Boris Johnson takes his cue from Harry Potter… and George Galloway

Written by David Singleton on 12 January 2018 in Diary

The foreign secretary called Sadiq Khan a 'puffed up popinjay'.

Boris Johnson has waded into the row over Donald Trump’s cancelled visit to London with a typically flamboyant dig at Sadiq Khan.

After the London mayor appeared to welcome the u-turn by the president by saying that Trump had “got the message” of Londoners, the foreign secretary - who once called Nick Clegg "a wobbling jelly of indecision and vacillation" - lashed out on Twitter:

“The US is the biggest single investor in the UK - yet Khan & Corbyn seem determined to put this crucial relationship at risk. We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed up pompous popinjay in City Hall."

As political journalists tried to establish why Johnson had “put a bomb” under Downing Street’s media strategy, one of their number also conducted an investigation into the foreign secretary’s source material.

Sky News political editor Faisal Islam then told his followers that “puffed up popinjay” was a direct quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

In the fifth novel of the series, the pure-blood wizard Phineas Nigellus deliver a message from Albus Dumbledore and then asks Harry: “Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay that there might not be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you?”

But Johnson is not the only politician to deploy popinjay as an attack line in recent years. In 2005, former MP George Galloway also made use of it when he clashed with the late Christopher Hitchens over the Iraq War.

Galloway later recalled: “I’m rather proud of the line that I instantly came out with. I described him as a bloated, drink-soaked, former Trotskyite popinjay.”

Share this page

Add new comment