British Conservative Party leadership hopeful Boris Johnson came under scrutiny on Sunday for his relationship with Steve Bannon, the controversial former adviser to US President Donald Trump.
Footage published by the Observer showed Bannon claiming that he had helped craft the ex-foreign secretary and former London mayor’s resignation speech as foreign minister last year.
The previously unpublished footage was shot in July 2018 by Jewish-American filmmaker Alison Klayman, who followed Bannon for a new documentary called “The Brink.”
In one clip Bannon says: “Today we are going to see if Boris Johnson tries to overthrow the British government. He’s going to give a speech in the Commons.”
He then adds: “I’ve been talking to him all weekend about this speech. We went back and forth over the text.”
Asked by Klayman if they had spoken over the phone, Bannon says he gave recommendations for the speech over the phone and via text message.
“Talked to him initially over the phone then it’s just easier to go back and forth on text. It’s just easier. I’ve been telling him one of my recommendations is that he gave one of the most important political speeches of 2016,” Bannon said. “Was his closing speech, a three-to-five-minute speech in June 2016, his closing argument on national TV for the Leave campaign… And it was magnificent.
“And all I was telling him all weekend was just to incorporate those themes. Those same themes. Basically, he was saying that June 23 [the date of the Brexit referendum in 2016] was independence day for Great Britain. Their independence day being like our July 4.”
A spokesperson for Johnson told the Observer that “any suggestion that Boris is colluding with or taking advice from Mr Bannon or [Brexit Party leader] Nigel Farage is totally preposterous to the point of conspiracy.”
Klayman said Bannon and Farage met on several occasions during his visit.
Johnson and Bannon got to know each other when both were in office, and were reported to have met again in an unofficial capacity last summer. Bannon said at the time that he thought Johnson would make “a great prime minister.”
Johnson said at the time that “the so-called relationship” with Bannon was a “lefty delusion.”
Bannon, Trump’s former strategist who has said being called racist is a “badge of honor,” has said he hopes to build a right-wing populist revolt across Europe.
He has been previously accused of being an anti-Semite, as his ex-wife alleged in 2007 divorce papers that he did not want his daughters going to school with Jews because “he said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats.’”
Johnson on Saturday faced off with Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary and other finalist in the race to become prime minister, at a Conservative conference in central England’s Birmingham.
Opening his address with a focus on delivering Britain’s stalled exit from the European Union, Johnson told the audience, “We need to get Brexit done” and be prepared to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal in place.
Johnson has won backing from the Conservative Party’s diehard Brexiteers by insisting the UK leave the bloc on the rescheduled date of October 31, with or without a divorce agreement with the EU to smooth the way.
Hunt pitched himself as the better negotiator, warning that “catastrophe awaits” if the wrong leader is sent to Brussels for talks with EU leaders.
Johnson said the public could judge his character and ambition by his track record as London mayor and his plans for the country.
Johnson and Hunt are the final two from a field of 10 contenders that was winnowed down in a series of votes by party lawmakers. About 160,000 party members across Britain will decide who wins in a by-mail vote.
The winner of the runoff, due to be announced the week of July 22, will become the new Conservative leader and replace Theresa May as Britain’s next prime minister.