Boris Johnson – 2008 Speech on the Fourth Plinth

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London, at the Royal Academy on 3 June 2008.

I rise with the terror of someone who barely passed Art A-level after working for two weeks on a drawing of a decomposing lobster and yet who is now called upon not only to address this famous academy that has done so much to help make London the cultural and artistic capital of the world, but who is also asked to make judgements, as Mayor, about some of the most bitterly contested battlegrounds of our national Kulturkampf.

And I mean in particular the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, where I am told I must choose.

I can go for a dead white male war hero, gloved, goggled, moustached, forged in traditional bronze and thereby – so I am warned – earn the odium of the entire liberal funkapolitan art world, or else I can continue to support the rotation of strange and wonderful works of contemporary art and enrage those who think these conversation pieces are out of keeping with Nelson’s square and that a failure to install Sir Keith Park is a disservice to the memory of those who saved our country from tyranny in 1940.

As I have wrestled with this problem, I have seen how elegantly I appear to be politically and intellectually skewered.

If we go for Keith Park, we seem to be saying snooks to modern art, remember the war, and on with the great western European tradition 2500 years old of casting military heroes in bronze. Though he is not a Vitruvian model of anatomical perfection, the Keith Park statue is recognisably a human being, and of course there is a large part of me that yearns to memorialise this amazingly brave New Zealand fighter ace.

Yes, I do worry that we have lost interest in our history and in traditional artistic skills and I mourn the loss of so much music teaching in schools and as Mayor I want to help restore it and I grieve that kids have so little time to learn to draw properly. I get pretty steamed up about the general mushy-minded cultural relativism of our age and I assert the total superiority of Homer over the epic of Gilgamesh and I think the artistic output of 15th century Italy was much better than the artistic output of 15th century meso-America and I congratulate Neil McGregor on getting the Terracotta army to London but when you compare those universal imperial henchmen with the Panathenaic frieze you can see why democracy and individualism got going in western Europe rather than in East Asia.

And yet before there is some kind of international incident I want to reassure you that the moment I hear myself arguing in this vein I realise that it does not reflect all that is in my heart because I love Chinese art and I admire those Aztec skulls and I like Damien Hirst’s flagrant rip-off of Aztec skulls and I nod with pleasure and agreement at Richard Dorment’s elucidations of the YBAs. When I was editing the Spectator I was thrilled to print an exclusive original Jake and Dinos Chapman showing one of their dildo-rich Hieronymus Bosch scenes, and I cannot help noticing that large numbers of Londoners are with me in liking the art on the Fourth Plinth and I trust in the sublime instincts of an ancient people.

And that is why I hope we can find a compromise that reflects the division in my heart and that Keith Park will be allowed temporarily to occupy the plinth in the run-up to the anniversary in 2010 while we look for another site. I say to the Keith Park campaigners ‘some day your plinth will come’. Frankly I am prepared to go so far as to rename Hyde Park Keith Park. Of course there will be people on both sides who object to my solution and as the battle rages on we should realise that the row itself is as old as art.

The Keith Park campaigners and the modern art campaigners have the joy of a cultural foe and in their passion they illuminate themselves and they illuminate the other side and they illuminate art, because neither proposition would be half so interesting without the other.

So it has hit me that my function as mayor is not to presume to arbitrate – I leave that to you, the Jedi of the artistic world. My function is to promote this eternal argument, to let a hundred flowers bloom, to be a kind of Don King of the debate between tradition and revolution, to build on the achievements of the previous mayor, to end the tick-box culture, to support and encourage the creative and cultural sectors in any way I can and to make absolutely no distinction between heritage London and the dynamic contemporary scene because, as I have made clear, the two depend on their juxtaposition – incarnated in Trafalgar Square – to make this the most artistically exciting city on the planet.

Boris Johnson – 2009 Speech on Making London Safer

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London, on 27 March 2009.

What did you want to be when you were a child? Was it something, by any chance, that involved wearing an impressive uniform? Did you marvel at the shiny buttons on Fireman Sam’s uniform, or wonder what it would be like to possess the natural authority that came with wearing Postman Pat’s hat?

