'You are a nasty piece of work, aren't you?': Boris Johnson's father Stanley attacks Eddie Mair over interview on Andrew Marr Show

London Mayor left floundering by a series of damaging questions from BBC presenter

Boris Johnson’s past troubles finally returned to haunt him yesterday when he gave what senior Conservatives called a “car crash” television interview which they said had dented his hopes of becoming Conservative Party leader.

The colourful, humorous Mayor of London is often treated with kid gloves by interviewers but Eddie Mair, who hosted the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, was wearing boxing gloves. He subjected Mr Johnson to the awkward questions and scrutiny he could expect if he were running to be Prime Minister rather than running the capital.

“You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?” asked Mr Mair. Mr Johnson looked surprised and distinctly uncomfortable as the presenter asked him about his being fired by The Times newspaper for making up a quotation; being sacked from the Tory frontbench for telling “a bare-faced lie” to the party leader Michael Howard about his affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt and the claim that he agreed to provide a reporter’s address to his friend Darius Guppy, a convicted fraudster, so the journalist could be beaten up.

An exasperated Mr Johnson said he would “dispute” all three allegations.  Only up to a point, it seemed.  He admitted he had “mildly sandpapered something someone  said” for The Times, saying it was “very embarrassing” and he was “very sorry”. He insisted he never spoke directly to Mr Howard about the affair, although at the time in 2004 he publicly denied it as “an inverted pyramid of piffle.”  He told Mr Mair: “I could explain that I think all three interpretations you’re putting on those things aren’t wholly fair….  the case of my old friend Darius [Guppy] yes, it was certainly true that he was in a bit of state and I did humour him in a long phone conversation, from which absolutely nothing eventuated. But I think if any of us had our phone conversations bugged, they might, you know, people say all sorts of fantastical things whist they’re talking to their friends.”

The softly-spoken, dry but deadly BBC presenter, standing in for Mr Marr while he recovers from a stroke, told Mr Johnson: “I want to talk about you.”  Revealingly, the Mayor replied: “Well that’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid.”  He insisted it was “nonsensical” to talk about whether he wanted to be Prime Minister and insisted he wanted David Cameron to win the next election, even though some Tory MPs dream of installing Mr Johnson as party leader before or after the 2015 poll.

The Mayor complained that he had in effect been blackmailed by Michael Cockerell, the veteran documentary-maker,  into co-operating with a  programme about him to be screened by the BBC tonight

Asked about his ambitions, Mr Johnson told Mr Cockerell: “I think it’s a very tough job being Prime Minister. Obviously if the ball came loose from the back of the scrum – which it won’t— it would be a great, great thing to have a crack at it. But it’s not going to happen.”

Some of those interviewed by Mr Cockerell were less than flattering about his subject. “Boris isn’t pretending to be chaotic; he really is utterly chaotic,” said Sir Max Hastings, his former editor at the Daily Telegraph. Conrad Black, who appointed Mr Johnson editor of The Spectator magazine, describes him as “a sly fox disguised as a teddy bear.”

Yesterday Mr Mair had the advantage because he had already watched a sneak preview of  “Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise”, to be shown at 9pm tonight on BBC2. “I’m not going to watch it,”  Mr Johnson told him. “No. I’m certainly not, not after what you’ve told me.”

And this morning Johnson's father, Stanley Johnson, defended his son, telling Nick Ferrari on LBC radio: "I thought Eddie Mair's interview was about the most disgusting piece of journalism I've listened to for a very long time."

"The BBC sank about as low as it could. If grilling people about their private lives, accusing them of guilt by association and openly abusing them is a legitimate interview, then frankly, I don't know where we are coming."

But later this morning Johnson himself said: "Eddie Mair did a splendid job. There is no doubt that is what the BBC is for - holding us to account.

"He was perfectly within his rights to have a bash at me - in fact it would have been shocking if he hadn't. If a BBC presenter can't attack a nasty Tory politician what's the world coming to?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss