New evidence suggesting close links between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump’s controversial former campaign manager Steve Bannon can be revealed, calling into question the former foreign secretary’s previous denials of an association with the influential far-right activist.
Video evidence obtained by the Observer shows Bannon, who helped mastermind Trump’s successful bid for the presidency but was later exiled from the White House, talking about his relationship and contacts with Johnson, and how he helped him craft the first speech after his resignation as foreign secretary, in which Johnson tore into Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.
The revelations will pile new pressure on Johnson after the Guardian reported that police had been called to the flat he shares with his partner, Carrie Symonds, in the early hours of Friday morning after neighbours heard a loud altercation involving screaming, shouting and banging.
Reports of Johnson and Bannon’s relationship were first published last summer. When asked about it at the time, Johnson said: “As for the so-called association with Steve Bannon, I’m afraid this is a lefty delusion whose spores continue to breed in the Twittersphere.”
He said he had met Bannon in his role as foreign secretary and found the accusation that he was ‘with Bannon’ to be ‘perplexing’.
The unpublished footage was shot in July last year by Alison Klayman, an American film-maker who followed Bannon over many months for a new documentary called The Brink. It sets out Bannon’s account of how the two had been in close contact particularly around the time of Johnson’s resignation from the May government.
The clips were shot in the week Johnson resigned over Brexit, when Bannon was in London meeting leaders of the European far right, including Nigel Farage. They are not included in the final film, which is being released in July, but Klayman passed the footage to the Observer.
The first clip shows Bannon reading a front page story in the Daily Telegraph about Johnson’s resignation speech with the headline ‘Let’s Make Britain Great Again’. He says: “Today we are going to see if Boris Johnson tries to overthrow the British government. He’s going to give a speech in the Commons.”
Bannon then says: “I’ve been talking to him all weekend about this speech. We went back and forth over the text.”
Klayman asks him if they’ve been speaking on the phone and he says: “Talked to him initially over the phone then it’s just easier to go back and forth on text. It’s just easier. I’ve been telling him one of my recommendations is that he gave one of the most important political speeches of 2016. Was his closing speech, a three-to-five-minute speech in June 2016, his closing argument on national TV for the Leave campaign … And it was magnificent.
“And all I was telling him all weekend was just to incorporate those themes. Those same themes. Basically, he was saying that June 23 was independence day for Great Britain. Their independence day being like our July 4.”
Bannon adds: “This is the tee up, right. He’s back.”
He then describes Johnson’s career, saying: “He wrote a really great book on Churchill. That’s one of the things I told him over the weekend.”
Bannon says he got to know Johnson after the US presidential election when he was working as Donald Trump’s chief strategist. “Right after we won, Boris flew over. Because their victory was as unexpected as ours. I got to know him quite well in the transition period,” he said.
The video is bound to raise further questions about Johnson’s openness and the extent to which he has relied on Bannon for advice at key stages in his bid for Downing Street. Bannon has described the far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – known as Tommy Robinson – as the “backbone” of Britain.
A spokesman for Johnson said: “Any suggestion that Boris is colluding with or taking advice from Mr Bannon or Nigel Farage is totally preposterous to the point of conspiracy.”
Bannon, who has previously said that he believed Johnson had “the potential to make a great prime minister”, declined to comment further. Alison Klayman, the film-maker, said that Bannon had been “unequivocal” about his communications with Johnson. She also said that Bannon had met Farage, a close associate, several times during the same visit.
The clips also raise further questions about Bannon’s role in the EU referendum. Bannon, a former vice-president at the data firm Cambridge Analytica, had launched a British version of the rightwing news site Breitbart to support Ukip and Farage, and had been its executive chairman during the referendum. Breitbart has been funded by Robert Mercer, the American hedge fund billionaire, who partly owned Cambridge Analytica, and was also the single biggest donor to Donald Trump’s campaign.
On the day that article 50 was triggered, Nigel Farage was filmed with a pint of beer thanking them both. “Well done Bannon. Well done Breitbart. You helped with this. Hugely,” he said.Other clips shot by Klayman show Bannon talking about the close contact between Breitbart’s editors and the Leave campaigns, including Johnson’s Vote Leave campaign. In one, he says: “Here we kind of trained folks that it takes years to build stuff and get it operating and that’s what I think we proved in Brexit with all the work we did in Breitbart London.”
At a speech in South Carolina last year, Bannon previously said that Farage and Ukip were foundational to Trump’s success: “I said, ‘That’s a canary in a mine shaft. We have to get a group there that sets up and covers that every day like Breitbart covers politics here. Because by following Ukip, we’re going to understand the evolution of the Tea party.”
The Brink will be released in cinemas and on demand on 12 July.