It is not an easy task to hold Boris Johnson to account. Ask John Palmer, who tried to do it 30 years ago, when they were reporters covering Europe for British newspapers.

Johnson, now 55 and on a glide path towards becoming prime minister, was then a rising star at the Daily Telegraph, cranking out front-page scoops that verged on satire, portraying European bureaucrats as absurd, over-regulating control freaks. That the articles often proved to be overblown or inaccurate did not seem to bother him.

He was a posh eccentric out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, absent-minded and chronically disorganised,

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