Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BORIS: I DIDN'T TELL LIE; Tories Hit by New Attack on Howard

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BORIS: I DIDN'T TELL LIE; Tories Hit by New Attack on Howard

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

BORIS JOHNSON began a furious war of words with Michael Howard today after his sacking.

The MP flatly contradicted Mr Howard by insisting he never lied to the Tory leader about his affair with columnist Petronella Wyatt.

And his friends attacked his dismissal as arts spokesman as a surrender to tabloid intrusions into his private life.

The counterattack by the Spectator editor and star of Have I Got News For You brought an infuriated response from senior Conservatives close to the leadership this afternoon.

One insider suggested he was prolongingthe episode to harm Mr Howard and added: "Why doesn't he shut up and go away? It is not unusual for people to feel upset when they are sacked but he does not have a leg to stand on."

Today's recriminations began when Mr Johnson emerged from his Islington home, where he lives with Marina, his wife of 11 years, at 7.30am dressed in a pirate bandanna and jogging gear.

Asked if he lied to Mr Howard, he claimed: "No, I certainly didn't."

Friends of the twice-married Henley MP said he did not speak to Mr Howard until Saturday night and, therefore, could not have misled him. The implication was that Mr Howard was himself responsible for an untruth.

Mr Johnson, 40, showed every sign of being ready to tough out the row in public. He cycled to Parliament this afternoon with a black woolly hat covering his trademark blond mop and was seen chatting to William Hague.

The extraordinary sniping left Conservative MPs aghast, with some questioning Mr Howard's handling of the affair. Others blamed Mr Johnson for refusing to take his dismissal with good grace.

Father-of-four Mr Johnson was fired from the front bench by telephone on Saturday night when his affair with Ms Wyatt, 35, was confirmed by her mother. Lady Wyatt also disclosed that her daughter had an abortion after Mr Johnson rekindled their affair.

The explanation from the Howard camp was that he was fired for lying about the affair rather than the affair itself. …

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