Boris Johnson quits controversial newspaper column

2016-07-18 20:24
Boris Johnson. (Ben Stansall, AFP)

Boris Johnson. (Ben Stansall, AFP)

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London - Britain's new foreign minister Boris Johnson has given up his lucrative newspaper column, which he had used for years to mock world leaders, his spokesperson said on Monday.

The leading Brexit campaigner was paid £250 000 (R3,6 million) a year for his weekly article in The Daily Telegraph broadsheet, which he continued writing during his eight-year tenure as mayor of London.

He used the column to showcase his rapier wit, but some of his barbs - including comparing White House hopeful Hillary Clinton to a "sadistic nurse" - came back to haunt him when he was named foreign secretary last week.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who took office following the June 23 referendum vote for Britain to leave the EU, stunned observers by naming gaffe-prone Johnson as her top diplomat.

His new job comes with a salary of £135 527 (R1,9 million) a year, which includes £74 962 (R1 million) for being a member of parliament.

"Whilst Mr Johnson has enjoyed a close working relationship with The Daily Telegraph for over 20 years, it would not be appropriate for him to continue writing his long-standing column for the newspaper given his new role as foreign secretary," his spokesperson said.

When asked if May had told Johnson to give up the column, the prime minister's spokesperson said only that it was his decision.

"Boris has been an outstanding columnist for The Daily Telegraph for many years, with a legion of devoted readers," said Telegraph Media Group editor Chris Evans, adding that he wished him well in his new job.

Book put on hold

Johnson, who stepped down as London mayor in May, was in Brussels on Monday for his first talks with EU counterparts.

The 52-year-old was also working on a book on Shakespeare that was due to be published in October, but has now been postponed "for the foreseeable future", publishers Hodder and Stoughton said.

Johnson has received an advance payment of around  £90 000 (R1,3 million) for the book but it is thought unlikely that he will have to repay it as the commission has not been withdrawn.

"Hodder and Stoughton confirm that they are postponing the publication of Boris Johnson's Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius," the publishers said in a statement.

Documents released earlier this year showed Johnson earned  £987 097 (R14 million) from his Telegraph column over the past four years, while book royalties brought in a further  £469 385 (R6,7 million).

In 2009, Johnson described his Telegraph earnings as "chicken feed".

Read more on:    boris john­son  |  uk

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