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Rake’s Progress: The unstoppable rise of Boris Johnson

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At the time I was the only British politician still traveling to sanctions-stricken Iraq and the only one who met regularly with the Iraqi leadership in the run-up to the war. As a sweetener, Boris, for it was he, threw in that he didn't “believe all that stuff” about weapons of mass destruction. Not that such disbelief was ever enunciated publicly of course. I passed on his request but the Iraqis, never having heard of him, turned down the request.

His call and its follow-up pressure taught me several things about the future foreign secretary and soon-to-be prime minister.

The first and most banal was his extraordinary presumptuousness. I was then a more senior parliamentarian than he – I had been elected in 1987 he only in 2001 – we had never been introduced (still a ‘thing’ in parliamentary terms) and he didn't bother even introducing himself, merely an announcement followed by a request for access which sounded awfully like a demand.

The second was, like the young Churchill – his idol – his thirst to be where the action was even at personal (not inconsiderable) and definitely political damage. I wasn't known then by my enemies as the MP for Baghdad Central for nothing!

And thirdly, his willingness to affect any political position which suited his purpose at any particular time.

This would come........

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