I for one trembled at the sight of a policeman, convinced I was doing wrong by my mere presence. When the terror in a tall hat passed, I would secretly yearn for the power that man possessed.

Most people I know had childhood aspirations of becoming such authority figures with shiny buttons. Yet as we grow up, and we discover that a profession is worth doing for more than the sartorial standards it keeps, we choose different paths.

However, there are some who keep the dream alive- ultimately for reasons of high public spirit. If they don’t go on to become fully fledged coppers, then they volunteer and become Special Constables – of which there are currently over two and a half thousand in London.

Today, I was in Harrow to announce that we’ve secured the funding to train and recruit 10,000 Specials by 2012. They have the same powers and responsibilities as police officers. They can still say “‘ello ‘ello, what’s going on here then?” The only difference is that they are unpaid volunteers, working 8 hours a fortnight. So I’m calling on Londoners to reconnect with their childhood ambitions, to release that pent up desire to do good and step forward. You can still do your day job, and have the opportunity to be part of policing the Olympic Games too.

When I was elected, one of my main promises was to get to grips with crime. This new initiative will see the addition of thousands of new, dedicated police officers to the streets of our city. We’re also continuing with the roll out of the new police teams to patrol bus ‘hubs’. I launched another one in Harrow this morning.

These teams consist of nine officers and they are attached to an area with a high concentration of buses, typically a town centre with a bus station. By later this year, we will have 29 such teams across London. Their specific remit is to provide a highly visible presence on buses to deter the kind of low level disorder that has been prevalent over the last few years.

We’ve also seen over 5,000 knives lifted from the streets of London through the sensitive use of stop and search powers. New police officers are also stepping up their patrols at suburban railway stations.

So that’s what I am doing to honour my promise. My ambition is, by 2012, to have made public transport feel safer, got more police officers out on the streets and made youth violence an extreme rarity. You can help me achieve that by signing up to become a special constable.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Speech at Paris Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, at the Paris Conference on chemical weapons held on 18 May 2018.

I’m grateful to the French Chair of the Partnership for convening this important meeting.

We gather at a moment when the rules that guarantee the security of every country – including the global ban on chemical weapons – are gravely imperilled.

Almost a century ago, the world united to prohibit the use of chemical weapons with the Geneva Protocol of 1925.

More recently, 165 countries have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997 and agreed never to develop, manufacture or stockpile these munitions.

Banning this terrible category of weapon must rank among the seminal diplomatic achievements of the last century.

And yet I have the unwanted distinction of representing a country which has experienced the use of chemical weapons on its soil, not in a 20th century conflict but on 4th March this year,

when a nerve agent struck down a father and daughter in Salisbury.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were rushed to hospital after being found reeling and distressed on a park bench.

In the days that followed, our experts had to seal off nine locations in Salisbury – including a restaurant and a cemetery – in order to screen them for possible contamination.

A police officer, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, was hospitalised after suffering the effects of exposure to the nerve agent.

Scores of unwitting bystanders had to be checked for symptoms.

Their only involvement was that chance had placed them in certain areas of Salisbury on 4th March;

they could have been from any country – including those represented here – for Salisbury ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

The fact that no bystander was seriously harmed owed everything to luck and nothing to the perpetrators, who clearly did not care how many innocent people they endangered.

I am glad to say that Mr Skripal was released from hospital earlier today – though he is still receiving treatment. His daughter and Detective Sergeant Bailey were discharged last month.

Our experts analysed samples taken from the scene and identified them as a fourth generation, military-grade “Novichok” nerve agent.

The highest concentration was found on the handle of the front door of Mr Skripal’s home.

We sent samples to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, whose experts independently confirmed this identification.

“Novichok” nerve agents were first developed in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The British Government has information that within the last decade, Russia has produced and stockpiled small quantities of “Novichok” under the same programme that also investigated how to deliver nerve agents, including by application to door handles.

The fact that such a pure nerve agent was used narrows down the list of culprits to a state actor.

And there is only one state that combines possession of Novichoks with a record of conducting assassinations and an obvious – indeed publicly avowed – motive for targeting Sergei Skripal.

