Boris Johnson's Mandalay poem recital hogs headlines

LONDON • Yet another blunder by gaffe-prone Boris Johnson is tarnishing the British Foreign Secretary's latest challenge to his boss on the eve of the Conservative Party annual conference, according to Bloomberg yesterday.

It said a YouTube clip of Mr Johnson reciting a colonial-era poem while on a visit to Myanmar earlier this year surfaced yesterday and rapidly hogged British headlines.

The Foreign Secretary was cut off mid-sentence by British Ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Patrick when he began to recite the Rudyard Kipling poem during the January visit to Myanmar's holiest Buddhist site, the Shwedagon Pagoda.

"You're on mic. Probably not a good idea," he was told.

"What?" Mr Johnson replied. "The Road to Mandalay?"

"No," said the ambassador sternly. "Not appropriate."

"No?" replied Mr Johnson, looking down at his mobile phone. "Good stuff."

The poem by Rudyard Kipling is nostalgic about Britain's colonial past in Myanmar. It captures the nostalgia of a retired serviceman looking back on his colonial service.

The moment was captured by a Channel 4 film crew and will be aired in its entirety today as part of a one-hour documentary entitled "Boris Johnson: Blond Ambition" with a tag line asking: "Will he ever be prime minister?" The documentary captures multiple awkward moments in Mr Johnson's career at the Foreign Office, according to The Guardian.

"I can think of a long list of reasons why Boris Johnson isn't fit to be prime minister. This can be added to that list," Ms Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on democracy in Myanmar, told The Guardian.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Boris Johnson's Mandalay poem recital hogs headlines'. Print Edition | Subscribe