At virtually any other peacetime moment in our island story, juicy revelations about the prime minister and a showgirl, including what appear to be unusual financial arrangements, would be the talk of the town. 

You can imagine, I think, what might have happened had the allegations about Boris Johnson’s relationship with the former model and businesswoman Jennifer Acuri had, instead, been about Tony Blair during the full pomp of new Labour. Or the happily married David Cameron? Or, admittedly less likely, Gordon Brown, the sort of chap who has probably thinks a pole dancer is Donald Tusk on a night out. 

The fact – I believe it is so – that Arcuri had such a pole as a prominent fixture in her Shoreditch flat, which Johnson used to visit during his time as Mayor of London, puts the imagination into a bit of a spin – that she might have performed exotic dance routines for his personal pleasure. I rather think that a sexist assumption. Why might it not be the case that the Mayor of London himself wasn’t grinding and gyrating, Alan Partridge-style, clad in a leather posing pouch, Pringle sweater traffic cones for a bra? Heaven knows, he might even have deployed a “backstop” in his act.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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More to the point, because what a grown man gets up to in his posing pouch is a matter between him and his conscience, is the money – taxpayers’ money, my money, your money. For what we have here, in fact, is some fairly serious allegations about some £126,000 of public money that Arcuri was granted during her association with Johnson. Arcuri has been quoted by the Sunday Times saying: “Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman”.

A few thoughts occur. From what else we know about Johnson’s adventurous private life, there might be more stories such as this scattered around his rich backstory as, variously, editor of magazine, where his biographers say he used to sometimes absent himself during the afternoons, just like he did at City Hall; as an MP; as foreign secretary and even, just conceivably, during what little down time he now has as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party and prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I am sure he still finds time for lunch engagements, say, or, as we saw with that unfortunate business down in Camberwell, evenings with a glass or two of red wine and convivial female company.

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UK news in pictures

Shape Created with Sketch.
UK news in pictures

1/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

2/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

3/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

4/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

5/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

6/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

7/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

8/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

9/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

11/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

12/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

13/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

14/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

15/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

16/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

17/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

18/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

19/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

20/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

21/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

22/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

23/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

25/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

26/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

27/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

28/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

29/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

30/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

31/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

32/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

33/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

34/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

35/50 20 August 2019

Police officers gather to pay their respects at the scene near Ufton Lane, where Thames Valley Police officer PC Andrew Harper, 28, died on Thursday. Jed Foster, 20, has appeared at Reading Magristrates’ Court where denied any involvement with the murder

36/50 19 August 2019

A fire that broke out at the site of Village Bakery on Coed Aben Road, Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales

37/50 18 August 2019

England fielders crowd Pat Cummins as he see’s out the final over during day five of the second Ashes Test match against Australia at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The test ended in a draw

38/50 17 August 2019

Glew (centre) and Monroe Adams (right) pose for a selfie with a member of the public outside DragWorld London 2019, Europe’s largest drag convention, featuring drag stars from the US and UK during a two-day event at Olympia, London

39/50 16 August 2019

A grey seal with fishing net tangled around its neck amongst the colony on the beach at Horsey in Norfolk, as RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years

40/50 15 August 2019

A flock of sheep are herded past government buildings in London by members of Farmers for a People’s Vote, a campaign group

41/50 14 August 2019

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a press conference at the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, southwest England, on August 14, 2019, ahead of her journey across the Atlantic to New York, aboard the Malizia II IMOCA class sailing yacht, where she will attend the UN Climate Action Summit next month. – A year after her school strike made her a figurehead for climate activists, Greta Thunberg believes her uncompromising message about global warming is getting through — even if action remains thin on the ground. The 16-year-old Swede, who sets sail for New York this week to take her message to the United States, has been a target for abuse but sees that as proof she is having an effect

42/50 12 August 2019

A hare runs on a moor near Ripon, North Yorkshire

43/50 11 August 2019

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick wins first-ever W Series title. She pocketed a prize of £410,000 and, having been signed as a development driver for Williams, she keeps up her hopes of making it into Formula One

