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BORIS JOB FIGHT; Johnson could be dumped by Tories.

Byline: IAN HERNON

BORIS Johnson -- who was forced to apologise after his magazine accused Liverpool of wallowing in grief -- is battling to retain his Tory front bench job. Leader Michael Howard has told the shadow culture minister to dump his extensive outside interests -- or be dumped himself.

Party sources insist the crunch time has nothing to do with Sunday newspaper allegations he had had an affair with former Spectator deputy editor Petronella Wyatt but Mr Howard has lost patience with the way that Mr Johnson's editorship of the Spectator has caused the party ongoing embarrassment.

Last month Johnson authorised an article which accused Liverpudlians of wallowing in grief over the murder of Iraq hostage Ken Bigley and the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

But the magazine has also run a series of other articles at odds with Tory front bench policy.

Mr Johnson now also juggles ``too many other jobs'', according to a party source.

As well as being a front bencher, an MP and a magazine editor, he is a regular columnist, a novelist and a TV performer on such shows as Have I Got News For You.

Mr Johnson was today unavailable for comment, after spending the weekend with his wife.

But he told a Sunday newspaper that allegations of an affair were ``complete balderdash, and an inverted pyramid of piffle''.

CAPTION(S):

UNDER FIRE: Johnson
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2004
Words:226
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