It’s safe to say that the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has a bit of a habit of putting his foot in it. But his appearance on this morning’s Andrew Marr show was enough to rival anything from his past repertoire of utterly dreadful media appearances.
Marr opened the interview by asking Mr Johnson whether he actually had any new evidence to back up his latest assertion that it was overwhelmingly likely that Vladimir Putin personally ordered the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal. Boris failed to give any new evidence whatsoever, raking over the exact same lines used by the government in recent days and weeks without pointing to anything new to back himself up on his latest claim.
However, as Marr continued with the line of questioning over the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Johnson then came out with an extraordinary claim, stating that:
“We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok.”
It was a statement that appears to directly contradict the very agency that the government will be relying on to independently verify a sample of the nerve agent alleged to have been used Salisbury, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In 2017 the OPCW held a ceremony to mark the fact that they had independently verified that Russia had completed the “full destruction of the 39,967 metric tons” of their chemical weapon stockpiles.
The OPCW go on to state that:
“The OPCW’s inspection teams have verified the destruction at seven chemical weapons destruction facilities in the Russian Federation. On 27 September 2017, the last of these facilities, located in Kizner, officially concluded its operations.
With the total elimination of Russia’s declared chemical weapons programme, 96.3 per cent of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification.“
Johnson then went on to proudly declare that “what we will do is we will ensure that – and this is, I’m afraid the [Russian Ambassador] was completely misleading about the UK’s obligations under the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – we have followed those obligations to the letter, and what we will be doing now is getting the samples and making sure they are available to the technical experts (at the OPCW) to allow them to elucidate exactly what they are. And I think you would agree that they are a rather more reliable and I think British people would have much more confidence in what they do than anything the Russians do”.
Yes, Boris really did said that the OPCW were extremely reliable, despite the fact that this exact organisation verified that Russia didn’t have any chemical weapons whatsoever – in direct contradiction to both Johnson’s claims that Putin directly ordered a chemical weapons attack on British soil, and that Russia had apparently been “creating and stockpiling Novichok” for the last ten years.
But this ridiculousness was only the beginning.
Marr then turned his questioning towards the current furore surrounding Tory party funding, and the extraordinary amount of super-rich Russian oligarchs and ex-Putin cronies donating vast sums to the party, asking Johnson:
“Labour says that part of Conservative hesitation over this (taking action over money laundering by British-based Russian oligarchs in response to the nerve agent attack) is that you as a party have been taking far too much Russian money for far too long. And there is the case of the lady Lubov Chernukhin who paid £160,000 to have a game of tennis with you! Did that game actually take place?“
After Boris failed to answer the question, Marr interjected saying “this lady’s husband was a Minister of Vladimir Putin and was given an award by Vladimir Putin, so he was close to the regime, and you as a party were prepared to take £160,000 from her to have a game of tennis with Boris Johnson!“
Boris mumbled on without responding to whether the donation was appropriate, before Marr again interrupted by simply asking “did the tennis game actually happen?“
A visibly dejected Boris wimpishly confirmed “it did“.
And after pushing Johnson further on the points that the same lady had also since paid £30k to have dinner with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Marr then turned to Boris’ leaked memo on the Irish border. It was an extraordinary exchange in which Boris repeatedly disagreed with things he has previously said, and even attempted to claim that the words he wrote in the memo actually meant the ‘exact opposite‘ of what they said. This despite the words literally being written down. On paper. By Boris Johnson.
Marr initially asked Boris “why did you feel it necessary to write a letter to the Prime Minister saying that there might be an Irish hard border?“
“Um, ahh, what I said, err, I don’t wish to…” a visibly flustered Johnson spluttered. At which point Marr interjected by quoting Johnson’s memo word for word:
“It is wrong to see our task as maintaining no border. Even if a hard border is reintroduced we would expect 95% of goods to pass.“, Marr quoted, before asking Johnson “so you used the phrase ‘hard border’ twice, which is interesting, because you are a member of a government who says there’s not going to be a hard border!“
And after much verbal diarrhoea, an increasingly bewildered Johnson responded by claiming, incredibly, and wrongly, that:
“The letter said the exact opposite of what you have just claimed it said…”
Do watch the inexplicable exchange below – it is possibly some of Johnson’s very finest work:
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