44/50 10 August 2019

People gather on the beach as a raft carrying people dressed as clowns heads to shore during the annual Whitby Regatta in Whitby, England. At over 170 years old, the Whitby Regatta is thought to be the oldest sea regatta on the northeast coast of England and draws thousands of visitors each year

45/50 9 August 2019

Burryman Andrew Taylor, gets a nip of whisky using a straw, from resident Mary Hamblin, 82, as he parades through the town of South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, encased in burrs. The parade takes place on the second Friday of August each year and although the exact meaning of this tradition has been lost through the years it is thought to have begun in the 17th Century. The tradition is believed to bring good luck to the towns people if they give him whisky offered through a straw or a donation of money

46/50 8 August 2019

A mosque is seen amongst residential housing from the air during a mass take off at the annual Bristol hot air balloon festival in Bristol
An Asiatic lioness eats meat during feeding time ahead of World Lion Day at London Zoo

48/50 6 August 2019

Beer enthusiasts taste beer and ale during The Great British Beer Festival at Kensington Olympia in west London. The Great British Beer Festival, organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), brings hundreds of real ales, international beers and real ciders and perries under one roof

49/50 5 August 2019

Australia’s Nathan Lyon celebrates after taking the wicket of England’s Joe Root during day five of the first Ashes test at Edgbaston. The hosts were on the end of a thumping, as Australia won the first test by 251 runs

50/50 4 August 2019

Franky Zapata stands on his jet-powered “flyboard” prior to landing on St. Margaret’s Bay in Dover, during his attempt to fly across the 35-kilometre (22-mile) Channel crossing. The Frenchman achieved his aim today, on his second attempt, after having spent years developing the jet-powered hoverboard

1/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

2/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

3/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

4/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

5/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

6/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

7/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

8/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

9/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

11/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

12/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

13/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

14/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

15/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

16/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

17/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

18/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

19/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

20/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

21/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

22/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

23/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

25/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

26/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

27/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

28/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

29/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

30/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

31/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

32/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

33/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

34/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

35/50 20 August 2019

Police officers gather to pay their respects at the scene near Ufton Lane, where Thames Valley Police officer PC Andrew Harper, 28, died on Thursday. Jed Foster, 20, has appeared at Reading Magristrates’ Court where denied any involvement with the murder

36/50 19 August 2019

A fire that broke out at the site of Village Bakery on Coed Aben Road, Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales

37/50 18 August 2019

England fielders crowd Pat Cummins as he see’s out the final over during day five of the second Ashes Test match against Australia at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The test ended in a draw

38/50 17 August 2019

Glew (centre) and Monroe Adams (right) pose for a selfie with a member of the public outside DragWorld London 2019, Europe’s largest drag convention, featuring drag stars from the US and UK during a two-day event at Olympia, London

39/50 16 August 2019

A grey seal with fishing net tangled around its neck amongst the colony on the beach at Horsey in Norfolk, as RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years

40/50 15 August 2019

A flock of sheep are herded past government buildings in London by members of Farmers for a People’s Vote, a campaign group

41/50 14 August 2019

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a press conference at the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, southwest England, on August 14, 2019, ahead of her journey across the Atlantic to New York, aboard the Malizia II IMOCA class sailing yacht, where she will attend the UN Climate Action Summit next month. – A year after her school strike made her a figurehead for climate activists, Greta Thunberg believes her uncompromising message about global warming is getting through — even if action remains thin on the ground. The 16-year-old Swede, who sets sail for New York this week to take her message to the United States, has been a target for abuse but sees that as proof she is having an effect

42/50 12 August 2019

A hare runs on a moor near Ripon, North Yorkshire

43/50 11 August 2019

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick wins first-ever W Series title. She pocketed a prize of £410,000 and, having been signed as a development driver for Williams, she keeps up her hopes of making it into Formula One

