A row erupted on Monday between former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and a prominent British journalist, Piers Morgan, over leaked audio recordings of Johnson apparently making inappropriate jokes about a sex act performed at a party in a cabinet member’s bedroom.
Last week, Johnson’s political ally and former Daily Telegraph editor, Simon Heffer, first released recordings of the conversation in which Johnson is heard making jokes about women’s sexual behavior at a relaxed dinner party. In the most striking passage, Johnson made reference to the inter-office Christmas party when he said, “Things do get a bit raucous, especially when I’m sober, do they not?” The Whitehall official — referred to as “his foot” — then laughed and noted, “That’s what they’re always saying! I always say it will be good fun.”
On Sunday, Morgan said he would publish the full recording of the audio and challenge Johnson on the tapes on his life as Foreign Secretary in a TV discussion, which Johnson was scheduled to participate in.
This is as you would expect: derisory comments from Boris Johnson after his dinner parties. They made a joke about a disgusting sexual act in cabinet.
Now he’s “polished off” the timeliness! — Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 2, 2017
As some predicted, this backlash led the journalist to shift his timeline, suddenly deleting all tweets, statements and videos related to his broadcast on Monday. In a statement provided to The Telegraph, Heffer said: “Over the weekend, Boris made some uncharacteristically candid comments about his drink, which he and his friends laughed about.”
“When we interviewed him, he was on the record as saying there was no culture of abuse in the Cabinet,” Heffer said, claiming to have pressed Johnson further about abuse at such an event. “He confirmed it, but on this occasion looked flustered by my inquiry and replied: ‘That’s what they always say! I always say it will be good fun’. He was referring to a Christmas party. He had clearly not yet heard that this is what Theresa May’s aides often say when dealing with leaks.”
Speaking to Johnson, Heffer said that he told the former Foreign Secretary that it “is an old wives’ tale to claim a Christmas party is a safe place from trouble.” Johnson responded: “I would never do anything remotely unparliamentary in these circumstances and never would I repeat the ‘dirty old man’ comments. In fact, the dirty old man comments are a comment of my colleagues – we all say them. And I told my staff to expect some kind of retaliation.”
“The only response I was expecting is to forget I’ve been recorded and to tweet those comments out loud,” Heffer said.
Earlier on Monday, Johnson rebuffed allegations that he had used sexist language at a cabinet meeting.