The Prime Minister, who attended an online course at Sedgehill Academy in Lewisham, south London on Tuesday, used the visit to reflect on his own past as a journalist and columnist.
Scroll down to read Jon Craig’s take on what might have prompted the PM’s comments
“When you’re a journalist it’s a great job, it’s a great profession,” Johnson said.
“But the problem is, sometimes you find yourself abusing or attacking people.
“Not that you want to abuse or attack them, but you’re critical, when you might be feeling a little guilty about it, because you didn’t put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re criticizing.”
“So I thought I would give it a try,” he added, referring to his career change.
The Prime Minister worked for The Times, Daily Telegraph and The Spectator before entering politics when he was first elected as an MP at the age of 36.
And Mr Johnson added that his ‘strong advice’ was ‘don’t get into politics immediately, do lots of other things first’.
Early in his career as a journalist, Mr Johnson was fired from the Times over allegations he fabricated a citation for a front page article.
His later career as a columnist, which he continued until becoming Prime Minister in 2019, also sparked much controversy.
Mr Johnson’s handwriting has been heavily criticized for his remarks in his latest newspaper columns, which have included references to “piccaninnies waving a flag”, Africans with “watermelon smiles” and “bums at the top. of a tank ”.
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Asked about the Prime Minister’s remarks on Tuesday, Mr Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said at a regular briefing to reporters in Westminster: ‘It is the Prime Minister speaking that all of you, as journalists your job is to challenge and that makes us in government better.
“I think that’s what he meant.
Labor shadow media minister Chris Matheson called on the prime minister to “withdraw these remarks and apologize”.
“For Boris Johnson, to say that journalists” always abuse people “probably says more about his own career,” he said.
“It is particularly disturbing to come so soon after the Prime Minister stood by one of his ministers who attacked a journalist who was just trying to do her job.
“We know from Donald Trump that these kinds of attacks on the free press are dangerous and designed to create distrust and division. ”
Analysis: What prompted the Prime Minister’s extraordinary and seemingly unprovoked explosion?
by Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent
So what was it that put Boris Johnson – a former journalist himself – in such a bad mood about those of us employed in his former profession?
Almost certainly, he will have had grim reports in mind this weekend about his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, and their dog – yes, really – their dog, Dilyn.
These reports were essentially about a vicious power struggle within the prime minister’s inner circle, but the embarrassing details ranged from an atrocious soap opera to a farce.
First, it was revealed that Dilyn was relieving herself all over the purse of a former No.10 employee in the Downing Street Garden.
Then came the revelation that at Checkers, the pesky dog had chewed on furniture, soiled carpets and once thrown under the Prime Minister’s feet with an ancient book in its mouth.
At that point, Mr Johnson is said to have been shouting, ‘For god’s sake I’m going to get another £ 1000 repair bill! Someone please shoot this fucking dog! “
One can only imagine how Carrie – increasingly portrayed in public prints as a Lady Macbeth figure inside No.10 – would have reacted to reading this threat of extreme animal cruelty!
And that may somehow explain the Prime Minister’s extraordinary and apparently unprovoked outburst against journalists during a career counseling session at a South London school.
“Sometimes you find yourself always mistreating people or attacking people,” he said, prompting the inevitable reference to the pots and kettles of opposition MPs.
Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh tweeted: “As a former journalist who tried to beat up another journalist, the Prime Minister speaks about his firsthand experience here. “
It was a reference to the disclosure in 1990 that Mr Johnson, then a reporter for the Daily Telegraph, had been urged by a friend, Darius Guppy, to find the address of a News of the World reporter so that he could can get him beaten up.
Two years earlier, Mr Johnson had been fired from the Times for making up a quote. But despite this setback, his career took off when he became correspondent for the Telegraph in Brussels.
Straight bananas, square cucumbers, a Brussels ban on shrimp chips and even a harmonization of condom sizes: these stories have propelled the euro-skeptic Johnson to superstar status on Fleet Street.
But his former editors weren’t always kind to his journalistic career. Max Hastings has said Mr Johnson would not know the truth – in his private or political life – if confronted by it on an identity parade.
And even Charles Moore, an admirer of Mr Johnson then and now, complained that his star reporter was always late – “terribly late” – in filing his copy.
As a classic scholar, Boris Johnson must surely be familiar with famous quotes from another conservative classicist, Enoch Powell.
In a quote Tony Blair loved to repeat, Powell memorably said, “Politicians complaining about the press are like sailors complaining about the sea.”
The irony of the Prime Minister’s unusual outburst is that over the past 24 hours, media coverage of his roadmap to freedom has been rather favorable.
Don’t talk about his fiancée. Or his dog!