Boris Johnson complained £145,000 job was like being stuck inside ‘steel condom’

·3-min read
Boris Johnson (PA)
Boris Johnson (PA)

Boris Johnson complained about his £145,000 job as foreign secretary feeling like imprisonment inside “a steel condom”, according to former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

Mr Johnson resigned in 2018 over Theresa May’s Brexit plans – but not before first attracting criticism for comments Richard Ratcliffe said “enabled a propaganda campaign” against his wife Nazanin while held in Tehran.

“He once described being foreign secretary to me as like being enclosed in a steel condom. I found it odd because I hadn’t asked him,” Baroness Davidson told broadcaster Iain Dale at an Edinburgh Fringe event.

“I think he meant the amount of attention he had from civil servants to make sure he didn’t say anything – imprisoned in a steel condom is what he said,” the Tory peer said.

Davidson added: “I’ve never heard that as a phrase... it would certainly affect performance, but this is not my area of expertise as I think you’ve already covered.”

Johnson wrongly told a parliamentary committee as foreign secretary in 2017 that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists in Iran.

Meeting her in May after her release, the PM made no apology after she told him that she had “lived in the shadow of his words” during years in an Iranian jail.

Davidson’s comments come as Mr Johnson, back at work this week after a holiday in Slovenia, faces pressure to act on the cost of living crisis during his final weeks at No 10.

Former Labour PM Gordon Brown and CBI director-general Tony Danker have said Johnson should meet with Tory leadership candidates.

Former Treasury official James Dowling said Johnson’s government could announce measures to ease the inflation crisis, if there is an agreement with both the Tory leadership candidates.

“If find myself in the strange position of agreeing with Gordon Brown – it’s perfectly possible for the government to turn out something on this,” he told LBC on Tuesday. “The convention is not that the government does nothing while a leadership election goes on.”

Meanwhile, Downing Street has signalled it still committed to assisting a parliamentary inquiry into whether Mr Johnson lied to MPs over lockdown parties in No 10.

Nadine Dorries and leading allies of the PM have attacked the investigation by the Commons privileges committee, denouncing it as a “witch hunt”.

However, the PM’s official spokesman said No 10 stood ready to “assist” the committee in its inquiries – and could continue to do so after Mr Johnson leaves office next month.

Mr Johnson faces the prospect of a recall petition – which could trigger a by-election in his Uxbridge constituency – if he is suspended by MPs investigating whether he lied about lockdown parties.

Three former officials at No 10 reportedly believe that the prime minister did not tell the Commons all that he knew about rule-breaking gatherings held during the Covid crisis.

One of the ex-staffers has agreed to give evidence to the privileges committee inquiry into whether the PM mislead, while two others contacted by the committee are considering whether to testify, according to The Telegraph.

Baroness Davidson resigned the leadership of the Scottish Tories in August 2019 shortly after Mr Johnson became PM, and was given a life peerage in the Lords in 2021.

The 43-year-old has not been afraid to criticise Mr Johnson – including early last month saying it was “arrant nonsense” for him to remain until a new leader is elected.

She also told the Fringe event that she would “always come back and get involved in whatever way I can” if there was a second referendum on Scottish independence.

But the former Scottish Tory leader dismissed the idea of standing again in a parliamentary election.