Our Man in Brussels: how Boris created havoc as an EU journo

John Kerr, then the UK Representative in Brussels and later, Lord Kerr, head of the Foreign Office, respected Boris, who was sent to Brussels by the Telegraph as a leader writer in early 1989.borisflag2‘I found him challenging in the briefings. Disconcertingly, he made few notes. Even my usual ploy, when on thin ice, of attempting to distract with a battery of facts and figures, some of doubtful relevance, never worked with Boris.  He had the knack of spotting what I wasn’t saying, and his subsequent product drew heavily on intuition.  Some of his flyers were way off beam,  sometimes irritatingly so, but some were spot on, even more annoyingly.’

Boris and David Usborne, the Independent’s foreign correspondent, became ‘intense and friendly competitors’. Usborne said ‘Boris understood what the Telegraph wanted immediately and he delivered in spades. ‘He was always very hardworking.  Once he got his confidence up, he started firing every torpedo he could at the Commission………. He really began to eclipse all of us.  He would take something that might make a few paragraphs and turn it into an atomic bomb.’

When asked if Boris often ‘went the extra mile’ in pursuit of a good story, Usborne said ‘he often went the extra five hundred miles I think, just for the pleasure of watching the rest of us scurryng the next morning to catch up.’

At one stage, Boris wrote an article he called “Delors’ plan to rule Europe’ He reported that Delors wanted to scrap the rotation of the EU Presidency and to centralise power in Brussels. The member states would lose their veto rights….. Denmark was in the midst of hard fought referendum campaign over the Maastricht Treaty.  Boris’s article, widely reprinted in Denmark, had a huge impact. Before the article, the polls suggested a narrow vote in favour of the Maastricht Treaty.  Afterwards, a narrow vote against.

Boris is naturally happy to accept that his article helped sway the vote of the Danes.

Margaret Thatcher formed a very high opinion of Boris, telling his old headmaster, Sir Eric Anderson “He’s my favourite journalist.’  But Douglas Hurd was greatly irritated by Boris’s coverage, and according to Charles Moore, Deputy Editor of the Telegraph, he made a serious effort to get Boris sacked. (later denied).  Charles Moore was completely on Boris’s side. Boris did use dramatic licence from time to time, so for a while he was extremely worried.

Thatcher fell as a direct result of the Rome summit in October 1990, at which she was ambushed by the Italians, who sprang the date of 1999 on her for the launch of the euro. Her message when she reported to the House of Commons was ‘No! No! No!’  Boris felt her downfall as a deep personal blow. He has written that his future wife Marina, ‘came upon me stumbling down a street in Brussels with tears in my eyes,  claiming it was as if someone had shot Nanny!’

Boris did not invent euroscepticism, but he became one of its most famous exponents.

Source:  Boris.  The  Rise of Boris Johnson by Andrew Gimson.

2 responses to “Our Man in Brussels: how Boris created havoc as an EU journo

  1. Boris Johnson should lead the negotiations over the EU, he is the ideal person and people trust him.

  2. He is an amazing writer, and grasps every complexity. Highly persuasive speaker and writer.

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