Rumours involving a mad shagger MP and a relatively obscure internet celebrity have been doing the rounds in media circles this last week, but very little of it has ended up making it to print. So what’s the deal with this Bip Ling and Boris Johnson story? Has Boris actually bonked an internet influencer? Or have we all finally lost our minds?
Last Thursday afternoon, at 3:45pm, a curious article was published to the Metro website entitled “Who Is Bip Ling, Who Is Her Mum and What Are Her Biggest Hits?”
These sorts of three-beat headlines have become very popular in recent years. Media outlets regularly use the format as a way to write keyword-rich articles about whichever famous person, sporting event or TV programme is getting the most traction on social media that day so they can hoover up traffic from the casual readers idly running related searches.
It happens all the time. Piers Morgan is forever causing minor controversy on morning TV, so he is an absolute staple of these stories.
Searches for Naomi Osaka will be up this week after she suffered a surprising upset at Wimbledon, so newspapers have been keen to capitalise on the interest in her.
Even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 is getting leveraged for clicks in 2019, thanks to a spike in searches for the popular HBO mini-series that just aired.
Most of the time, this trick is absolutely transparent. It’s traffic-hungry journos trying to ride a trending wave to get as many eyeballs to their site as possible.
Which makes it all the more unusual that they’d pick out as fringe a figure as Bip Ling to drive them any traffic. It’s been a good eight years since anyone last asked “Who is Bip Ling?” in print – and there didn’t seem to be any big mainstream motivation that would suddenly inspire them to chase these clicks.
So what on earth did the former MySpace T-shirt vendor and internet style icon do to become the subject of one of these SEO-baiting articles?
You probably already know the answer but, last week, a rumour started sweeping around social media that Bip had allegedly had some sort of a sexual dalliance with Boris Johnson – the famed shagger and future prime minister.
It was a real blast from the past for people who followed the East London scene of the early 00s. Bip Ling was one of the characters who marked the transition from what was once known as an ‘It Girl’ (the sort of party-going scenester who appears in a magazine’s society pages) to what is now commonly called an ‘influencer’ (the sort of party-going scenester who appears in everyone’s Instagram feed).
Bip Ling and Boris Johnson. Could it be? Could it actually be? Obviously he’s known for being a rampant old horndog, so there’s no surprise that he’d be into it. And Bip wouldn’t be the first fresh-faced 30 year old he’d manage to convince his way into (his current girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, is 31). So the story did sort of squeak through the initial smell test. Certainly enough to investigate more.
However, although people have been speaking about it very candidly on Twitter and Instagram, in the end, the Metro was the only site that decided to take the plunge and mine all this Bip chat for clicks.
But the story has continued to swirl around social media this week – with some people now apparently earnestly beginning to wonder if the reason we haven’t seen it reported in the press is because someone has taken out an injunction.
So what’s the deal? Did Bip and Boris actually bonk? Is this some sort of calculated political smear? Or is it something stranger?
Let’s consider the evidence.
In The Bip-ginning
The rumour of a Bip Ling/Boris Johnson affair properly took hold last Wednesday, after this tweet started making ripples in certain media circles.
That wasn’t the first reference to their supposed tryst though. Two days earlier, on June 24th – from what looks to be a burner account, set up in June 2019, with the apparent purpose of posting one tweet and one tweet alone – this was put out into the world.
But even that didn’t come from nowhere. Three days before the Bip x Boris tweet, another tweeter had aired his suspicions just as news was breaking that the police had been called to Carrie and Boris’s flat over an argument.
If – as some have suggested – this whole story has simply been a case of Bip trying to piggyback on Boris’s bad reputation in order to boost her own profile, then she must have acted on this fast.
That Guardian story was posted at 7:12pm. The first instance of a “Bip Ling” tweet being posted underneath it was at 8pm. That’s just 48 minutes in which to spot the opportunity, whip up the idea, map out the slow-burn five-day roll-out, assemble the necessary infrastructure to spread it effectively – and then call action on the whole project.
That’s a lot to do in under an hour.
More likely, it seems as if the rumour had been circulating among a very select circle of her friends and acquaintances before that – and the news of a “lovers’ tiff” between Boris and Carrie is just what brought it to wider public attention.
As Boris has yet to comment on the state of affairs between him and his official girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, we aren’t really holding out much hope that he will address these Bip allegations anytime soon. But what about Bip herself?
On Wednesday night, as this rumour was seeping into the wider media atmosphere, the journalist Sophie Wilkinson wondered if she could get some clarity on the matter by emailing Bip’s PR for comment.
Their response? A very chummy – but very curt – “No comment”
The phrase “No comment” can be interpreted in so many different ways. It can be code for “Yes, but I don’t incriminate myself”. It can be code for “No, and I don’t want to dignify the story with a proper response.” It can be code for “It doesn’t do my reputation any favours to deny this”. It can be code for “I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.”