We are left with no alternative conclusion except that the Russian state was responsible for attempted murder in a British city, using a banned nerve agent in breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Our friends around the world shared our assessment and 28 countries and NATO acted in solidarity with Britain by expelling over 130 Russian diplomats – the biggest coordinated expulsion in history.

Many of those countries are represented here today; once again, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

This resolute action demonstrated our shared determination to ensure there can be no impunity for the use of chemical weapons,

whether by a state or a terrorist group,

whether in the UK or Syria or anywhere else.

On 7th April, barely a month after the Salisbury incident, the Asad regime used poison gas in the Syrian town of Douma, killing as many as 75 people, including children.

Britain, France and the United States responded by launching targeted, precise and proportionate strikes against the chemical weapons infrastructure of the Syrian regime.

Even before the atrocity in Douma, a joint investigation by the UN and the OPCW had found the Asad regime guilty of using chemical weapons on four separate occasions between 2015 and 2017.

Russia’s response was not to enforce the ban on chemical weapons but to use its veto in the Security Council to protect Asad by shutting down the international investigation.

That is all the more tragic when you consider that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council with special responsibility for upholding peace and security, including the global ban on chemical weapons.

Given that the Kremlin seems determined to block any international investigation empowered to attribute responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria, then we must work together to develop another mechanism.

In the meantime, we have it within our power to impose sanctions on any individuals or entities involved in the use of chemical weapons.

We can collect and preserve the evidence of these crimes.

We can call for a special session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, in order to consider how best to support the Convention and its implementing body, the OPCW.

And we can make clear our resolve that the global ban on chemical weapons shall not be allowed to fade into irrelevance.

If that moral calamity were to happen, the security of every nation would be at risk.

My goal is to be the last foreign minister who attends a gathering like this as the representative of a country that has witnessed the use of chemical weapons.

Thank you.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Statement on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 9 May 2018.

The government regrets the decision of the US Administration to withdraw from the deal and to re-impose American sanctions on Iran.

We did our utmost to prevent this outcome; from the moment that President Trump’s Administration took office, we made the case for keeping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) at every level.

Last Sunday I travelled to Washington and repeated this country’s support for the nuclear agreement in meetings with Secretary Pompeo, Vice-President Pence, National Security Adviser Bolton and others and my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister spoke to President Trump last Saturday.

The US decision makes no difference to the British assessment that the constraints imposed on Iran’s nuclear ambitions by the JCPoA remain vital for our national security and the stability of the Middle East.

Under the agreement, Iran has relinquished 95% of its low-enriched uranium, placed 2 thirds of its centrifuges in storage, removed the core of its heavy water reactor – thus closing off the plutonium route to a bomb, and allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to mount the most intrusive and rigorous inspection regime ever devised, an obligation on Iran that lasts until 2040.

The House should not underestimate the impact of these measures.

The interval needed for Iran to make enough weapons-grade uranium for 1 nuclear bomb is known as the “breakout” time.

Under the deal, Iran’s “breakout” time has trebled or even quadrupled from a few months to at least a year,and the plutonium pathway to a weapon has been blocked completely.

For as long as Iran abides by the agreement – and the IAEA has publicly reported its compliance, Iran’s compliance, 9 times so far – then Britain will remain a party to the JCPoA.

I remind the House that the JCPoA is an international agreement, painstakingly negotiated over 13 years – under both Republican and Democratic Administrations – and enshrined in UN Resolution 2231.

Britain has no intention of walking away; instead we will cooperate with the other parties to ensure that while Iran continues to restrict its nuclear programme, then its people will benefit from sanctions relief in accordance with the central bargain of the deal.

I cannot yet go into detail on the steps we propose to take, but I hope to make them available as soon as possible and I spoke yesterday to my French and German counterparts.

In his statement on January 12, President Trump highlighted important limitations of the JCPoA, including the fact that some constraints on Iran’s nuclear capacity expire in 2025.

Britain worked alongside France and Germany to find a way forward that would have addressed the President’s concerns and allowed the US to stay in the JCPoA, but without reopening the terms of the agreement.

