back to top

Boris Johnson Claims To Have The Recipe For The Perfect Selfie

BuzzFeed News spoke to the mayor of London amid the mayhem of the campaign trail.

Posted on

Boris Johnson arrived at this shopping centre to try to convince people to vote Conservative. Instead, he had to stand patiently while a queue of people took selfies with him.

Emily Ashton / BuzzFeed

In his hands were a stack of leaflets for Croydon's Tory candidate, Gavin Barwell. But most people didn't seem to care who Barwell was.

BuzzFeed News joined the London mayor, who is virtually certain to be elected as Tory MP for Uxbridge, as he did his best to push the Conservative message. Shoppers gathered around Johnson as if he were a Hollywood star.

"Ooh, he's taller in real life, isn't he?" said one woman as she snapped a photo. She noticed the campaign signs. "Who's Gavin?" Soon, teenagers started to loiter around, waiting for a moment to grab a selfie. "Boris is a lad," one said. They weren't much interested in elections either.

After finishing another selfie, Johnson told one man: "Vote for Gavin, yeah?" But it was too late – the man was too busy checking the photo on his phone.

Johnson has long since mastered the art of the selfie. He says the most important thing is to make sure the person taking the photo looks all right, so they'll be happy with it.

Emily Ashton / BuzzFeed

Is he mobbed for selfies everywhere he goes? "Definitely not at home, definitely not in the shower," he assured us.

In fact, he has his own theory about the rise of selfiemania and sharing photos online. He believes it might be a factor in London's falling crime rate.

"You know crime is falling across the world, it's falling particularly in London? I often think that actually one of the reasons for that is that people have the most extraordinary ability with handheld devices, with mobiles, with iPhones or whatever, to communicate, to take self-affirming pictures to group photos, to send each other little things to remind themselves of fun things they've done.

"I think they are increasing the sum of human happiness. I genuinely think something interesting's going on. If you think crime is overwhelmingly committed by young men who feel alienated, who don't feel any communication with society, who feel they're of no value, who feel they're in some way not successful...

"Electronic communication is introducing them to ways of participating, of being included, of being valued, of taking part in things. So I think there's a very significant social phenomenon."

Johnson believes selfies are a "good way of capturing people's attention" on the campaign trail.

Emily Ashton / BuzzFeed

"You’ve got to be ruthless, you’ve got to make sure you zap ‘em and say: 'Will you vote for Gavin Barwell?'" he said.

"You get a bit of literature into their hands, they'll read it, and hopefully it'll make an impression."

Indeed, Johnson had handed out so many leaflets that he'd run out of them by the time he leaves the Whitgift shopping centre and headed out to the high street. The crowd was even more crazy out in the sunshine.

"Hey, it's Boris! Boris!" Workers left their shops to run out and ask for selfies. Giggling teenage girls elbowed each other and pointed in his direction.

One man even put his wife on the phone to speak to Johnson. "Jacqueline, I hope you're voting for Gavin Barwell," he said.

Emily Ashton / BuzzFeed

Johnson said he enjoys doing the walkabouts but pointedly refused to say whether he thinks David Cameron should do the same.

That is the inherent contradiction with Johnson: He revels in the easy back-and-forth banter with voters but often shies away from giving a straight answer to a question. Instead, he can pretend you haven't asked it at all and just keep talking about something else.

Does he think the election campaign has gone a bit stale, and that party leaders should follow his lead in getting among the people? "I don't know," he said, "I think they do probably get advice nowadays from the security services which will probably make it a bit more difficult."

On the Tory campaign, he said: "I think we'll get three or four more points in the last few days. I think Labour will edge down, UKIP will continue to be soft."

But isn't the Tory campaign rather negative – playing up the risks of a Labour-SNP alliance rather than the benefits of Conservative rule? Johnson dismissed me with a wave of his hand. "It's full of good stuff."

It's not all selfies, though. On the next stop in Sutton, Surrey, this woman was angry about the apparent lack of jobs available to young people.

Johnson insisted to BuzzFeed News that the Tories had a "very clear and powerful" message to voters.

"I think the offer's very clear," he said. "It's the difference between competence and chaos." Does he think a Conservative minority government might be possible? "I want a majority Conservative government." And if that doesn't happen? "I'm not going to contemplate that."

Johnson also rolled out the well-worn Tory line that the SNP would "drag Labour to the left and extort an awfully big ransom off the south". But he admitted its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was a "very accomplished performer". He pretended not to hear when asked if she was the most dangerous woman in Britain, but there was a definite slight shake of the head.

Meanwhile, he shrugged off the impact of the #Milifandom – the strange phenomenon of teenage girls falling head over heels for Ed Miliband.

"I think it's not going to be the fulcrum on which the election turns," he said.

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.