Written by By Ikram Sehgal, CNN London, Written by Maja Zuvela, CNN Berlin, CNN
The Russian spy incident just won’t let up for British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson . His politician’s elbows swung, and his personal views reflected those of Prime Minister Theresa May, at a heated Parliament session on Monday, where Johnson responded to allegations he gave “bad advice” in the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.
Armed with the “three Cs” — humility, candor and civil — Johnson told lawmakers that “the Ukrainian and the Russian accounts are mirror images.” In UK terms he claimed that “both sides” of the story were telling their “impartially.”
And, “the third will not, never, is not now possible, during this particular period, even begin to be on view.”
Johnson’s position took some ‘heated’ jousting, it’s fair to say.
The three Cs of Boris’ “baggage” — humility, candor and civil — were delivered with equal vigor, but it wasn’t clear at first that they were the same person.
At one point, he defended his controversial “I don’t see it as a confrontation with Vladimir Putin” statement: “It was a serious expression of British government policy for the campaign of civilized pressure on Putin to change his behavior.”
This was accompanied by an anecdote about his school “bottleneck” memory — and how that affected his career as a journalist.
‘The Lib Dems still don’t have a strategy’
Johnson also had some memorable phrases in front of Britain’s 650 MPs. Asked whether he had been put “offside” by a “grey area” when negotiating with Russia, he replied: “I won’t talk about the etiquette.”
But it was another famous remark, “English isn’t a language, it’s a national attitude,” that prompted the most amused response from the House.
It’s just this kind of off-color humor that is keeping journalists waiting to re-write Johnson’s Wikipedia page. It’s there where he currently stands out: author of the most famous one. And early morning saw his profile update to “Borat,” the buffoonish Kazakhstan journalist hero of the film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
That film also inspired a public visit — a tour of Euston Station and the Standard Pub — in 2010, by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who called Johnson “he who said enough of ‘Borat'” the day before the trip. The pair shared a few mug pots, and Nazarbayev even offered to show Johnson where “Borat” pictures on patrol cars were made.
The Union Flag
Concluding remarks from the foreign secretary stressed a lopsided picture.
“I would say to the House that British foreign policy is being damaged, not by a single rogue rogue state like Russia, but by a multilateral diplomacy that is unable to get an international deal on Iran; by the way, my Labor colleagues have not moved with our friends in Europe on this one. This is a broken multilateral diplomacy of our time.”
The audience loved it.
His opponent, the Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, would later describe Johnson’s speech as “just tiresome” and “in the long run, I don’t think it achieves much.”
However, while there is now a willingness to believe it is natural for Johnson to remain controversial, Patel would later claim that he had now “bully-boyed his way to a perch which he never deserves to be at.”