A video emerged over the weekend of UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reciting the colonial-era poem “Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling during a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda with local dignitaries in January.
Johnson’s recital of the poem was quickly interrupted by the UK ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Patrick, who called it “not appropriate.”
The foreign secretary, unaware of his insensitivity, replied: “No? Good stuff.”
Kipling’s 1892 poem illustrates the nostalgia of a British colonial soldier for Asia’s women and exoticism. Kipling wrote the poem after a three-day visit to Burma around 1890, during which he famously became obsessed with Burmese women.
Britain colonized Burma from 1824 to 1948.
Johnson’s gaffe was captured by a film crew for Channel 4 and was included in a documentary about the foreign secretary’s suitability for the post of prime minister, titled “Blond Ambition.”
The clip above is worth a watch.