HE’S now the UK’s most powerful politician.

But 14 years ago, Boris Johnson was a newspaper columnist, unexpectedly stranded in Carlisle after missing his train to London. With time to kill, and an inquisitive nature, the man who today becomes our Prime Minister headed for the bright lights of Botchergate.

The experience made a powerful impression.

“I found myself trapped in downtown Carlisle on a Friday night just before closing time and believe me there are better places to be,” wrote the then 41-year-old Mr Johnson.

Earlier this month, in an interview with the News & Star, Mr Johnson appeared startled when reminded of that visit.

In urgent tones, he heaped praise on the city, vowing to return to Carlisle and to promote the county’s tourism and Roman heritage. The 2005 column had painted a less flattering picture - particularly of Botchergate.

“Stunned” by the noise, Mr Johnson found a quiet corner in a bar, and sat opposite a dishevelled woman, he wrote.

The column said: “She was extremely good looking and had a tattoo of a butterfly on her bosom, but she was pretty far gone. ‘I think you are very interesting,’ she said suddenly, and took my hand.

“I was just saying how kind this was of her when her boyfriend loomed out of the night. ‘Don’t talk to him,’ he advised. ‘He’s a snob.’”

The situation almost turned ugly, according to the column. The man insisted Johnson was a snob, telling him: ‘And you want to hit me... I can tell by the way you flexed your shoulder muscles. You’re getting all psyched up.’

The shoulder-flexing was involuntary, and did not mean he wanted to hit him, said Mr Johnson.

Before anything happened, the man’s girlfriend intervened, saying she’d prefer everyone to be friends. Thus began a ferocious argument between the couple, at which point Mr Johnson made his exit.

Next came his account of what he saw outside.

“It was a coldish night but everywhere there was a pagan semi-nudity,” wrote Mr Johnson.

“There were queues to buy kebabs, and the pavements were Jackson Pollocked with the results of eating a kebab on top of eight pints of lager.

“Faces leered and weaved towards me, pale and waxy with drink, and everybody seemed to be hurling strange oaths and invitations and since I could find nowhere to sit and read my book, I fled to the railway station and sat shivering on the platform until the night train arrived.”

Mr Johnson went on to discuss plans - topical at the time - to relax licensing laws.

He offered this concluding insight: “Deep down, because of some peculiarity in our psyche, we think it rather admirable to get bladdered, leathered and otherwise hogwhimpering drunk.”

During his recent visit to Carlisle, Mr Johnson seemed somewhat taken aback when reminded of that visit.

“I love the north; I love Carlisle,” he declared.

He spoke of a recent cycling holiday along Hadrian’s Wall, enthusing about the landscape, saying not enough people knew about it.

“If I have anything to do with it, I will promote Carlisle and tourism in Cumbria with every breath in my body.

“It’s a fantastic asset for our country.”

Asked if he’d repeat his Botchergate visit, he said: “I can’t remember exactly what happened then.... I’d be happy to come back to Carlisle.”

Told he claimed he was almost beaten up, Mr Johnson exclaimed: “Is that true?..

“Well it must be accurate but I’m afraid the blissful sponge of amnesia has wiped the slate of memory. I can’t remember... a late night in Carlisle. Many people have enjoyed a night in Carlisle. I’m sure it won’t be the last.”

Asked again if he might repeat the visit, he replied: “I will; I will.”

He refuted he almost got into trouble, stressing he’d enjoyed a wonderful recent holiday, saying: “It was absolutely beautiful. I thoroughly recommend it.”

With Brexit to navigate, and new cabinet to create, it may be some time before Boris Johnson can keep that promise.