It makes for a perfect placeholder, as it can cover a multitude of contradictory positions for a fair old while. But thankfully, Bip hasn’t been quite so coy about the situation in the days since.
Take a look at this. It’s a short video where Bip is asked outright by a journalist if there’s any truth to the story about her and Boris Johnson. This is what she says:
JOURNALIST: So, Bip, many people are asking is there any proof that Boris ever saw you? Is there something?
BIP: Erm, yeah, yeah yeah. He left a little, like, bus. Like, a bus model.
JOURNALIST: In your house?
JOURNALIST: One of those toys that he said he’s making?
BIP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like the London buses.
JOURNALIST: And you could show this, if necessary?
BIP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve got it. I’ve got it.
That might seem damning written down, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. And one of the first threads that we need to pick at is the bus she mentions.
(That fucking bus…)
The Story Of Bus
Last week, Boris Johnson was asked in an interview what he liked to do to relax. The answer he gave almost caused the entire nation to lose its mind.
In between huge tornadoes of bluster and bullshit, Boris managed to stammer out the answer that he likes to unwind by painting old wine crates to look like London buses. He gets his paint brushes out, paints little windows on the side of the crate, paints little passengers sat inside those windows.
This is how he says he chooses to spend his leisure time.
The immediate response to this (admittedly bizarre) answer was that Boris was certifiably insane.
Then came a second wave of people who thought that, far from being mad, Boris was just lying. They said he is chronically dishonest and just can’t help himself – but couldn’t figure out quite why he’d lie about something so inconsequential, and why his answer was so fucking weird.
Then, after a few further hours, a conspiracy theory began to develop and gain traction.
The theory was that we’d all been outfoxed by Johnson, who’d played a blinding ‘dead cat’ tactic by giving a knowingly batshit answer to an innocuous question. Not only were we now all talking about his odd little hobby instead of asking the important questions about the fight he’d had with his girlfriend, by waffling on about buses he was also specifically manipulating the Google search results for “Boris Johnson bus” so that he could bury all those old stories about him printing a big £350m-a-week lie on his Brexit bus.
He’d played us all for fools! And we’d walked straight into it!
It’s a fun little theory – but how well has that worked out for him in the week since…?
A month story about his court summons over the £350m Brexit bus in the top stories and four out of five images being him near that £350m Brexit bus. Barely a wine crate in sight.
Implausible as it might seem, Boris Johnson has actually talked about this habit of painting picnic detritus for years. He gave an interview to the Metro in 2011 where he said much the same thing – that he likes to unwind by painting scenes on the wooden boxes that brie and camembert cheese come in, or to paint old whisky bottles.
After that, wine crates don’t seem like such an unusual side-step.
The only thing that does seem to be unequivocal bullshit though is this idea that Bip Ling would have one. We’re expected to believe that Boris would hand out hand-painted model buses to the women he’s spunked in as some sort of souvenir of their time together?
Seems deeply unlikely – but that’s not Bip’s only bit of evidence. According to the Mail On Sunday, Bip is also saying that she has a pair of his socks.
Socks sound like much more feasible evidence – until you remember that Boris’s socks have also been in the news this last fortnight after he was caught wearing the same pair three days in a row (clearly not having left them in an influencer’s bedroom…)
It’s a mighty strange coincidence that two bits of solid evidence that Bip claims to be able to offer up are the same two things that just so happen to have been reported on in the press these last few weeks.
But there’s more. Bip says she also has evidence on her phone that she and Boris did stuff together, but she can’t hand it over because her phone has been damaged. Which is a shame, because some phone evidence would be really handy.
Luckily for us, someone seems to have a kept a copy…
If this had all just been a bit of Twitter trolling, then we probably wouldn’t have researched this story in quite the way that we have. But this rumour has gone cross-platform. Over the weekend, someone sent us this.
Before we go any further, we should say that we think that this is pretty obviously PhotoShopped – but there’s still something interesting about it that’s worth discussing.
To explain what you’re seeing here: this is a screengrab of an Instagram story of a photo of a picture message of Bip Ling and Boris Johnson, apparently in a semi-clad clinch.
If that’s a little too “Inception” for you, we’ll break it down layer by layer.
TOP LAYER: This is a screen grab from Instagram. The grab looks to have been taken from the Instagram profile of a user called ‘theowhitewine’. And who’s that? Theo White Wine is a stylist and wardrobe technician who has worked on music videos for Sigrid, Chase & Status and Yxng Bane.
He has also helped style… Bip Ling in the video shoot for her single Bipping.
