In Depth

The six times Boris Johnson has denied he wants to be prime minister

The Foreign Secretary's denials over the years have only fanned the flames

Boris Johnson has shot down reports that he wants to replace Theresa May, branding them as "tripe".

"It is absolutely right she should go ahead for this government and it is absolutely right that she should go ahead and deliver on the priorities for the people and I am going to be backing her," said the Foreign Secretary Johnson, according to the BBC.  

Still, many think Boris's denial sounds fishy, coming from a man who has always danced around questions over his premiership ambitions. And as the Prime Minister is wobbling after the Tories' poor election performance, bookies have slashed the odds on BoJo's chances for the top job. 

It was only last year – after David Cameron's resignation – that the former London Mayor finally began preparing a leadership run. But he was forced to drop it after his supposed ally Michael Gove announced a bid of his own. That is the closest Boris has come to a naked declaration of his desire for the top job and his denials over the years have only stoked the flames. 

Here are six times BoJo denied he wanted to become prime minister: 

The Andrew Marr Show, 2016 

March 6, 2016 

"Do you expect to be our next prime minister?" Andrew Marr asked Johnson on his eponymous show, cuing a typically blustering response. 

"Look at the – look at the – certainly not… I think the whole thing is a load of cobblers," Johnson said.

Announcing his Vote Leave support, 2016

February 22, 2016

Boris Johnson notoriously came out in support of the Vote Leave campaign, against David Cameron's wishes. Many accused him of making a cynical decision based solely around calculations of his likelihood of winning the top job – something he furiously denied.

"The last thing I wanted was to go against David Cameron or the Government but after a great deal of heartache I don't think there is anything else I can do," he said.  

Still, a source told The Independent at the time that it was "the most nakedly self-serving piece of political positioning in years…He's putting his personal ambition before the national interest." 

To the Washington Post, 2014

18 November, 2014

In an interview with the Washington Post in 2014, he was bluntly asked if he would "relish" the challenge of being PM. 

"A smile crosses his face, and one of the most gifted orators in a nation of silky speakers starts stumbling along a potholed sentence," the newspaper said. "Um (sigh . . . long pause), uh, I mean . . . (pause) . . . what is certainly true (cough, cough) is that I would relish a Conservative victory at the next elections and, uh (cough, cough) . . . the continued success of my friends." 

As Mayor of London, 2014

17 September 2014 

As Mayor of London, Johnson was typically coy about his leadership ambitions. In September 2014 he was asked by a Labour assembly member if he would ever take up a government post or run for Tory leader while at City Hall.

"There is no vacancy for either of the posts that you've described," Johnson said, decrying such suggestions as "outrageous hypotheses and conjectures". Still, it was hardly the most unequivocal of denials. 

On the Andrew Marr show, again

March 24, 2013: 

A BBC documentary about Johnson aired in 2013, prompting lots of outraged denials towards those who questioned his ambitions. 

'It's not going to happen," he told Eddie Mair on the Andrew Marr show. "What I want is for David Cameron to win this election…in those circumstances it is completely nonsensical for me to indulge this increasingly hysterical conversation."

As Mayor of London, yet again

8 August 2012

Not long after Johnson was infamously photographed dangling from a zip wire, brandishing Union Jacks, he said any chance of his becoming Prime Minister was "infinitesimally remote".  "How could anybody elect a prat who gets stuck in a zip wire?" he asked ITV's Daybreak. 

But he then typically muddied the waters saying he didn't want the job "at the moment."

"I think it is inconceivable that I am going to be prime minister," he said. "At the moment, I certainly don't want to be prime minister."

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