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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 18:15 GMT
Johnson given Tory frontbench job
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson was previously shadow arts minister
Boris Johnson has resigned as editor of the Spectator magazine to return to the Conservative front bench.

New Tory leader David Cameron has named the flamboyant MP as shadow higher education minister, forcing him to choose between politics and journalism.

Mr Johnson served as shadow arts minister under Michael Howard but was later sacked from the post.

The Old Etonian MP for Henley is well-known for his performances on the BBC's Have I Got News For You.

His appointment came as Mr Cameron continued his frontbench appointments.

John Hayes takes the new role of shadow minister for vocational education, Stephen O'Brien becomes shadow health minister and Owen Paterson shadow transport minister.

But it is Mr Johnson's appointment which will capture most attention.

Sacking

The MP's magazine job clashed with his political duties when he was last a frontbencher when an editorial in the magazine said Liverpool was "wallowing in victimhood" over the execution of Iraq hostage Ken Bigley.

He was despatched to the city to apologise for the article.

But soon afterwards he was sacked over his affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt.

We have had more fun than seems altogether proper
Boris Johnson about his time at the Spectator

Mr Howard felt Mr Johnson had misled him, although the MP denied lying to the leader's office.

Now the MP is focusing on his political career.

Welcoming his new job, Mr Johnson said: "This is a fantastic job and I am thrilled to be given the chance to do it. It is also a very hard job to do properly. It will mean a lot of time and thought.

"That is why I will be leaving the Spectator shortly after the Christmas edition has gone to press."

'Like a fat tourist'

Deputy editor Stuart Reid will take charge of the magazine until Mr Johnson's successor is chosen.

Mr Johnson paid tribute to the magazine's staff, saying that during his six-and-a-half years at the magazine "we have had more fun than seems altogether proper".

He added: "When Conrad Black gave me the editorship in the summer of 1999, he said he wanted the magazine to be more talked about. I believe we have discharged that obligation beyond his wildest dreams.

"We have won all sorts of prizes. We have broken all sorts of stories.

"This Christmas the circulation of the magazine stands at about 70,000, an all-time high."

Mr Johnson said that for most of his time in the job he had been propelled by the talents of his colleagues "as a fat German tourist may be transported by superior alpinists to the summit of Everest".

Andrew Neil, the magazine's publisher, said: "Boris has been a wonderful and magnificent editor of The Spectator and we are sorry to lose him; in many ways he will be irreplaceable. But we wish him every success in his political career."

Ambition

Mr Johnson suggested he would be ready to give up the editorship to return to the front bench in a recent interview for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

He told Sue Lawley: "I have successfully ridden two horses for quite a long time. But I have to admit there have been moments when the distance between the two horses has grown terrifyingly wide, and I did momentarily come off."

He added: "All politicians in the end are like crazed wasps in a jam jar, each individually convinced that they are going to make it," he said.

"My ambition silicon chip has been programmed to try to scramble up this ladder, so I do feel a kind of sense that I have got to."




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