“Don’t mention the War,” goes the line from Fawlty Towers. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ignored that sage advice on Wednesday. And, irony of ironies, the following day, his flagship East-West Cycle Superhighway was closed thanks to an unexploded bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz.
Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s confirmation on Tuesday of a Hard Brexit, Johnson provoked outrage across Europe when, during a trip to India, he fired a warning on Wednesday at French President, Francois Hollande.
"If Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War Two movie, then I don't think that is the way forward,” he said.
"I think, actually, it's not in the interests of our friends and our partners."
Memories of World War Two were evoked closer to home on Thursday evening when an unexploded bomb was pulled from the river by a Thames dredger, just a few hundred yards from the Houses of Parliament.
Hours of traffic chaos ensued as Waterloo and Westminster bridges were closed while Royal Navy bomb disposal experts dealt with the wartime ordnance, as was a large stretch of the Cycle Superhighway on the Embankment.
— Royal Navy (@RoyalNavy) January 20, 2017
Johnson – no stranger himself to comparisons with Basil Fawlty, even before this latest gaffe – officially opened the first stretch of the East-West Cycle Superhighway on his final day as Mayor of London in May last year.
The following month, he helped the Leave campaign secure a narrow victory in the referendum over the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.
Despite Johnson's well-catalogued series of foot-in-mouth comments over the years about other countries, May appointed him Foreign Secretary after she succeeded David Cameron as Prime Minister in July last year.
Shortly before leaving City Hall last May, Johnson said that pushing through the Cycle Superhighways was the most difficult thing he had done in politics.
Responding to Baroness Jenny Jones at Mayor’s Question Time in November 2015, he said: “I can’t think of anything I’ve ever done that’s provoked such direct remonstrances from everybody.”
There are likely to be a good few people in the UK and beyond who, 14 months on, could make other suggestions.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.