I still believe that would have been the better course and now that our efforts on this side of the Atlantic have not succeeded, it falls to the US Administration to spell out their view of the way ahead.

In the meantime, I urge the US to avoid taking any action that would hinder other parties from continuing to make the agreement work in the interests of our collective national security.

I urge Iran to respond to the US decision with restraint and continue to observe its commitments under the JCPoA.

We have always been at one with the United States in our profound concern over Iran’s missile tests and Iran’s disruptive role in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen and Syria.

The UK has acted to counter Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the region – and we will continue to do so.

We remain adamant that a nuclear-armed Iran would never be acceptable to the United Kingdom; indeed Iran’s obligation not to “seek, develop or acquire” nuclear weapons appears – without any time limit – on the first page of the preamble to the JCPoA.

Yesterday President Trump promised to “work with our allies to find a real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat”.

I have no difficulty whatever with that goal: the question is how the US proposes to achieve it?

Now that the Trump Administration has left the JCPoA, the responsibility falls on them to describe how they in Washington will build a new negotiated solution to our shared concerns, a settlement that must necessarily include Iran, China and Russia as well as countries in the region.

Britain stands ready to support that task, but in the meantime, we will strive to preserve the gains made by the JCPoA.

And I commend this statement to the House.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Passover Message

Below is the text of the Passover Message issued by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 30 March 2018.

Passover is a time of coming together, when Jewish communities commemorate the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is a time to celebrate freedom as a basic human right.

Pesach Sameach to all Jewish families both in the UK and around the world. I wish them a happy and peaceful holiday.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Easter Banquet Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, at the Mansion House in London on 28 March 2018.

My Lord Mayor, Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I’m going to talk about Britain’s global role and our work with our allies around the world but I turn first to the events of this remarkable week because never before has there been a collective expulsion of Russian diplomats on the scale that we have seen over the last few days.

As I speak there are now 27 countries that have themselves taken the risk of kicking out people whose presence they deem to be no longer conducive to the public good.

Of course there are many more that have chosen to act in other ways, countries that have issued powerful statements or downgraded their representation at the World Cup.

But by your leave my Lord Mayor and without wishing to be in any way invidious I want to remind you of the full roll of honour:

Albania
Australia
Belgium
Canada
Croatia
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Macedonia
Moldova
Montenegro
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Romania
Spain
Sweden
Ukraine
United States

And NATO has either expelled or denied accreditation to 10 Russian officials.

And it seems clear that the Kremlin underestimated the strength of global feeling: if they thought that the world had become so hardened and cynical as not to care about the use of chemical weapons in a peaceful place like Salisbury, if they believed that no one would give a fig about the suffering of Sergei and Yulia Skripal or that we would be indifferent to the reckless and contemptuous disregard for public safety that saw 39 others seek medical treatment, if they believed that we had become so morally weakened, so dependent on hydrocarbons, so chronically risk averse and so fearful of Russia that we would not dare to respond, then this is their answer, because these countries know full well that they face the risk of retaliation and frankly there are countries that have taken action that are more vulnerable to Russia than we are, whether through geography or their energy needs, and I pay tribute to them because they know that their own Russia-based diplomats, and their families, must now deal with the possibility of their own lives being turned upside down.

That is a huge commitment and sacrifice for one country to make – let alone 27 – and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

But of course I know that these thanks are in a sense impertinent because I do not for one moment believe that this global wave of revulsion has been prompted solely by Salisbury, let alone a sentimental love or affection for the UK, though I don’t exclude the possibility of such feelings somewhere in the mix.

It wasn’t about us: it was about all of us and the kind of world we want to live in.

Because I believe these expulsions represent a moment when a feeling has suddenly crystallised, when years of vexation and provocation have worn the collective patience to breaking point, and when across the world – across 3 continents – there are countries who are willing to say enough is enough.

After the annexation of Crimea, the intervention in the Donbas, the downing of MH17, the cyberattacks, the attempted coup in Montenegro, the concealing of chemical weapon attacks in Syria, the hacking of the Bundestag, the interference in elections, there are now just too many countries who have felt the disruptive and malign behaviour of the Russian state.