NEXT LAYER DOWN: The Instagram grab shows a phone screen displaying a picture of what looks like Bip and Boris together. The picture has curved edges, indicating that it has been sent as a message. It is also on the left hand side of the screen, implying that the picture has been sent to the owner of the phone (not sent by the owner of the phone).
Either way, two phones were needed to make this story – one to display, one to record – suggesting (but not confirming) some element of collaboration here.
BOTTOM LAYER: The resolution of an image suffers when it is sent over text message (then filmed from a screen, uploaded and condensed for Instagram, then screenshotted and sent electronically again) but if we zoom in, we can make a few judgements on the veracity of the actual picture here.
One big giveaway when looking for doctored photos is the light sources. As you can maybe see, there is a light source reflected in Bip’s pupils – that isn’t present in Boris’s. You’d expect his pupils to also pick up the same lighting if their faces were actually side by side, but the glow just isn’t there.
If you also look at where the faces touch, you’ll see that Bip’s cheek is squidged up where it’s touching “Boris”‘s face, pushing it up into her eye and causing her eyebrow to arch slightly. Yet there is absolutely no distortion at all to the flesh of Johnson’s more aged face, which you’d expect if she was pressed up against his (suggesting his face has been PhotoShopped onto someone else’s neck).
There are other red flags. The resolution of his face looks different. The size of his head looks a little bit big. The way his jowl hangs while his head is at an angle looks unnatural. The fact he looks as if he’s stuck his head through one of those end-of-the-pier “Take your photo as Popeye!” attractions.
Again – much like the videoed confession of the model bus – this all ends up having the feeling of friends pissing about and winding each other up. Someone mocked up an intimate pic with Bip and Boris to further the gag and send it round a few mates as a mickey-take.
The question is, why is this stuff now getting passed to the media? Why is Nimrod shopping the video around? Why is Theo posting pictures to Instagram? What purpose does any of it serve? Clearly people are going to lot of trouble to try to make this gag stick, but why? Just to prank their buddy Bip?
Even when she looks to be in on the joke too?
A few days after Bip had issued her “No comment” statement, the same journalist who managed to eke that out of her finally got Bip on the phone.
This was the press release.
If this whole Boris Johnson story was a set-up, a cynical promo stunt to boost her profile in advance of the release of her new single, then… fair play to her. But if that’s the case, there’s still one question that remains.
Where is the song?
It’s been a week since most people heard this story, the momentum is grinding to a halt and there’s still no sign of Big Fat Dick. Stormzy managed to get Crown out within hours of his Glastonbury performance. Why? Because he knows that, for maximum impact, you have to follow up on these things immediately.
If you consciously try to get people’s attention by spreading a rumour that you once banged Boris Johnson, then you need to move quickly with the follow-up before the mind bleach works its magic and everyone forgets it.
But judging from the state of her Instagram, it seems what people want from Bip isn’t Big Fat Dick. They want her to bring down the government.
If you promise people revolution, then only offer them your new single to stream on Spotify, then you risk facing a massive backlash. But we have a feeling Bip is probably going to be OK.
See the name of the guy in her Instagram comments? Danny Ingham. See the name of the burner account who set up the Bip x Boris tweet? Danny Ingham.
The clique of people making this joke is tiny. The Bip x Boris tweet had just four retweets, yet it’s been the hot topic among the media set for a week. It’s been all that anyone’s wanted to talk about. In part, that’s because the story is just too perfect. The idea of Boris and a posho MySpace fashionista is inherently hilarious.
The reason it’s actually caught hold though is because Boris has been acting hugely suspiciously about the domestic disturbance incident, about the staged photo that they later leaked to the press, and about the nature of his argument with Carrie. We know that there’s more to the story than has been reported, but we don’t know what.
In that context, is the Bip solution really that far-fetched?
This is what happens when you don’t get on top of a story quickly. In all the murk and confusion, all sorts of subsidiary rumours and spin-offs are allowed to grow and metastasize. Now we’re at a stage where an absolutely outrageous sounding bit of gossip (Boris shagging Bip Ling) is not just being talked about seriously, there’s now whispers of court-sanctioned gagging orders and suggestions that the right-wing press is engaging in a Harvey Weinstein style catch-and-kill operation for Boris’s benefit.
(As if after all the affairs, failed marriages, love children and terminations that Boris Johnson’s shagging has left in its wake, the thing that is finally going to topple him is squirting up Bip Ling.)
The whole thing is so absurd – but then these are absurd times. In the absence of anything we can truly trust, our minds very quickly start running away with themselves.
Will Bip Ling topple the Tories? We can but hope. It’ll make for an amazing chapter in the history books. But if it turns out that all we’re getting in return for investing all our time and attention in Bip Ling at a time of huge political fracture and upheaval is a hastily-written cash-in single?
It had better fucking slap, yar.