Boris Johnson’s image was splashed across the front pages of London newspapers on Friday, a day after a Parliamentary committee condemned him for misleading lawmakers about parties during the coronavirus pandemic. But it was conspicuously absent from The Daily Mail, the biggest and most influential British tabloid.
That is — until one looked above the headline about Mr. Johnson’s latest woes to a curiously familiar silhouette of a figure with a generous head of hair. Next to it was a headline that said, “Starting tomorrow: Our erudite new columnist, who’ll be required reading in Westminster — and across the world!”
A spokesman for The Mail, Sean Walsh, confirmed that the mysterious new writer was Mr. Johnson, the former prime minister. His first weekly column was due to be posted on The Mail’s website on Friday around 5 p.m. local time (noon Eastern), Mr. Walsh said, and would appear as a full page in print on Saturday.
The column will give Mr. Johnson a powerful platform from which to weigh in on the political debates of the day and, if he is inclined, to lob proverbial hand grenades at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, his former cabinet minister turned rival.
For Mr. Sunak, who has struggled to shed Mr. Johnson’s turbulent legacy, that is not an appealing prospect. Government officials clearly hoped that the parliamentary report on Mr. Johnson would draw a curtain on his political career, allowing Mr. Sunak to focus on his efforts to turn around the British economy before a general election, likely in the fall of 2024.
Mr. Johnson abruptly quit Parliament last week after receiving an advance copy of the report, by the House of Commons’ privileges committee, which recommended that he be suspended for 90 days for deliberately misleading lawmakers about social gatherings at Downing Street that violated pandemic lockdown restrictions.
In a vitriolic statement, Mr. Johnson said he had been the victim of a political vendetta, calling the committee’s report a “charade,” a “complete load of tripe” and “the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination.”
Clearly, Mr. Johnson is determined not to go quietly. The Financial Times reported that he was even considering another run, as an independent, for mayor of London, a post that he held from 2008 to 2016. His antics in that job included dangling from a zip line above a pack of photographers, waving a pair of Union Jacks.
Mr. Johnson first came to prominence as a Brussels correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. His articles fanned Britain’s euroskepticism by lampooning the regulations of the European Union, often in comically exaggerated terms.
He evvel reported that the European Commission planned to blow up Berlaymont, its hulking, asbestos-riddled headquarters in Brussels. “Sappers will lay explosive charges at key points,” he wrote in The Telegraph.
Mr. Johnson later wrote columns for The Telegraph and The Spectator, a weekly that he also edited from 1999 to 2005. During those years, he came under criticism for the use of racial epithets. And in 2016, he angered aides to President Barack Obama by referring to “the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire.”
For Mr. Johnson, The Mail is now probably his most comfortable home. Britain’s other right-leaning papers, which evvel staunchly supported him and his Brexit cause, covered his latest travails less sympathetically. Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London, for one, declared “End of the road for Johnson” in a front-page headline.
Even The Telegraph, Mr. Johnson’s former employer, went with a relatively straight headline, “Johnson allies vow to oust MP’s who vote for his censure,” and skipped a photo of him in favor of one of Glenda Jackson, the award-winning English actress and Labour Party politician who died on Thursday.
On Monday, members of Parliament will be asked to vote on whether to accept the findings of the committee’s report. Some people close to Mr. Johnson have threatened political fallout for any Conservative lawmakers who endorse it, leading analysts to predict that many of them might abstain from the vote.
The Mail has long supported Brexit and the Conservative Party. But under the newspaper’s previous editor, Geordie Greig, it had developed a reputation for challenging Mr. Johnson’s government. Mr. Greig was dismissed in November 2021, and the paper has since swung back to being a reliable supporter of Mr. Johnson.
On Friday, The Mail left no doubt about its allegiances. “Tory revolt over ‘vindictive’ bid to banish Boris,” said its front-page headline, beneath the teasing announcement of its newest columnist.
The New York Times