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Boris Johnson or Gordon Gekko: Whose line is it, anyway?

Boris Johnson greed
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the Oliver Stone film Wall Street.

Boris Johnson has never been one to shy away from a rhetorical flourish or colourful metaphor but his latest quip on Britain’s successful vaccine roll-out being down to “greed” will leave the prime minister blushing for months to come.

Mr Johnson is said to have made the Gordon Gekko-esque remarks at a private meeting of Tory MPs last night.

“The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends,” he is alleged to have said on a Zoom meeting.

Realising how incendiary the remarks would be, the prime minister quickly tried to row back, saying: “Actually, I regret saying it” and asked MPs repeatedly to “forget I said that”.

The remark risks inflaming a row with the European Commission over access to vaccines, with the organisation’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, threatening a ban on exports of jabs to the UK because it is angry that AstraZeneca has not supplied the doses expected for the bloc.

Boris Johnson greed
Boris Johnson.

The gaffe won’t be the last this prime minister makes, nor will it be the last made by a politician. Below, we take a look at some of the most memorable howlers our elected parliamentarians have made.

Gordon Brown, 2010

Boris Johnson greed
Gordon Brown speaks to local resident Gillian Duffy.

No list would be complete without Bigot-gate. Gordon Brown was on the Labour campaign trail in Rochdale when he was introduced to 65-year-old Gillian Duffy.

Ms Duffy, a Labour supporter, raised concerns about immigration and asked Mr Brown where people were “flocking from”.

Mr Brown smiled, complimented her and her family and got in the car.

Unfortunately, he was still wearing the microphone pinned to him by a Sky News crew. And it was still transmitting.

“That was a disaster. They should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous. She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour.”

He later apologised but the damage was done.

Neil Kinnock, 1983

Labour leader Neil Kinnock and his wife Glenys.

Offering reporters a pictorial ‘scoop’, the Labour leader announced at the 1983 party conference that ‘I’ll walk out there on the water’.

He and his wife, Glenys, went for a stroll along the beach in Brighton, what could go wrong?

The tide lashed up the beach and Mr Kinnock fell backwards, the pair utterly soaked.

Emily Thornberry, 2014

Emily Thornberry.

One tweeted picture saw Emily Thornberry go from the shadow cabinet to the butt of a twitterstorm, jokes and resignation.

What was the tweet? Ms Thornberry had been out campaigning in Rochester and snapped a picture of a house adorned with England flags. Her caption simply read: “Image from Rochester”.

The comment was quickly taken as snobbery from an Islington MP and the Tories took full advantage.

Then-prime minister David Cameron said the Labour MP’s actions were “completely appalling” and suggested she was “sneering at people who work hard, are patriotic and love their country”.

Jeremy Corbyn, 2019

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour were widely mocked after a senior aide said Jeremy Corbyn “loves to go on the train” to Orkney.

Mr Corbyn’s chief of staff, Karie Murphy, made the comment while telling party staffers at a meeting that Labour was ready to fight a general election.

Ms Murphy is reported to have said: “In essence, there’s nowhere we won’t go. Anybody who knows Jeremy knows that he loves to go on trains to obscure places in the middle of nowhere whether it’s the South West or whether it’s Orkney.”

John Nicolson, 2019

John Nicolson MP.

John Nicolson was branded a “laughing stock” after telling Alloa voters to vote for him “here in East Dunbartonshire”.

Mr Nicolson, who used to be East Dunbartonshire MP until he lost his seat in 2017, confused Ochil and South Perthshire with his old constituency during a hustings at Alloa Town Hall.

The SNP MP’s gaffe was meet with jeers and laughter at the event.

Mr Nicolson told the audience: “Please trust me with your vote on December 12. As you know, only the Scottish National Party can beat the Tories here in East Dunbartonshire.”