44/50 10 August 2019

People gather on the beach as a raft carrying people dressed as clowns heads to shore during the annual Whitby Regatta in Whitby, England. At over 170 years old, the Whitby Regatta is thought to be the oldest sea regatta on the northeast coast of England and draws thousands of visitors each year

45/50 9 August 2019

Burryman Andrew Taylor, gets a nip of whisky using a straw, from resident Mary Hamblin, 82, as he parades through the town of South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, encased in burrs. The parade takes place on the second Friday of August each year and although the exact meaning of this tradition has been lost through the years it is thought to have begun in the 17th Century. The tradition is believed to bring good luck to the towns people if they give him whisky offered through a straw or a donation of money

46/50 8 August 2019

A mosque is seen amongst residential housing from the air during a mass take off at the annual Bristol hot air balloon festival in Bristol
An Asiatic lioness eats meat during feeding time ahead of World Lion Day at London Zoo

48/50 6 August 2019

Beer enthusiasts taste beer and ale during The Great British Beer Festival at Kensington Olympia in west London. The Great British Beer Festival, organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), brings hundreds of real ales, international beers and real ciders and perries under one roof

49/50 5 August 2019

Australia’s Nathan Lyon celebrates after taking the wicket of England’s Joe Root during day five of the first Ashes test at Edgbaston. The hosts were on the end of a thumping, as Australia won the first test by 251 runs

50/50 4 August 2019

Franky Zapata stands on his jet-powered “flyboard” prior to landing on St. Margaret’s Bay in Dover, during his attempt to fly across the 35-kilometre (22-mile) Channel crossing. The Frenchman achieved his aim today, on his second attempt, after having spent years developing the jet-powered hoverboard

It is, though, a scandal, and one that is the subject of two enquiries. I cannot say I expect much to emerge from the Department of Culture Media and Sport under the presidency of the intensely pragmatic Nicky Morgan. I am though, much more hopeful about the current mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has made the allegations the subject of an intensive study. Again from first principles, I would have thought that Johnson’s record as Mayor London from 2008-2016 (surely not so long ago that paperwork, emails and eye witness accounts can’t be found) are still available for the inquisitively-minded mayor Khan.

I suppose it depends on what mayor Johnson got up to and who knew and what records are extant. Some will be personal. Apparently Arcuri kept Mr Johnson’s text conversations with her (some extensive) filed under his (odd) codename “The Commodore” on her mobile phone. You don’t think he liked to dress up as a sailor, do you?

You shudder to envisage what those texts might contain, yet they could constitute relevant evidence in any future probing. Arcuri’s personal life and business affairs, with companies such as the satirically named Hacker House, would normally remain private, but not when questions are being asked by the public authorities about the use and application of public funds.

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Could, for example, this Facebook posting by Arcuri in 2013 refer to Johnson, describing how she was “celebrating a special night tonight with one of my favourite men of all time…Although he won’t ‘let’ me name him, I am pretty sure those few know how happy I am to celebrate with him. Yay!”

Yay indeed, but what else is there? Enough to warrant his resignation? Yay!

I thought that Jeremy Corbyn had a point when he told Andrew Marr off for not raising the issue of the prime minister and the pole dancer during his interview, or during Marr’s interview with the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab. Marr’s only defence, which is a substantial one, is that there are even weightier matters around that crowd into his  scarce time – imminent no deal, the disintegration of the Labour party, the climate change emergency summit in New York, the collapse of Thomas Cook…that sort of thing.  The secondary defence is that Raab would just have said he didn’t know anything about it.

Yet, as I say, just imagine if it was Blair or, comedic potential side, Corbyn who’d been caught up with Arcuri, or some left wing equivalent? The media would have wet themselves over it. Corbyn is right to query an “alleged abuse of power” and Johnson should quit if the claims are substantiated, notwithstanding Brexit. I’m sure Her Majesty would be pleased to receive his seals of office. One day we may know just how mucky a pup we now have as prime minister. We should be told sooner rather than later.