UK’s Johnson in new trouble over Daily Mail column

LONDON (AFP): Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson was unveiled Friday as the Daily Mail’s new star columnist — but attracted an immediate rebuke from a government watchdog to cap a tumultuous 48 hours.

A day after Johnson was given a blistering verdict by a committee of MPs investigating his “Partygate” denials, the right-leaning newspaper announced he would be writing a weekly column on Saturdays.

In a video posted by the Mail, former journalist Johnson said he was “thrilled” to contribute to “those illustrious pages”, vowing to deliver “completely unexpurgated stuff”.

The anti-immigrant, anti-woke, Brexit-supporting Mail has long been one of Johnson and the Conservative party’s most vocal and uncritical backers.

Johnson joked that he would cover politics only when “I absolutely have to” — and in a preview of the first column posted online, he dwelt on his never-ending battle to lost weight.

He described experimenting with an appetite suppressant to avoid the temptation of “raiding the fridge at 11.30 pm for the cheddar and chorizo washed down with half a bottle of wine”.

But if he chooses to return to more heavyweight political subjects, Johnson now has a high-profile platform to pursue his vendetta against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

However, the ever-controversial Johnson was upbraided for failing to respect the rules governing outside appointments for former ministers.

  • A ‘clear breach’ –

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) is meant to vet all such appointments in the two years after a politician leaves high office.

But Johnson only informed ACOBA half an hour before the Daily Mail posted its announcement on social media, a spokeswoman for the committee said.

That amounted to a “clear breach” of the rules, she said.

“We have written to Mr Johnson for an explanation and will publish correspondence in due course, in line with our policy of transparency.”

However, ACOBA cannot force a politician to go back on an appointment, and Johnson’s habitual disregard for the rules was laid bare in Thursday’s report by the House of Commons privileges committee.

He had already resigned as an MP after being sent a preview of the report, which found that he deliberately misled parliament when denying any knowledge of lockdown-breaking parties in 10 Downing Street.

The House of Commons can no longer vote on the committee’s recommendation to suspend Johnson, given his pre-emptive resignation.

But it is due to vote on Monday — Johnson’s 59th birthday — to decide whether his parliamentary pass should be withdrawn.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said that by ignoring ACOBA requirements, Johnson is “once again breaking the rules and taking advantage of a broken system for his own benefit.

“As he makes a mockery of the toothless ethics watchdog, this disgraced former prime minister clearly thinks the rules are for the little people,” she added.