And Salisbury has spoken not just to Salisbury in South Australia and Salisbury in Pennsylvania, in North Carolina, in Maryland, but to all the tranquil cathedral cities across Europe that could have suffered a similar fate and where people deserve to live free from fear and after all these provocations, this week was the moment when the world decided to say enough to the wearying barrage of Russian lies, the torrent of obfuscation and intercontinental ballistic whoppers.

First they told us that Novichok never existed, then they told us that it did exist but they had destroyed the stocks, then they claimed that the stocks had escaped to Sweden or the Czech Republic or Slovakia or the United States.

And the other day they claimed that the true inventor of Novichok was Theresa May.

In the last few days we have been told that Sergei Skripal took an overdose, that he attempted suicide and therefore presumably tried to take his daughter with him, that his attempted murder was revenge for Britain’s supposed poisoning of Ivan the Terrible, or that we did it to spoil the World Cup.

In fact the Foreign Office has so far counted 24 such ludicrous fibs – and so I am glad that 27 countries have stood up to say that they are not swallowing that nonsense any more.

It is rather like the beginning of ‘Crime and Punishment’ in the sense that we are all confident of the culprit – and the only question is whether he will confess or be caught.

And in these last few days it is our values – and our belief in the rules based international order – that have proved their worth.

Not only has there been a strong and speedy multilateral response from NATO and the EU Council but countries that are members of neither have come forward to show that this country is blessed to be part of a broader community of ideals.

And I believe there are many British people who have found it immensely reassuring to learn we may be leaving the EU in exactly a year but we will never be alone, and in part that commitment to Britain reflects Britain’s reciprocal commitment to our friends, whether through the work of our peerless intelligence agencies or our armed forces or our development budgets.

And that is what I mean by Global Britain, and so I repeat the prime minister’s unconditional and immoveable commitment: that we will stand by you as you have stood by us.

We will continue to work with you – bringing as we do 20% of EU defence spending, 25% of the aid budget, 55% of the tonnage of the supply and replenishment vessels needed to keep warships at sea, 100% of the heavy lift capacity.

We are with you in Estonia, we are with you in training the armed forces in Ukraine, we are there in Nigeria and in the Middle East, where the fight against Daesh goes on and where the UK has delivered the second biggest number of air strikes after the US.

We are with you in the Sahel – or we will be with you shortly – and HMS Sutherland is now in the Pacific, exercising alongside our Australian friends, and the UK has forces deployed in more countries than any other European power.

And I have last week announced that we are expanding our FCO network, with another 250 British diplomats overseas and another ten UK embassies or high commissions in another ten sovereign posts – with the Commonwealth as a priority especially as we will be hosting its summit next month – so that Britain will have more diplomatic missions than any other European country – exceeding the French by one, news that I am told was received with rapture in the Quai d’Orsay, since there is no more compelling case for more funding than news of expansion in King Charles Street.

We believe in that expansion – and we will go further, especially in Africa, because we believe that a Global Britain is fundamentally in the interests of the British people because it is by being open to the world, and engaging with every country, that the British people will find the markets for their goods and services and ideas as we have done for centuries in that great free trade revolution that made this city the capital of the world and built the Mansion House in which we meet tonight.

When we leave the EU next year, we will re-establish ourselves as an independent member of the WTO and we will be the world’s leading proselytiser for free trade.

And it is symmetrically by being welcoming to talent from abroad – as we must and will be – that we have brought to our shores for generations people who want to live their lives without fear of judgment or persecution, to do as they choose provided they do no harm to others, and it is that ethos of generosity that has made this city not just the most diverse in the world but also the most productive region of Europe.

And today the UK is the biggest destination for FDI after the US, our unemployment is at the lowest for 43 years (I seem to remember some people predicting that it would rise by 500,000), we have the biggest tech sector, the best universities.

And Cambridge University alone has won more Nobel prizes than every university in Russia and China added together and multiplied by 2.

We have the most vibrant and dynamic cultural scene, with one venue – the British Museum – attracting more visitors than ten whole European countries that it would not be tactful to name tonight.

