If any other British prime minister had been exposed to even a fraction of the toxic radiation that Boris Johnson has splashed around in lately, it would call for resignation on the spot. Suggesting that the best way to honor the memory of a murdered pro-remain colleague would be to “get Brexit done”? Resign. Found unanimously guilty by the highest court in the land of misleading the Queen in order to unlawfully suspend Parliament for their own political ends? Resign, then apologize, then resign again, re-train as a dental hygienist, and spend the remaining years under an assumed identity.
But all of the above happened to Boris Johnson within the space of three days, and yet he’s still somehow clinging to his position like grim death. But he isn’t quite out of the woods. For buried deep beneath the more immediate matter of the total obliteration of the British constitution is something that might not only bring Boris Johnson down but also land him in prison. And her name is Jennifer Arcuri.
A blonde, pole-dancing 34-year-old American model who once appeared in a raunchy Bollywood film entitled Naughty @ 40, Arcuri reportedly described Johnson as “one of her best friends.” Indeed, he is known to have visited her Shoreditch apartment—grimy, noisy, and containing a stripper pole, according to one report—on several occasions during his stint as London mayor. The given reason: “technology lessons”—which should now rank up there with “discussing Ugandan affairs” as among willfully obscure euphemisms for human intimacy. She kept his number in her phone under the name “Alex the Great.” She defended him from attacks on Twitter. Her own Flickr account contains a photograph of her sliding a small, iced Johnson figurine into her mouth.
Jennifer Arcuri has a photograph of her sliding a small, iced Johnson figurine into her mouth.
On the surface, tawdry as it is, the story in itself isn’t all that unusual. After all, Johnson has almost constantly been linked to other women throughout his career, whether he’s been in or out of wedlock, and his personal life is so nebulous and impenetrable that nobody seems able to confidently pin an exact number on the amount of children he’s fathered. It might be four, or five, or six, or maybe even more. I might be one of Boris Johnson’s kids, for all I know. You might be. There’s simply no way to tell.
While there has been no confirmation of a sexual relationship between Johnson and Arcuri, the press nevertheless embarked on such an elaborate campaign of nudge-nudge-wink-wink tightrope walking that it’s a wonder it didn’t dislocate anything. However, even though Jennifer Arcuri’s mother reportedly told her friends that “he didn’t screw her,” subsequent reports have suggested that Arcuri told her friends that she was in a sexual relationship with Johnson.
The thing is, though, it isn’t really that important. The relationship between Boris Johnson and Jennifer Arcuri might have been purely platonic. He might have just been taking private pole-dancing lessons in her apartment for all anyone cares. Because having a pretty blonde friend is one thing. But having a pretty blonde friend who may also qualify as an undeclared conflict of interest is quite another.
Nobody is able to pin an exact number on the amount of children Johnson has fathered. It might be four, or five, or six, or maybe more.
It has been revealed that, during his time as mayor, Arcuri’s fledgling company Innotech held a number of promotional events that Johnson attended. In 2013, the company was awarded $12,300 in sponsorship from an organization that Johnson was responsible for as mayor; in the same year he planned to set up a $123 million investment fund with her. A year later, she received an $18,000 government grant. She accompanied Johnson on several overseas trade missions, to Singapore, New York, and Tel Aviv, despite not meeting the criteria for eligibility. Earlier this year, her latest company won a grant of $123,000 from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport intended for English-based businesses, despite the fact that she relocated to America last year. The grant has since been frozen. Most damningly of all, it has been revealed that Arcuri was granted a coveted entrepreneur visa to enter the U.K. by an official who worked for Johnson when he was mayor.
And it isn’t exactly like Arcuri is an entrepreneurial wizard, either. Her two companies—Innotech and Hacker House—reportedly have combined net liabilities of more than $1.2 million, plus she is currently being sued by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority for an unpaid $100,000 student loan. Just to add to Johnson’s headache, Hacker House, in 2016, admitted that it employed Lauri Love, a hacker currently wanted by the U.S. government.
Despite his best efforts to distance himself from the mess in the most Boris way possible—by simply pretending that it doesn’t exist—the controversy doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon. The London Assembly, an elected body set up to scrutinize the activities of the mayor of London, is appalled at this possible misuse of public funds, and has given Johnson two weeks to provide a timeline of his “social, personal and professional” relationship with Arcuri. There is some speculation that he will simply refuse to cooperate with the request, on the basis that he isn’t actually the mayor anymore.
However, Tom Copley, a member of the assembly’s oversight committee, has disputed this. “We have powers of summons over former mayors of London for up to eight years,” he said. “We can issue a notice that he must appear before us to answer questions. Failure to do so is actually a criminal offense.” There is a chance that a refusal to appear could result in Johnson receiving a three-month prison term, the likelihood of which has infinitesimally increased since he was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct for investigation.
This week, she told the Daily Mail, “All allegations are false.” Then she reportedly told the Daily Mirror, “Men just trip over themselves in front of me. They fall in love with me in about ten minutes … because I know what to say. I make men trip over their dicks.”
Women, however, seem intent on tripping up Johnson and have become his main source of strife at the moment. His most vocal opposition in the House of Commons has come from female M.P.’s, such as Jess Phillips and Paula Sherriff. His biggest adversary in the courts was the 74-year-old spider-brooch-bearing Lady Hale. Then there is his sister, Rachel, who has been diligently trashing him in public. (And on the subject of family-trashing, don’t forget their brother Jo, who resigned as an M.P. before Boris had unpacked at 10 Downing Street.)
Short of burning all the master tapes of Fleabag, it’s hard to imagine how Boris Johnson could annoy women more.
Women have become Johnson’s main source of strife at the moment.
Had any other prime minister in any other year been caught up in even a hint of this scandal, we could have reasonably expected a resignation. But this is Boris Johnson, a man of little moral substance, and this is 2019, when a conflict-of-interest investigation involving the most powerful person in the country isn’t even close to being the biggest national emergency. But still, it’s there, grinding away in the background as the country burns. It may still come for him yet.
Boris Johnson has long been a fan of the so-called dead-cat strategy when it comes to politics, choosing to react to a potentially damaging issue with a distraction so shocking and dramatic that he may as well have flung a feline corpse onto the table. But in the Arcuri case, as with so many other avenues of his premiership, he’s running out of options. He hasn’t resigned yet, but he sure as hell doesn’t have many cats left.
Theresa May must be dancing—badly—for joy.
Stuart Heritage is an Editor at Large for AIR MAIL living in Kent, U.K.