Jennifer Arcuri has been coy about defining her relationship with Johnson when he was London’s mayor and married to his second wife. Pressed repeatedly about it Monday on “Good Morning Britain,” Arcuri said she would not “be pressured into admitting” anything.
But British authorities are looking into accusations that she received undue advantages because of her association with Johnson, including grants and contracts and participation in three trade missions abroad as part of Johnson’s entourage.
Johnson has denied any misconduct, saying that everything was done “with full propriety,” and that there was “no interest to declare” regarding his connection to Arcuri, 34.
Whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation won’t be announced until after Britain’s Dec. 12 election. And whether Arcuri’s accusations of bad behavior can hurt Johnson and his Conservative Party at the polls is unclear.
In a sense, voters already know that Johnson is prone to scandal. He has twice been fired from jobs for lying and fabrications. His relationships have been tabloid fodder for years. His Wikipedia entry records that he has “5 or 6” children. Johnson has publicly acknowledged four.
Johnson, 55, is separated from his wife and living with his partner, Carrie Symonds, 31, at the prime minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street. This arrangement, a first in British history, is barely commented on in the news media.
In September, a London Sunday Times columnist accused Johnson of groping her leg “high up” under the table during a boozy luncheon at the conservative Spectator magazine in 1999. (“Untrue,” said 10 Downing Street.)
He remains Britain’s most popular politician.
And so, as with President Trump, new revelations about Johnson’s behavior may not alter voters’ calculations on whether to support him.
Jonathan Tonge, a politics professor at the University of Liverpool, said the fact that Johnson has had a colorful personal life is “priced in” for many voters. “They just think, ‘Yeah, that’s Johnson for you,’ and shrug their shoulders.”
Tonge noted that previous revelations didn’t stop Johnson from being elected London mayor twice or winning the leadership of the Conservative Party.
“In terms of moral principles and strong personal conviction, Jeremy Corbyn would leave him standing. No matter what you think of Corbyn, he’s a man of principle,” Tonge said, speaking of the opposition Labour Party leader.
Arcuri — whom the British tabloids insist on calling a “pole-dancing former model” — is testing whether British voters will continue to shrug.
On Friday, Arcuri, in oversize sunglasses and a dramatic cape, posed for paparazzi outside the gates of the prime minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street.
On Sunday night, she appeared in an ITV news documentary. Directing her comments to Johnson, she said, “I’ve been nothing but loyal, faithful, supportive and a true confidante of yours. I’ve kept your secrets, and I’ve been your friend.”
She continued: “And I don’t understand why you’ve blocked me and ignored me as if I was some fleeting one-night stand or some girl that you picked up at a bar, because I wasn’t — and you know that.
“And I’m terribly heartbroken by the way that you have cast me aside like I am some gremlin.”
She told broadcasters that when she called Johnson’s cellphone in August, he passed the phone off to someone who started jabbering English in a Chinese accent to “mock” her. Last week, she said, she called again, and he hung up on her. She claimed to have texted Johnson afterward, asking: “Is this the price of loyalty, to be hung up on, ignored and blocked? Why would I remain silent if you can’t even speak to me, and I’ve been nothing but loyal to you?”
Arcuri moved to London in 2011 for a one-year MBA program and stayed on to organize gatherings of tech entrepreneurs through a company she founded called Innotech. Johnson helped promote the company, speaking at Innotech events.
The company received thousands of pounds of public money from the mayor’s promotional agency, according to the Sunday Times.
Arcuri was also invited to join Johnson on three foreign trade missions, to Singapore and Malaysia, New York and Tel Aviv, despite not being eligible to take part in them, the paper said. On two of the trips, the mayor’s office intervened to ensure that she could go, the paper said.
Arcuri told the BBC on Monday that Johnson’s recent behavior has been in stark contrast to the attention he once showed her.
“He didn’t have to ignore me,” she said. “It could have been a 30-second phone call, just to let me know that he’s acknowledging the fact that he, while he gets to be prime minister, gets to feed me to the wolves — and I find that really disturbing.”