Boris Johnson, who is almost as well-known in the UK for his loose lips as his messy blonde hair, conceded that it was amazing that Clinton had agreed to meet him after he had previously compared her to “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”.
His comments in a 2007 article for the Daily Telegraph have overshadowed his six-day trip to Boston, New York and Washington, during which he has dined with British model and TV personality Alexa Chung and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. In the article, Johnson wrote of the former first lady: “She represents, on the face of it, everything I came into politics to oppose: not just a general desire to raise taxes and nationalise things, but an all-round purse-lipped political correctness.”
His personal attack continued: “She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”
Johnson, who is in the US on a trade and personal profile-building mission, said: “It is an amazing measure of the goodness and generosity of Hillary Clinton’s spirit that she wants to see us in spite of those admittedly lighthearted remarks some years ago.”
After the meeting at the Clinton Foundation in Manhattan’s financial district, Johnson conceded: “Secretary Clinton was extremely kind and gracious and in so far as the subject came up she was said she was pleased by some aspects of the article.”
Johnson dismissed suggestions that his meeting with Clinton was part of a campaign to position himself as a potential Conservative party leader and future prime minister.
“We’re here to talk about London and about what’s happening in security particularly,” Johnson said of his meeting. “I want to hear what the latest American thinking is on tackling Isis in Syria and Iraq. President Obama seems to be moving in quite an interesting direction there, a more gung-ho, belligerent direction. We’ll have to see what the implications are for the struggle against terror across Europe and in London.”
Johnson, who wore a Next tie, Marks & Spencer shirt and a suit by a “chap” from London to a British Fashion Council dinner on Tuesday with Chung and Wintour, has been forced to defend the number foreign trips he has taken recently. Within the last three months, Johnson has toured Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur for six days, visited UK troops in Kurdistan, and flown to New York to promote his book on Winston Churchill.
The UK opposition Labour party has claimed that Johnson, who is not standing for re-election as mayor and is attempting a return to parliament as an MP at the UK general election in May, has “mentally checked out”. Jenny Jones, of the Green Party, said: “I feel he is lining himself up to be a global statesman, when what we need is a London mayor on the case.”
Johnson responded: “Any mayor would have to spend a huge amount of time overseas trumpeting the wonders of London and getting investment in our city. I’ve tried to keep the overseas trips to an absolute minimum.”
During a visit to the UK by Barack Obama in 2011, Johnson asked him for a £5m cheque for unpaid congestion charges but the US ambassador intervened before the president could answer. The amount the US embassy owes in congestion charge fines has risen to more than £7m, the most of any diplomatic mission in the capital.
Johnson had been due to also meet with his New York counterpart, but Bill de Blasio pulled out at the last minute due to a head cold. Boston mayor Marty Walsh also stood Johnson up at a party at the city’s Institute of Contemporary Art on Monday night.
The mayor, who was born in the US and holds dual citizenship, said deciding to maintain his American nationality proved to be a very expensive decision after he was forced to pay a six-figure US capital gains tax bill in relation to the profit he made selling his Islington home in 2009.
He said now that he has paid his US tax bill, the American embassy in London should pay its more than £7m ($10.7m) bill for London’s congestion charge. The US embassy has refused to pay the charge, which is levied on vehicles travelling into central London on weekdays claiming the charge is a tax and therefore its diplomats are immune.
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