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Jennifer Arcuri: I never, ever received favouritism from Boris Johnson

The US businesswoman confirmed that the then London mayor was a regular visitor to her flat but refused to say whether they had an affair.

Jennifer Arcuri (ITV/PA)
Jennifer Arcuri (ITV/PA)

By Catherine Wylie, Caitlin Doherty and Joe Gammie, PA

The US businesswoman at the centre of a storm over her links to Boris Johnson insisted she “never, ever” received favouritism, but refused to say whether they had an affair.

Jennifer Arcuri said she and Mr Johnson, who she saved on her phone as “Alex the Great”, bonded over their “mutual love of classic literature”.

The technology entrepreneur and former model refused to answer when asked whether she had had a sexual relationship with Mr Johnson, saying that it is “really categorically no-one’s business what private life we had, or didn’t have”.

Asked about Ms Arcuri’s interview, Mr Johnson told the BBC later on Monday morning: “I’ve really said everything I want to say about that.”

Ms Arcuri was speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain following a series of stories about her links to the Prime Minister during his tenure as London mayor.

The businesswoman, who said she met Mr Johnson for the first time in October 2011, was asked if their friendship had developed into an intimate relationship.

She said “it wasn’t like he singled me out”, adding: “He is there to, you know, talk to anybody who gets in his face enough. And he was always a really good friend.

“And I think it’s quite unfortunate that it becomes that a good friend, who has now been, you know, now I’m dragged into the middle of this horrific scandal, you know, and the answer that I’m going to give is now going to be weaponised against this man.

“It’s really categorically no-one’s business what private life we had, or didn’t have. But – and categorically more important – Boris never, ever gave me favouritism. Never once did I ask him for a favour. Never once did he write a letter of recommendation for me. He didn’t know about my asking to go to trips.”

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that regardless of the exact nature of Mr Johnson’s relationship with Ms Arcuri, it is clear that the pair were “close” and that he “misled the public when he said ‘there was no interest to declare'”.

He said: “The Prime Minister is unfit for office. This morning has thrown up even more questions for Boris Johnson, which can only be answered with a full investigation into the apparent misuse of public funds.”

Ms Arcuri said Mr Johnson had visited her flat in Shoreditch – also where her office was based – a “handful” of times, adding that she did not have time for the media attention surrounding him when they met in public.

“We tried having drinks out in public or having lunch; it just became too much of a mob show, so I said ‘You just have to come to my office’,” she said.

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Jennifer Arcuri insists she received no favouritism from Boris Johnson (@SteveWardrec/PA)

She said the Prime Minister had been at her flat – which she confirmed had a pole-dancing pole – “five, 10, a handful of times”, but insisted that he had not had anything to do with her other achievements.

Ms Arcuri said the press has turned her into an “objectified ex-model pole dancer” referring to the pole in her flat.

Describing it as a “conversation starter”, she said she and Mr Johnson “always had a laugh about it”, adding: “The pole stood in the living room, yes, he saw the pole.”

When asked directly whether Mr Johnson had ever used the pole, Ms Arcuri said: “I’m never going to tell you that.”

She told the programme during the hour-long interview: “I had a wonderful opportunity to get to know somebody. And it was really fun to be able to share the love of Shakespeare and literature with someone like that.

“So for that I really enjoyed, you know, being able to be his friend and be able to, you know, share in that kind of passion for literature.

“But Boris is extremely personable. He cares a lot about this country, and he cares a lot about people. And I, you know, he is a guy you want to hang out with.”

Asked if she ever loved Mr Johnson, she said: “I’ve been asked that many times. And I care about him deeply as a friend, and we do share a very close bond, but I wish him well.

“I want them to be happy. I wish Carrie well, and like I said, I really do want him to focus on making Britain great again.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his partner Carrie Symonds (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ms Arcuri was reportedly given £126,000 in public money and privileged access to three foreign trade missions led by Mr Johnson while he was in City Hall.

Last month, the Prime Minister was referred to the police complaints body to assess whether he should face a criminal investigation over his association with her.

The Sunday Times has reported that the businesswoman confided to four friends that they had been engaged in an affair during his time as mayor.

But Ms Arcuri told GMB: “Those people are not my friends.”

Mr Johnson insisted last week that everything he did when promoting London overseas as mayor was done in “complete conformity with the code and the rules”.

Over the weekend, the Sunday Times also reported that Mr Johnson wrote a letter recommending Ms Arcuri for a job as the head of a technology quango when he was in City Hall.

Leaked emails seen by the Sunday Times suggested that Mr Johnson was listed as a reference in her application for the role at Tech City.

Ms Arcuri was said to have been a 27-year-old student at the time of applying for the £100,000-a-year job.

She told GMB she would never have “the cheek to ask” Mr Johnson to write her a letter, adding: “Boris never wrote me a letter. Never.”

Ms Arcuri said she had never discussed any sponsorship or grants with Mr Johnson, and when asked if she had asked him to help with any “sponsorship money”, she said: “Categorically no.”

She said she used £10,000 given to her firm by London & Partners, the promotional agency run by the Mayor of London, to “produce (an) event” she hosted in 2013.

Ms Arcuri said Mr Johnson had “absolutely nothing to do” with the £100,000 grant given to her company, Hacker House, in January this year.

When asked whether the company operates out of the UK, despite her relocation to California, she said: “Yes, we operate out of the UK.”

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Jennifer Arcuri said she stopped regularly speaking to Boris Johnson when she became pregnant in 2016 (Handout/PA)

Ms Arcuri, who said she stopped regularly speaking to Mr Johnson when she became pregnant at the end of 2016, said she had not been part of three trade missions because of her relationship with Mr Johnson, but due to the work she was doing.

When asked whether the Prime Minister had made contact with her since the story hit the headlines, she said: “I think Boris has enough on his plate right now.

“Three years ago, he told us Britain needs to leave the EU and I wish him all the best with that.

“I want him to stay focused on the job. I don’t need him right now, Britain needs him right now.”

In recent days, Downing Street has also been forced to deny claims that Mr Johnson squeezed the thigh of a female journalist under the table during a private lunch.

Charlotte Edwardes said the incident took place at the offices of The Spectator in London shortly after Mr Johnson became the magazine’s editor in 1999.

PA

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