LONDON — It’s shortly after midday and Playbook is in the pub with Boris Johnson, just as news breaks that Kim Darroch has resigned. To his credit the man who, barring a miracle, will shortly be confirmed as Britain’s next prime minister still has a pint at the ready. He waggles a finger at one of his aides to get me a drink. “I’m not having a pint if Blanchard’s not having one,” Johnson says good-naturedly.
The pub is the Metropolitan Bar by Baker Street station, and Boris is here as part of his campaign tour to meet Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin — a fellow veteran of the Vote Leave campaign. When did Johnson last have a pint at lunchtime, I wonder? “More recently than you’d think,” he chortles into his glass. “Don’t put that in.” He drinks half and leaves the rest.
Booze meets news: The interview was meant to be focused on beer and Brexit. But just as we’re sitting down, the dramatic news breaks that Kim Darroch has resigned as British ambassador to Washington. Johnson gives a hurried statement to the BBC team recording the visit, praising Darroch’s record and condemning the leaker who brought him down. It’s a fresh crisis for his campaign team, and as the afternoon pans out he will be blamed by his opponents for failing to back Darroch to the hilt in the previous night’s TV debate. But Boris is unfazed, and in no mood to back down. He defends his approach to the crisis when we discuss it at length, and even voices support for Donald Trump’s aggressive tweets.