And out of this great minestrone, this bouillabaisse, this ratatouille, this seething and syncretic cauldron of culture, we export not just goods – though we certainly do – but ideas and attitudes and even patterns of behaviour.

I am delighted to say that in both the Czech Republic and in Iceland they mark Jan 7 with silly walks day in honour of Monty Python.

There are now 9 countries that have their own version of David Brent, and it is an astonishing fact that both of the two highest grossing movies in the world last year was either shot or produced in this country:

Beauty and the Beast and Star Wars.

And what is the principal utensil of violence in Star Wars?

And where was the light sabre invented?

In which part of London? In Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

And that tells you all you need to know about the difference between modern Britain and the government of Vladimir Putin.

They make Novichok, we make light sabres.

One a hideous weapon that is specifically intended for assassination.

The other an implausible theatrical prop with a mysterious buzz.

But which of those two weapons is really more effective in the world of today?

Which has done more for our respective economies?

Which has delighted the imaginations of three generations of children and earned billions?

Which one is loved and which one is loathed?

I tell you that the arsenals of this country and of our friends are not stocked with poison but with something vastly more powerful: the power of imagination and creativity and innovation that comes with living in a free society, of a kind you see all around you today.

And it is that power that will prevail and it is in that spirit of absolute confidence and security that it is our job now not just to beware the Russian state, but to reach out, in spite of all our present difficulties, to extend the hand of friendship to the Russian people.

Because it cannot be said too often that the paranoid imaginings of their rulers have no basis in fact, they are not ringed by foes but by countries who see themselves as admirers and friends, who have taken this action this week because they want nothing so much as to have an end to this pattern of disruptive behaviour, and who want to live in peace and mutual respect and who hope one day that it will be possible to see ever greater commercial and cultural co-operation between us and the Russian people.

And I believe that day can and will come.

I hope it does.

And if and when it does I believe it will be thanks to the resolution of all the countries that acted in their different ways this week.

We will have to keep that resolve because there is no doubt that we will be tested again and I can assure you that in that test the resolve of the British government and people will be unflinching.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Article on Vladimir Putin

Below is the text of the article written by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 20 March 2018.

To understand why 3 people lie stricken in Salisbury, look at Vladimir Putin’s actions inside Russia.

Yesterday he was proclaimed the winner of an election that resembled a coronation, complete with a triumphant ceremony outside the walls of the Kremlin. Mr Putin’s leading opponent had obviously been banned from standing and an abundance of CCTV footage appeared to show election officials nonchalantly stuffing ballot boxes.

One loyal functionary in Siberia used balloons in Russia’s national colours for the novel function of covering up a prying camera. “A choice without a real competition, as we have seen in this election, unfortunately is not a real choice,” was the verdict of the observer mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

As he extends his grip on power, Mr Putin is taking his country in a dangerous direction. Throughout his rule he has eroded the liberties of the Russian people, tightened the screws of state repression and hunted down supposed foes.

When a leader starts behaving in this way then no-one should be surprised if many of his compatriots feel drawn to the example of countries that observe a different scale of values. They will notice that plenty of nations hold elections where no-one knows the result in advance. They will see how free societies in Europe, America and elsewhere thrive and prosper precisely because people are able to live as they choose, provided they do no harm.

They will understand how an independent media exposes the failings or evasions of democratic governments. And they will wonder why Russia cannot have the same? Mr Putin cannot give the straight answer, which is that he must deny Russia those freedoms in order to guarantee his perpetual rule. Instead, he has to send an emphatic message that asking awkward questions or turning against him carries a terrible price. Which brings us back to Salisbury. The use of a Russian military grade ‘Novichok’ nerve agent against Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, was very deliberate.

As Ken Clarke pointed out in Parliament last week, the obvious Russian-ness of the weapon was designed to send a signal to anyone pondering dissent amid the intensifying repression of Mr Putin’s Russia. The message is clear: we will hunt you down, we will find you and we will kill you – and though we will scornfully deny our guilt, the world will know that Russia did it.

There was a hint of this in Mr Putin’s first public response to Salisbury. He denied Russia’s culpability – of course – while carefully injecting a note of menace. “If it was military grade agent,” he said, “they would have died on the spot, obviously.”

