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Prime Ministerial hopeful’s remarks during leadership debate fail to stand up to scrutiny

Boris Johnson, who is set to win the Conservative leadership election next week and succeed Theresa May as prime minister, has been accused of embellishing a story about the theft of his bicycle.

The Times reports that during a debate hosted by The Sun and Talk Radio with leadership rival Jeremy Hunt on Monday evening, the pair were asked when they last cried.

Hunt declined to answer, but Johnson, who served as Mayor of London from 2008-16, said he became “lachrymose” – in plainer parlance, tearful – on finding that it had been stolen from outside the Houses of Parliament.

“I had my bike for the whole of my mayoral career,” Johnson said. “It was never nicked during all my time as mayor and I used to chain it up across the whole city. Barely had [his successor as mayor] Sadiq Khan’s reign begun before it was nicked.”

In a swipe at the Labour politician, who has been accused of not doing enough to tackle knife crime, Johnson said: “Anyone who has something they love stolen feels a sense of outrage and injustice.

“That’s another reason we need more police on the streets.”

Except, as The Times points out, the tale doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

The newspaper highlighted a column that Johnson wrote in 2014 in which he lamented the demise off the actual bike he had ridden during most of his mayoralty.

“After eight years of uncomplaining service, the venerable steed had charged his last,” he said. “Old Bikey had survived every prang and prangette that goes with urban commuting. No one had seen fit to nick it in all those years. Now it was dead, killed by the weather.”

The bike that was stolen had come into his ownership much more recently, with Johnson claiming it had been given to him by former Olympic and world champion Chris Boardman, now Greater Manchester’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner.

The fact the story doesn’t add up was seized on by one Tory opponent of Johnson, who told The Times: “With anecdotes like this the wheels come off his campaign rather than any mythical bike.”

The newspaper added that the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip’s team had declined to comment on the issue.

While he was Mayor of London, Johnson regularly commuted by bike from his home in Canonbury to City Hall near London Bridge, but after he was appointed Foreign Secretary by May in July 2016, he was banned from cycling by his security team, much to his dismay.

> Boris Johnson banned from cycling by security team

Johnson challenged the decision, but it was upheld by a full Metropolitan Police protection branch review.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.