Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson cultivates 'bumbling clown' image, says Alliance's Long

Boris Johnson
Image caption Boris Johnson was surprisingly appointed as foreign secretary by Theresa May

Boris Johnson has cultivated an image of himself as a "bumbling clown" to avoid responsibility for "offensive" behaviour, a Stormont MLA has said.

Naomi Long of the Alliance Party was reacting to Mr Johnson's appointment as the UK's foreign secretary.

She pointed to his 2002 use of the word "piccaninnies" and his past remarks on President Obama's part-Kenyan ancestry.

Mrs Long said she was fine with him appearing on comedy shows, but not on the "world stage".

Image caption Naomi Long said Boris Johnson was intelligent but "has cultivated the persona of a clown"

Mr Johnson was the most prominent politician in the Leave campaign, which lobbied for a British exit from the EU in last month's referendum.

His appointment as foreign secretary - the UK's top diplomat - has been met with some surprise by the international press, with newspapers citing his history of faux pas.

Mr Johnson said he was "very humbled" by his new role.

He said there was a "massive opportunity in this country to make a great success of our new relationship with Europe and with the world".

Circus

However, Mrs Long said: "I don't doubt that Boris Johnson is an intelligent man.

"But he has cultivated the persona of a clown in order to avoid responsibility for some of the quite offensive things he has said over the years."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Boris Johnson got stuck on a zipwire in 2012 during his tenure as mayor of London

She cited a previous article Mr Johnson wrote about Mr Obama that referred to the "part-Kenyan president's ancestral dislike of the British empire".

Mrs Long also mentioned a 2002 article in which Mr Johnson referred to the Queen being greeted in Commonwealth countries by "flag-waving piccaninnies".

Writing about the then prime minister Tony Blair's visit to Africa in the same article, Mr Johnson said that "tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird".

He later apologised for the remarks.

But Mrs Long told the BBC's Stephen Nolan Show: "This is not a man that I would wish to be representing me on the international stage.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The new foreign secretary has a track record of putting his foot in it

"Ultimately, we all know that people will buy tickets to the circus but we don't want our politics to be a circus.

"We don't want clowns to be running important departments.

"Boris may well be diverting and entertaining and I don't mind if he's on Have I Got News For You?.

"That's all well and good, but I'm not sure that it's necessarily good - certainly given the international reaction to his appointment - for our standing."

Mrs Long, a former MP for East Belfast, now represents the constituency in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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