‘How Johnson pledged help for my business to win my love’

Extraordinary details of how Boris Johnson allegedly overruled the advice of staff to promote the business interests of his former lover Jennifer Arcuri and win her affections are revealed in previously unpublished diary extracts by the US businesswoman.

Mark Townsend www.theguardian.com

According to one entry, the then London mayor even offered to be her “throttle” in an attempt to accelerate her business career, claims that may reopen the possibility of Johnson facing a potential criminal investigation into misconduct allegations.

The diary entries – which appear to have been written during Arcuri’s affair with Johnson and have been seen by the Observer – also suggest that he broke the rules governing ethical conduct in public office in his dealings with Arcuri.

The handwritten excerpts portray Johnson as desperate to offer help to her in promoting her fledgling business as he pursued a sexual relationship with the then 27-year-old.

One entry recalls how Johnson told her: “How can I be the thrust – the throttle – your mere footstep as you make your career? Tell me: how I can help you?”

Arcuri gave her diaries to the veteran journalist John Ware in 2019 after he made an ITV documentary on her relationship with Johnson.

At Ware’s request, Arcuri has now agreed to allow publication of some of the extracts following Johnson’s statements last week about public probity, including how MPs who break conduct rules “should be punished”.

Despite the prime minister’s comments last week, he never mentioned Arcuri in his declaration of interests when he was mayor, and after news of their alleged affair broke in 2019, he said there was no interest to declare.

The revelations will pile yet more pressure on the prime minister after 10 days of relentless allegations of sleaze and impropriety by Conservatives MPs, and growing anger inside the Tory party over Johnson’s own responsibility for, and handling of, the crisis.

The latest Opinium poll for the Observer today shows how the stream of damaging stories has hit Johnson and his party, with Labour now holding a lead over the Tories for the first time since January this year.

The poll puts Labour on 37% (up 1 point), the Conservatives on 36% (down 1), the Liberal Democrats on 9%, the Greens 7%, and the SNP 5%. Johnson’s personal approval ratings have sunk to another all time low of -21%. A fortnight ago the Conservatives held a five-point lead over Labour.

Responding to the latest Arcuri revelations, a government spokesperson said: “As mayor, Boris Johnson followed all the legal requirements in the Greater London Assembly’s [sic] code of conduct at the time.”

The diaries, however, indicate that Johnson pursued Arcuri, offering to advance her business interests in the apparent hope that this might lead to a sexual relationship with the woman who dubbed him “Alex the Great”.

One diary entry, from 2012, states that Johnson told her: “I can barely control myself whenever I see you. You make me too excited. Baby I couldn’t wait. All year I have been waiting for you. All year. You drove me nuts. I have thought about no woman as I have thought of you.”

Potentially more damaging are excerpts that allege Johnson bragged about ignoring advice from his staff who urged him not to help Arcuri promote her tech company Innotech.

After Johnson had agreed to Arcuri’s request to be the keynote speaker at the launch of Innotech, Arcuri states in a diary entry for 27 February 2013 that Johnson boasted to her how he’d rejected the advice of his staff not to attend. It states: “I just want you to know they came to me and I crushed them. They said: ‘You can’t do this Innotech in April.’ I said: ‘Yes, I can, I’ll be there.’ I only want to do this to make you happy. How I do wish to make you satisfied.”

Another diary entry, this time from November 2012, alleges that Johnson told Arcuri: “You are going to get me in so much trouble.” She also claims that her lover admitted he was aware of a conflict of interest when she asked him to “validate” her tech work publicly.

Members of the Greater London Authority oversight committee which is currently investigating allegations of conflict of interest during Johnson’s time as London mayor called the revelations “significant”.

Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon, speaking in her capacity as an assembly member, said Arcuri’s diary notes were of serious concern. She said: “This new material from Jennifer Arcuri is significant and the IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] may wish to consider whether they need to reopen their investigation.”

Last year the IOPC said it would not be launching a criminal inquiry into whether Johnson abused his position as mayor to “benefit and reward” Arcuri. Arcuri received £126,000 of public money in the form of grants for her technology business and event sponsorship. In addition, she was given access to foreign trade missions led by Johnson. Arcuri insists that none of them were granted personally by Johnson and to date there remains no evidence that they were.

IOPC investigators never had access to Arcuri’s handwritten diary entries in which she made “verbatim” notes of the highlights of his telephone calls and their conversations.