Obviously. After all, he had already told state television that traitors would “kick the bucket” and “choke” on their “pieces of silver”. Yet the Kremlin, accustomed to a tame official media, is clearly struggling to get its story straight.

Since the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey were struck down on March 4, Russian officials and the state media have claimed variously that ‘Novichok’ never existed, or the stockpiles were destroyed, or they weren’t destroyed but mysteriously escaped to other countries.

Alexander Shulgin, the Russian Ambassador to The Hague, told Sky News: “I’ve never heard about this programme, about this Novichok agent. Never.” But his memory suddenly improved when he appeared on Russia Today and said that Novichok had been developed by the Soviet Union. “There never was such a programme under such a codename in the Russian Federation,” he said. “However, in Soviet times research began to produce a new generation of poisonous substances.”

This seemed to wrongfoot the Russian foreign ministry, whose spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, declared on the same day that neither Russia nor the Soviet Union had created Novichok. “This programme is not the creation of Russia or the Soviet Union,” she said, before disgracefully pointing the finger at Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, America – and inevitably the UK.

Meanwhile, other Russian officials have sought to conjure doubt and suspicion out of thin air. Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian Ambassador in London, questioned the absence of photographs of the Skripals in their hospital beds.

His counterpart in Brussels, Vladimir Chizhov, accused Britain of breaking “consular conventions” because Russian officials had not been able to visit the Skripals.

The response to the 2 envoys is so obvious that I can scarcely believe they require instruction. Sergei and Yulia Skripal have been in a coma since 4 March – as you would expect from victims of a nerve agent attack. They cannot give their consent to be photographed or receive visitors. Under the NHS Code of Practice, hospitals must have their patients’ permission before allowing this to happen.

And I will make the point as delicately as possible: it is not obvious that the Skripals, of all patients, would welcome a visit from Russian officials. The Russian state is resorting to its usual strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation.

But when I met my European counterparts in Brussels yesterday, what struck me most is that no-one is fooled. Just about every country represented around the table had been affected by malign or disruptive Russian behaviour. Most had endured the kind of mendacious propaganda onslaught that the UK is experiencing today.

This is how Mr Putin behaves at home; we should not expect anything different abroad.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Comments on the Salisbury Attack

Below is the text of the comments made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 19 March 2018.

Good morning. I have been very heartened already by the strength of the support that the UK is getting in respect of the incident in Salisbury and I think that is partly because they can see that Britain is acting [with] punctilious accordance with our obligations under the Treaty on Chemical Weapons and I would contrast that with how the Russians are behaving.

Today the technical experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are arriving in the UK to take the samples from Salisbury and in the meantime the Russian denials grow increasingly absurd. At one time they say that they never made Novichok, at another time they say that they did make Novichok but all the stocks have been destroyed. Then again they say that they made Novichok but all the stocks have been destroyed but some of them have mysteriously escaped to Sweden or at the Czech Republic or Slovakia or the United States – or even – America, or the United Kingdom.

I think what people can see is that this is a classic Russian strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation. And what really strikes me talking to European friends and partners today is that 12 years after the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London they are not fooling anybody anymore. There is scarcely a country around the table – here in Brussels – that has not been affected by some kind of malign or disruptive Russian behaviour and that is why I think the strength and the resolve of our European friends is so striking today. Thank you very much.

Boris Johnson – Statement on Salisbury Attack

Below is the text of the statement made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 13 March 2018.

The first thing is to get over to our friends and partners exactly what has happened, and that’s what we’ve been doing today. As the Prime Minister explained yesterday, this is a brazen attempt to murder people – innocent people – on UK soil. The policeman is still in hospital.

It’s overwhelmingly likely, or highly likely that the Russian state was involved. And the use of this nerve agent would represent the first use of nerve agents on the continent of Europe since the Second World War.

