Boris Johnson sacked from Tory frontbench


Former shadow minister for the arts Boris Johnson with Conservative Party leader Michael Howard.

Tory MP Boris Johnson was contemplating backbench life again today after being sacked as shadow arts minister amid fresh details of an alleged affair with a columnist.

The married editor of the Spectator magazine last week dismissed newspaper reports of the relationship as "piffle". And anonymous friends said the columnist felt let down by Mr Johnson and "devastated" by how way he treated her.

Tory leader Mr Michael Howard "relieved" him of his frontbench and vice-chairman positions on   learning the news. Mr Johnson, who has four children with wife of 11 years Marina Wheeler, said he intended to stay on as MP for Henley.

Rumours of an affair with the glamorous columnist had circulated for some time, but only appeared in print last week. Then Mr Johnson dismissed them as "an inverted pyramid of piffle". However the ccolumnist's mother confirmed the liaison to the News of the Worldtoday.

The Tory leader decided he had to act not in judgement over Mr Johnson's personal life but because he had misled the media.

"Michael Howard has relieved Boris Johnson of his responsibilities as shadow minister for the arts and vice-chairman of the Conservative Party," a spokesman said.  Mr Johnson told The Mail on Sundaytoday: "I am very sorry this decision has been taken in response to tabloid stories about my private life. 

"I am very much looking forward to continuing to promote the policies we have developed on the arts and will do my utmost to serve my constituents in Henley."

Mr Johnson told PA he had nothing to add to his statement to The Mail on Sunday.  "What can I say ? God. It's been a bad evening," he said.   His sacking is the culmination of a torrid few weeks for the one-time golden boy of the Tory Party.

His wit and charm coupled with a mean intelligence carefully hidden beneath a bumbling facade had seen him spoken of as a possible future leader.  Appearances on TV quiz Have I got News For Youmade him one of his party's most famous faces. 

However, he provoked fury last month when an unsigned Spectatorarticle accused Liverpudlians of "wallowing" in grief following the death of Iraq hostage Ken Bigley. 

 Mr Howard ordered him to travel to the city to apologise in person but a botched visit helped add weight to suggestions that he should quit the magazine or the front bench.