For the IOPC to open a new inquiry into whether Johnson should be investigated for criminal misconduct it must receive a referral from the GLA monitoring officer – an ethics watchdog – to look into the fresh allegations made by Arcuri in her diary. A GLA spokesperson confirmed its monitoring officer would assess “any new significant evidence” into the relationship between Arcuri and Johnson.

Although the police decided no investigation was warranted, the IOPC found his failure to declare the conflict of interest may have breached the GLA 2012 code of conduct.

At the same time as pursuing Arcuri for sex in 2012, Johnson endorsed the code in which he undertook not to bring the GLA “into disrepute” by using his position to “improperly confer on or secure for themselves or any other person, an advantage or disadvantage.”

In December that year, Arcuri returned to the US with Arcuri writing that Johnson was continuing to offer: “How can I be your footstool to your career?” She added how he was “always trying to think of ways to please me.”

Arcuri says Johnson never explained that their relationship posed a head-on conflict with the Nolan principles – ethical standards expected of public office holders and which promote “selflessness, integrity, objectivity, and honesty” in public life. She says that she’d never heard of Nolan until after news broke about their relationship in the autumn of 2019.

Exmouth floodgates tested

As the COP climate summit approached its conclusion in Glasgow without a major declaration for protecting the planet, Exmouth has erred on the safe side and tested its new £12 million defence scheme.

Paul Nero www.radioexe.co.uk

Volunteers will operate the floodgates

The Environment Agency, which led the project, has declared it a “great success.”

This week volunteers tested the procedure for closing flood gates that have been installed along the seafront.

The gates will spend most of their lives open, and only need to be closed when flooding is predicted. More than 1,400 residential and 400 commercial properties now have a reduced risk from rising water. Closing the gates is said to take minutes.

Ben Johnstone Environment Agency area flood and coastal erosion manager thanked the volunteers who operate the gates.

He said: “We train all year round with our partner agencies to make sure we are equipped to respond to incidents, at this time of year with an increase in flood risk it’s vital we make sure we are prepared”.

Councillor Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council portfolio holder for coast, country and environment said: “With all the talk of global warming and rising sea levels, it is great to see this £12 million scheme operational which will protect many vulnerable properties and businesses in Exmouth. We are working on other schemes ourselves and with partners throughout the district to protect properties and businesses which are vulnerable from the sea level rise and increased storm events”  

Some bigger gates along the seafront, such as those that cross roads, require traffic management.  They will result in temporary road closures when flooding is expected. 

Journal letter: PM has contempt for government

Exmouth Journal: Letter from Katherine Wilcox

Five years ago the world watched with a growing sense of disbelief and alarm as President Trump dismantled the institutions and systems of American government which interfered with his agenda to have total control of government.

He used presidential privilege to pardon wrongdoers and ultimately attempted to interfere with the voting system in an attempt to secure a second term in office. When that failed he fomented an insurrection by his supporters who stormed Capitol Hill in January 2021 leading to the death of several people including one security officer who died trying to protect the elected members of the senate.

The Republican senators stood by and refused to act to stop his outrageous attack on the democratic systems of the USA. Even after the insurrection they would not support calls for his impeachment.

We have witnessed Boris Johnson abusing our system of government in a similar fashion. He does not think the rules apply to him; he excuses the inexcusable behaviour of his ministers and friends even after they have been found guilty by parliamentary standards committees of having breached the rules of conduct; he treats the judiciary with contempt if it stands in his way; he prorogued Parliament in October 2019 after the Supreme Court ruled that his first attempt was unlawful. This action had the effect of reducing the time available to debate the Brexit deal. Johnson finally presented the deal to Parliament on Christmas Eve 2019 so that there would be no time for proper debate or scrutiny by Parliament before it was signed off by the January 1st deadline.

Johnson has accused the EU of being obstructive because it is not acceding to all the changes he wants to make to the oven ready Brexit deal which his minister Lord Frost negotiated. The electorate are realising that they have been hoodwinked into voting for a deal which is costing Britain dear.

