BuzzFeed News conducted interviews with seven senior US, European and British officials and diplomats at the highest level of government to interrogate Johnson’s time in office, and what it tells us about how he might perform as UK prime minister. All had first hand experience of dealing directly with him on the international stage.
They spoke on condition of anonymity, in order to be candid when sharing their views and experiences. None of the people BuzzFeed News talked to is among Johnson’s political rivals or connected in any way to the ongoing Conservative leadership battle.
For people who worked directly with and were actually in the room with him, Johnson wasn’t just funny or prone to innocent gaffes. They say he frequently fell short of the demands of the office: being “woefully” underprepared on important briefs, not knowing basic details, and making crucial mistakes.
These stories, while potentially embarrassing, could be dismissed as humourous episodes, or as just more examples of “Boris being Boris”. But some of his actions as foreign secretary, the officials said, were decidedly unfunny, and, at times, matters of life and death.
One described to BuzzFeed News the anger and expletives at the highest levels of the UK government after a careless and inaccurate statement by Johnson worsened the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British woman detained in Iran in April 2016, accused of plotting to topple the Iranian government. Her family vigorously deny the charges.
Johnson told parliament in November 2017 that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “simply teaching people journalism”. But her family have always maintained she was on holiday, and Johnson was condemned by MPs for potentially putting a British citizen in jeopardy through careless talk. Days later, his words were cited at a hearing in an Iranian court as evidence that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been engaged in propaganda against the regime. She is still in prison. [Continue reading…]