Clearly what we’re doing today is giving Russia until midnight tonight to explain how it came to be that Novichok was used on the streets of Wiltshire. If they can come up with a convincing explanation then obviously we will want to see full disclosure of that to the Organisations for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

If not, then clearly we will want to be announcing the UK response, and that would come tomorrow. In the meantime, what we’ve been doing is talking to friends and partners, explaining what we see as the high likelihood of Russian State agency.

I’ve been very encouraged so far by the strength of the support that we are getting. I think in particular from President Macron of France, Sigmar Gabriel, my German counterpart, and from Washington, where Rex Tillerson last night made it very clear that he sees this as part of a pack of increasingly disruptive behaviour by Russia – the reckless use of chemical weapons that stretches from Syria to the streets of Salisbury. I’ve been encouraged by the willingness of our friends to show support and solidarity.

It’s important that we wait until the deadline has passed. You’ve got to do this correctly. We’ve given the Russians until midnight to explain how the Novichok could have come to be on the streets of Britain. We cannot exclude that they have an explanation and we will want a full disclosure to the chemical weapons watchdog in the Hague. If not, there is a package of measures that we would use.

It is very important that people understand the gravity of what has happened and the outrage that the British government feels about the use of nerve agents, use of chemical weapons, against innocent members of the public, against an innocent police officer, on UK soil. We will make sure that our response is, as I told the House last week, commensurate but robust.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Statement on Syria

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 26 February 2018.

Mr Speaker, I’m grateful to the Hon Member for Barrow and Furness for raising this vital issue. In 7 years of bloodshed, the war in Syria has claimed 400,000 lives and driven 11 million people from their homes, causing a humanitarian tragedy on a scale unknown anywhere else in the world.

The House should never forget that the Asad regime – aided and abetted by Russia and Iran – has inflicted the overwhelming burden of that suffering. Asad’s forces are now bombarding the enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where 393,000 people are living under siege, enduring what has become a signature tactic of the regime, whereby civilians are starved and pounded into submission.

With bitter irony, Russia and Iran declared Eastern Ghouta to be a ‘de-escalation area’ in May last year and promised to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.

But the truth is that Asad’s regime has allowed only one United Nations convoy to enter Eastern Ghouta so far this year – and that carried supplies only for a fraction of the area’s people. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Eastern Ghouta in the last week alone and the House will have noted the disturbing reports of the use of chlorine gas.

I call for these reports to be fully investigated and for anyone held responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria to be held accountable.

Over the weekend I discussed the situation with my Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Sa’ad Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon. Earlier today, I spoke to Sigmar Gabriel, the German foreign minister, and I shall be speaking to other European counterparts and the UN Secretary General in the coming days.

Britain has joined with our allies to mobilise the Security Council to demand a ceasefire across the whole of Syria and the immediate delivery of emergency aid to all in need.

Last Saturday, after days of prevarication from Russia, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2401, demanding that “all parties cease hostilities without delay” and allow the “safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid”, along with “medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded”.

The main armed groups in Eastern Ghouta have accepted the ceasefire, but as of today, the warplanes of the Asad regime are still reported to be striking targets in the enclave and the UN has been unable to deliver any aid. I will remind the House that hundreds of thousands of civilians are going hungry in Eastern Ghouta only a few miles from UN warehouses in Damascus that are laden with food. The Asad regime must allow the UN to deliver those supplies, in compliance with Resolution 2401, and we look forward to Russia and Iran to making sure this happens, in accordance with their own promises.

I have invited the Russian Ambassador to come to the Foreign Office and give an account of his country’s plans to implement Resolution 2401. I have instructed the UK Mission at the UN to convene another meeting of the Security Council to discuss the Asad regime’s refusal to respect the will of the UN and implement the ceasefire without delay. Only a political settlement in Syria can ensure that the carnage is brought to an end and I believe that such a settlement is possible if the will exists.

The UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is ready to take forward the talks in Geneva and the opposition are ready to negotiate pragmatically and without preconditions. The international community has united behind the path to a solution laid out in UN Resolution 2254 and Russia has stated its wish to achieve a political solution under the auspices of the UN.

Today, only the Asad regime stands in the way of progress. I urge Russia to use all its influence to bring the Asad regime to the negotiating table and take the steps towards peace that Syria’s people so desperately need.