In two weeks he has outraged Parliament again by using the Chief Whip to get Tory MPs to stop legislation to make water companies clean up their act and now by trying to change the rules of the parliamentary standards watchdog to save Owen Patterson’s skin after he clearly broke the rules on lobbying. Those Tory MPs who have not voted against these outrageous actions need to ignore threats to withhold levelling up funding to their constituencies and resist this corrupt prime minister who is bringing our democracy into such disrepute. American citizens witnessed the near destruction of their democracy by allowing death by a thousand cuts by Trump to the judicial and government standards which are there to protect their democratic system of government. If Johnson is not stopped from treating our parliament and judiciary with the same contempt as Trump, then Britain is at risk of becoming a mafia state run by crooks whose only agenda is their personal enrichment and to hell with everyone else.

KATHERINE WILCOX

Exmouth

Open letter: East Devon MP should abandon his party

Exmouth Journal: Letter from Graham Hurley

This is an open letter to our MP, Simon Jupp. If it reads like a charge sheet, that’s probably because it is.

£37 billion spaffed on Track and Trace? One of the highest Covid death rates in Europe? Local farmers abandoned? Local fishermen sold down the river? Truck drivers a dying breed? Local government on its knees? International treaties torn up? Judicial review under attack? Ditto the BBC, Channel Four, and any other voice raised in protest? And now Downing Street’s blatant attempt to protect one of its own by changing the rules, only to toss him overboard when the going gets rough?

Simon, if you really love East Devon maybe now is the time to jump ship and cross the parliamentary aisle before the Fraud Squad – or the men in white coats – arrive outside the gates of Downing Street. For your sake, and ours, leave this bunch of chancers and incompetents to the fate they so richly deserve.

GRAHAM HURLEY

Electorate hate sleaze – Paul Arnott

I don’t think of myself as a “politician”, and neither do my colleagues in senior councillor roles at East Devon District Council.

Paul Arnott www.midweekherald.co.uk

None of us wish to climb the greasy pole, or line up jobs or consultancies as a result of our positions. Indeed, it’s highly unlikely these would be offered. We are not in the Conservative party. 

However, there is one “political” thing that does unite my senior councillors at East Devon, and that is a repeatedly stated and campaigned-on revulsion for corruption in any tier of government. My own pals at EDDC first came together under the umbrella of the Independent East Devon Alliance, in significant part because a Conservative councillor who had been the dominant figure in planning around here was caught in a sting by the Daily Telegraph and made the front page. 

He was recorded on video boasting that he was the man to come to for planning permission but that he didn’t “come cheap”, saying that if he was going to turn a field into a housing estate he’d need tens of thousands of pounds paid through his planning consultancy. 

The police took nearly two years to decide there was no case to answer and the council itself then immediately scrapped the promised enquiry through its own Scrutiny committee to look into the matter. In other words, with the Tories all powerful back then in 2015 when that appalling decision to stifle debate was made, there has been two years of long grass followed by a “nothing to see here/case closed”. 

Amazingly, and to the council’s shame, the argument was made that the whole matter had been “political”, smearing both the independent councillor Claire Wright and my pals at the East Devon Alliance, then just a rather lovely group of local campaigners chaired by an immaculately behaved retired judge. 

And here was the mistake, taken from the national Tory playbook. The result of that shabby little denial of any further debate was that by 2019 Claire Wright polled more than 20,000 votes in a general election and the Conservatives at East Devon were reduced to just 19 out of 60 councillors, losing power for the first time in the district’s history. In other words, voters across the world hate this stuff, and it is a truism now that the cover-up gets punished more than the original act. 

In my five minutes of spare time a week I am getting going on the research for my next book, which will be about the support for and seeds of British fascism in the aristocracy after WW1. Their funding and influence persisted well into my lifetime, and the emergence of the National Front in the 70s.  

But even these fascists would have hesitated before attempting Johnson’s plans; he wanted to close Parliament for his own ends, he wants to scrap judicial reviews, and now he has nearly succeeded in breaking the rules preventing corruption in the Commons.  

“He’s such a laugh” people used to say but he isn’t; he is as much a threat to democracy as Trump in America, and if our local MPs – who lacked the guts to vote against him last week – want to look themselves in the mirror again they should vote him out of his role and take Jacob Rees-Mogg with him. Our country is not safe in their hands. 

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, it is often said, and as we showed in East Devon, there comes a point when the electorate just will not put up with any more of this stuff from the Conservatives locally. In the Commons this week they looked utterly shattered. If there was ever a time for a national opposition to unite to remove their power, as we have done in East Devon, it is now. 

PS It was these events in East Devon that stirred an “old” Owl to take wing “Keeping a close eye on our District” in 2014.