‘A giant liar with a mop of hair’: What the French think of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson was set to be named as the new British Prime Minister on Tuesday. He faces an awkward relationship with the French and it's not just because he reportedly called his neighbours "turds" over Brexit. Johnson has a history of French bashing and the French have shown they are not too keen on the "giant with a mop of hair" either.

'A giant liar with a mop of hair': What the French think of Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson makes a toast at the British embassy in Paris in 2017. Photo: AFP

Unless something completely unexpected happens Boris Johnson will be announced as the next Prime Minister of Great Britain on Tuesday.

BoJo has long been the firm favourite to win the Conservative Party leadership race ahead of Jeremy Hunt, the result of which will be announced on Tuesday morning.

The news is unlikely to be greeted warmly on this side of the English Channel given that Johnson has practically made a career out of bashing the EU and in particular the French.

The recent report that he reportedly referred to the French as “turds” due to Paris' stance on Brexit, is hardly a surprise.

What is perhaps is more eyebrow raising is that the BBC agreed to cut it out of a documentary on the request of the Foreign Office because it would be “politically awkward” for the then Foreign Secretary.

Johnson's relationship with the French has always been awkward so it's unlikely the “turds” remark would have made matters any worse. 

His French bashing dates back mainly to his time as Mayor of London.

Speaking at the 2012 Tory party conference, he said that France’s Socialist president François Hollande had brought “tyranny and terror to France”.

As London mayor Johnson also annoyed France by promising to welcome the French people fleeing rising taxes with open arms, in a similar dig to former PM David Cameron's famous “red carpet” jibe.

In a speech in India in 2012 Johnson said: “I see the sans-culottes appear to have captured the government in Paris,” referring to the French revolutionaries.

“I have no hesitation in saying here, 'Venez à Londres, mes amis!' (Come to London, my friends),” he told a meeting of business leaders in the capital New Delhi.

“Come to the business capital of the world,” Johnson added.

Indeed trips to New Delhi seem to bring out the French-basher in Johnson.


On a trip in 2017 he evoked a troubled chapter of France's history as he warned France against dishing out any World War II-style “punishment beatings” because Britain decided to leave the EU.

“I think that if Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in manner of some sort of World War II movie, than I don't think that is the way forward,” he told delegates at a political conference. He was widely criticised for the remark.

Johnson's inappropriate comments, taunts and willingness to blame the French for Britain's post-referendum Brexit mess has understandably not endeared him to many on this side of the English Channel.

Johnson's appointment as Foreign Secretary in 2016 by PM Theresa May was met with incredulity in France.

The then French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called him a “liar”, a term regularly used by President Emmanuel Macron to refer to those who led the Brexit campaign.

“Did you see his tactics during the [Brexit] campaign? He lied a lot to the British,” Ayrault said in an interview on radio station Europe 1. “Now it's he who's up against it to defend his country.”

Ayrault added: “I need a partner who is clear and reliable”. Macron is likely thinking exactly the same thing right now as he watches Johnson dominate the Tory leadership race in the UK.

The French media were also hardly complimentary towards Johnson after his appointment as Foreign Secretary.

Le Figaro described him as a “pure product of the British conservative aristocracy, developed and trained to govern”, saying that he appears to be “guided by opportunism”.

France Inter referred to the former journalist who was sacked by The Times as “the giant with the mop of hair”, adding that he was “known for his blunders” and has always “preferred to sacrifice diplomacy for the sake of a good turn of phrase”, noting his comparison between the EU and the Nazi party during the referendum campaign.

In 2016 Johnson was booed at a Bastille Day party at the French embassy in London during his first engagement as Foreign Secretary.

“He shamelessly talks absolute rubbish,” said one French lady at the party, who did not want to give her name, but who had lived in the British capital for 30 years.

Johnson himself has close ties to France; his grandmother was half-French, he speaks the language well and once called London “the fourth biggest French city in the world”.




Member comments

  1. Johnson aims to be the Trump of the UK, distracting the populace from the reality of robbing the poor to pay the rich. As for ‘turds’ – it takes one to know one.

  2. We are so ashamed of this kind of behaviour from our government.Makes me embarrassed to be British.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.