal Family because they put it about so much over the last thousand years.’ 2008

school dinners
‘If I was in charge, I’d get rid of Jamie Oliver and tell people to eat what they liked.’ 2006
‘As long as kids have the option of eating the unhealthy stuff, they will eat the unhealthy stuff.’ 2006

sobriety
‘I am now starting to realise how the world’s non-drinkers – such as President Bush – are such dangerous men. Sobriety can go to your head just as certainly as alcohol.’ 2006

socialism
‘I genuinely dislike socialism because it’s restrictive and bossy and fundamentally misunderstands human nature.’ 2004

Spectator, scandals at the
‘Am I presiding over a bordello? Certainly not.’ 2004

three-minute silence
‘Three minutes is a very long time to keep thinking pious thoughts. I have read that the average British male is incapable of keeping his mind off sex for three minutes.’ 2005

universities
‘I am not in favour of university entrance procedures being used as utensils of social engineering. You can’t solve at university entrance level all the problems and mistakes in British secondary education.’ 2006
‘I believe passionately in academic inequality.’ 2006

working wives, the problem with
‘Nobody takes any interest in whether you have socks, or indeed pants.’ 2006

world stage, posturing on the
‘They say he [Tony Blair] is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird. Like Zeus, back there in the Iliad, he has turned his shining eyes away, far over the lands of the Hippemolgoi, the drinkers of mares’ milk.’ 2002

Wyatt, Petronella
‘I have not had an affair with Petronella. It is complete balderdash. It is an inverted pyramid of piffle.’ 2004

young generation, the
‘If the 1980s hadn’t been so nasty, Maggie’s children wouldn’t have turned out so nice. If these really are Maggie’s children, then she can’t have been such a bad little mother after all.’ 2006


coming soon from Alwyn Turner:


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