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All Boris Johnson's women: how scandal shaped a prime minister

The serially philandering Boris Johnson has managed to shrug off stories of affairs and questions about how many children he has fathered because he sensed that the public mood has changed: sex is now viewed as silly rather than scandalous - and that suits Boris fine because silly is what he does best, writes Donal Lynch

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Boris with Carrie Symonds, who recently gave birth to a son

Boris with Carrie Symonds, who recently gave birth to a son

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Johnson's second marriage was marred by his affair with Petronella Wyatt

Johnson's second marriage was marred by his affair with Petronella Wyatt

Boris had four children with his ex-wife Marina Wheeler (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

Boris had four children with his ex-wife Marina Wheeler (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

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Boris married Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987

Boris married Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987

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Boris with Carrie Symonds, who recently gave birth to a son

In 2005, many years before there was any prospect of him becoming prime minister of Britain, Boris Johnson published a novel called 72 Virgins. Its hero is an oddly familiar bumbling and gaffe-prone MP who spends much of the book charmingly cycling his bike, issuing quotable bon mots and being unjustly hounded by the press for his sexual indiscretions. They don't get that he is "an alpha male, so alpha he'd have been awarded a congratulatory first by the examiners in Advanced Virility ... He simply had the right stuff exploding from every orifice. In fact, his machismo was so intense he was sometimes considered a danger to himself."

One of the female characters is described thus: "She was looking - this may sound crude, but it is no less than the truth - like a lingerie model only cleverer, and, if anything, with bigger breasts." The sex between the stars of the book is described as, "when he does that wonderful thing to her again".

When Johnson went on BBC radio's Desert Island Discs to promote the book, Sue Lawley, the show's presenter, called it "chillingly prescient". She then asked Johnson why he had written a book that reminded everyone of all the affairs he'd had. "You do like playing with fire, don't you?" she added.