Boris Johnson denies having close ties with far-right former Trump aide Steve Bannon

The Tory leadership front-runner rejected suggestions he was part of an 'alt-right conspiracy' with the controversial US activist

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 25 June 2019 10:18
Boris Johnson on whether Steve Bannon influences him: 'biggest load of codswollop'

Boris Johnson has “absolutely” denied having close contacts with far-right US agitator Steve Bannon.

Questions were raised over the degree of the former Trump aide’s influence over the Tory leadership frontrunner after footage emerged of Bannon claiming to have discussed a crucial speech with him.

But Mr Johnson insisted that the “sum total” of his contacts with Bannon since he left the White House were a few text messages about a possible meeting on the occasion of Donald Trump‘s visit to the UK last year.

He accused opponents of trying to imply he was involved in “some crazy kind of alt-right conspiracy”, and insisted that in contrast to Bannon he was a “progressive modern Conservative” ready to run the UK from “the big centre of politics”.

Mr Bannon was Trump’s campaign aide and served as his chief strategist in the White House until August 2017. He has since attempted to promote populist political movements in Europe, and was recently linked to plans for a right-wing academy in an Italian monastery.

Footage recorded for a documentary called The Brink, which came to light earlier this month, showed Mr Bannon discussing Mr Johnson’s first big speech after his resignation as foreign secretary.

“I’ve been talking to him all weekend about this speech,” said Mr Bannon. “We went back and forth over the text.”

But asked by LBC interviewer Nick Ferrari whether he was influenced by the US activist or was in regular contact by text, Mr Johnson replied: “This is the biggest load of codswallop I have ever heard. I met Mr Bannon in the White House when he was chief of staff to the president, as you would expect, in the course of my duties as foreign secretary.

“It is perfectly true that when the president came to this country last year, Steve Bannon texted me on a couple of occasions trying to fix a meeting. I texted back to say that meeting was not possible. I can’t remember (why). I’m afraid I was otherwise occupied. That is the sum total.

“And yet this is turned by people who wish to stop me from achieving what I want to achieve into some crazy kind of alt-right conspiracy involving me and Steve Bannon.

“Anybody who looks at my record knows that I am a progressive, modern, Conservative, that I believe passionately in improving the lot of everybody in society. I ran London from the big centre of politics and we did some fantastic things for our city and I want to do those things for our country.”

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