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Boris Johnson’s record of apologies for outspoken comments

The ex-foreign secretary is no stranger to demands he recant controversial remarks.

Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversy (Yui Mok/PA)
Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversy (Yui Mok/PA)

Boris Johnson is no stranger to demands for apologies as his outspoken remarks have repeatedly landed him in political hot water.

– As recently as March, the then foreign secretary was forced to eat humble pie after referring in the Commons to his Labour opposite number Emily Thornberry as the “Lady Baroness whatever” – an apparent reference to the title of her husband, Sir Christopher Nugee.

His comment brought a sharp dressing down from Commons Speaker John Bercow, who said his language was “inappropriate and frankly sexist”.

Emily Thornberry (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A contrite Mr Johnson insisted that he had meant no harm and apologised “unreservedly” if he had offended Ms Thornberry’s feelings.

– More seriously, he faced calls to resign last November amid claims his loose comments about a British-Iranian woman held in Iran had jeopardised her chances of release.

Giving evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Johnson said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “training journalists” at the time of her arrest, even though she maintained she was on holiday.

Her dismayed family said the error had been seized on by the Iranian authorities as proof that she represented a threat to the regime.

After initially refusing to recant, Mr Johnson finally came to the Commons to admit his “mistake” and to apologise for the “distress and anguish” his words had caused.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family Handout/PA)

Even in his earliest days as a rising star of the Tory benches, Mr Johnson was rarely very far away from controversy.

– In 2004, he was ordered by the then Tory leader Michael (now Lord) Howard to go to Liverpool to apologise in person for an article he had written accusing the city of wallowing in grief over the killing in Iraq of hostage Ken Bigley.

– In the same piece for The Spectator magazine, he said the city had made scapegoats of the police in the Hillsborough disaster while refusing to acknowledge the part played by “drunken” fans “mindlessly” trying to fight their way in – comments which caused outrage in the city.

Mr Johnson admitted he had received a “kick in the pants” from Mr Howard and promised to go to the city in a “spirit of complete humility”.

– Campaigning for London mayor in 2008, he was forced to apologise for another article, written six years earlier, in which he referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and referred to “watermelon smiles”.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph