Striking an unusually sober tone, Boris Johnson, the favourite to win the Conservative leadership election and be the next prime minister, on Wednesday launched his campaign, insisting he was best placed to deliver Brexit by October 31.
Questioned on his trustworthiness, using cocaine and breaking laws, Johnson’s performance was marked by less-than-usual wit, jokes and the use of rarely used words – it was ‘spectacularly dull’, as some called it – but he came out flying, answering potentially embarrassing questions.
Johnson is among 10 candidates vying to replace Prime Minister Theresa May. They have been making their pitch to the small electorate of 318 Conservative MPs who will vote in the first of the two-phase election, to be followed by party members voting on final two candidates; the result is due in week beginning July 22.
Asked about his cocaine consumption, Johnson repeated that he was 19 at the time at the University of Oxford, adding that a “canonical account” of the episode had appeared many times. He insisted that he is focusing more on his vision of the future and did not want to be blown off track.
On his famously reported remark, ‘F*** business’, Johnson told the reporter of a financial daily that he reads it every day, adding that he thought the anti-banking stance taken by some after the 2008 crash was “disastrous”, and not everyone in financial services is wealthy.
According to him, he was able to sell the UK brand abroad during his time as the mayor of London (2008-2016). If he becomes the prime minister, there will be no more committed salesperson for the UK, he continued.
Pushing himself as the only candidate who could deliver Brexit on time and unite the divided country, he said: “Around the country there is a mood of disillusion, even despair at our ability to get things done”.
“The longer it goes on, the worse the risk of serious contamination and a real loss of confidence, because the people of this country deserve better from their leaders. Now is the time to unite this country and this society”.
Admitting the complexity and challenge that lay ahead, he insisted that his tenure as London mayor and foreign secretary gave him “long experience of managing real short-term difficulties in the confident expectation of long-term success.”
Jun 12, 2019 18:28 IST
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