Boris Johnson’s image has changed from ‘buffoon’ to ‘miserable liar’, says Paul Merton

Ex-PM’s appearances thought to have played a large part in endearing him to the British public

Ellie Harrison,Adam Forrest
Tuesday 08 August 2023 11:13 BST
Have I Got News For You mocks Boris Johnson in send-off episode

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Boris Johnson’s image has changed from a jovial “buffoon” to a “miserable liar”, according to Have I Got News For You star Paul Merton.

The comedian discussed the former Conservative prime minister’s regular appearances on the flagship BBC satirical news show.

In 1998, HIGNFY invited the then-journalist and failed Tory parliamentary candidate to appear on the show for the first time – a move seen as instrumental in endearing him to the British public.

Mr Johnson appeared on the show numerous times in the years following, and in 2004 even earned a Bafta nomination for Best Entertainment Performance.

Discussing Mr Johnson’s appearances, Mr Merton told the Telegraph: “Johnson played the buffoon very well. He does have a sense of humour.”

“But it’s funny how his image has now changed completely from ‘happy, jovial Boris’ to ‘aggressive, miserable, lying Boris’. Didn’t take long, did it?” said the comedian.

Earlier this year, a damning report by a cross-party group of MPs found that Mr Johnson deliberately and repeatedly lied again to parliament over Partygate.

The ex-Tory leader called the conclusion “deranged” and “the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.

The disgraced politician had remained in the Commons until he resigned in June – just days before the privileges committee report was completed. The report would have resulted in Mr Johnson’s suspension for 90 days, and a likely byelection, had he still been an MP.

Merton said Johnson ‘played the buffoon very well’
Merton said Johnson ‘played the buffoon very well’ (Shutterstock, Getty)

Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list was mired in scandal and saw him accused of “cronyism” – mostly notably in the attempt to push through a peerage for staunch ally Nadine Dorries.

Mr Merton has hosted HIGNFY with Private Eye editor Ian Hislop since 1990 where they are regularly joined by politicians to joke and answer questions about the news.

Merton with fellow ‘Have I Got News For You’ stalwart Ian Hislop
Merton with fellow ‘Have I Got News For You’ stalwart Ian Hislop (BBC/Hat Trick/Ray Burmiston)

Mr Hislop once compared Boris Johnson with a tub of lard – and said the lard had a better chance of becoming PM. He later said that he was “amazed” the ex-guest had become the leader of the country, and Mr Johnson was probably equally surprised.

In his interview, Mr Merton discussed the backlash over his and Mr Hislop’s jokes on the show about TV presenter Paula Yates and her breast-augmentation surgery.

While Mr Hislop led the mockery on the nineties episode, Mr Merton joked she could give herself black eyes while jogging and asked whether she chose her new breasts from a booklet “like wallpaper”.

Mr Merton said: “I don’t think I was mean to her. I think I was supportive. I was rather surprised by Ian’s anger. I think that certainly took her by surprise.

“She wasn’t very journalistically rigorous and I suppose that’s what was annoying Ian. Although it would be wrong for me to speak for him.

“She was with Michael Hutchence at the time and I remember the two of them knocking on my dressing room door to say, ‘Thank you for looking after me.’”

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