|Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs|
13 July 2016
|Prime Minister||Theresa May|
|Preceded by||Philip Hammond|
|2nd Mayor of London|
4 May 2008 – 9 May 2016
|Preceded by||Ken Livingstone|
|Succeeded by||Sadiq Khan|
|Member of Parliament
for Uxbridge and South Ruislip
7 May 2015
|Preceded by||John Randall|
|Member of Parliament
9 June 2001 – 4 June 2008
|Preceded by||Michael Heseltine|
|Succeeded by||John Howell|
|Born||Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
19 June 1964
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Allegra Mostyn-Owen (1987–1993)
Marina Wheeler (1993–present)
|Alma mater||Balliol College, Oxford|
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (born 19 June 1964) is a Britishpolitician, popular historian, author, and journalist. He has been Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs since 13 July 2016 and has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Uxbridge and South Ruislipsince 2015. He had previously served as MP for Henley from 2001 until 2008and as Mayor of London from 2008 until 2016. A member of the Conservative Party, Johnson identifies as a One-Nation Conservative and has been associated with both economically liberal and socially liberal policies.
Born in New York City to wealthy upper-class English parents, Johnson was educated at the European School of Brussels, Ashdown House School, andEton College. He studied Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1986. Beginning his career in journalism at The Times, he later became The Daily Telegraph‘s Brussels correspondent, with his articles exerting a strong influence on growingEurosceptic sentiment among the British right-wing. He was assistant editor from 1994 to 1999 before taking the editorship of The Spectator from 1999 to 2005. Joining the Conservatives, he was elected MP for Henley in 2001, and under Conservative leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron he served in the Shadow Cabinet. Mostly adhering to the Conservative party line, he nevertheless adopted a more socially liberal stance on issues like LGBT rightsin parliamentary votes. Making regular television appearances, writing books, and remaining active in journalism, Johnson became one of the most conspicuous politicians in Britain.
Selected as Conservative candidate for the London mayoral election of 2008, Johnson defeated Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone and resigned his seat in parliament. During his first term as mayor, he banned alcohol consumption on public transport, championed London’s financial sector, and introduced theNew Routemaster buses, cycle hire scheme, and Thames cable-car. In 2012, he was re-elected mayor, again defeating Livingstone; during his second term he oversaw the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2015 he was elected MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, stepping down as mayor the following year and becoming a prominent figure in the successful Vote Leave campaign towithdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union. In July 2016, Johnson was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by the incoming Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Johnson is a controversial figure in British politics and journalism. Supporters have praised him as an entertaining, humorous, and popular figure with appeal beyond traditional Conservative voters. Conversely, he has been criticised by figures on both the left and right, accused of elitism and cronyism, laziness and dishonesty, and using xenophobic, racist, and homophobic language. Johnson is the subject of several biographies and a number of fictionalised portrayals.
Johnson was born on 19 June 1964 at a hospital on Manhattan‘s Upper East Side in New York City. His birth was registered with both the US authorities and the city’s British Consulate, and he was granted both American and British citizenship. His father, the British Stanley Johnson, was studying economics at Columbia University. Stanley was the grandson of the Turkish journalist Ali Kemal on the paternal side, while on his maternal side he was of mixed English and French descent and was a descendant of King George II of Great Britain. Stanley had married Johnson’s mother,Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett), in 1963, before they moved to the USA; she was an artist from a family of liberalintellectuals. She was the granddaughter of Americans Elias Avery Lowe (a palaeographer of Russian Jewish descent)and Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter, a famous translator. In reference to his varied ancestry, Johnson has described himself as a “one-man melting pot”—with a combination of Muslims, Jews, and Christians as great-grandparents. Johnson was given his middle name of “Boris” after a Russian émigré the couple had once met in Mexico.
Johnson’s parents were then living in an apartment opposite the Chelsea Hotel, although they soon embarked on a tour of Canada and New England with their newborn. In September 1964 they returned to Britain, enabling Charlotte to study for a degree at the University of Oxford. She lived with her son in Summertown, Oxford, and gave birth to a daughter,Rachel, in 1965. In July 1965 the family moved to Crouch End in North London; in February 1966 they relocated to Washington D.C., where Stanley had gained a job with the World Bank. A third child, Leo, was born in September 1967, while Charlotte took up the painting for which she would become publicly known. Stanley then gained employment with a policy panel on population control, in June moving the family to Norwalk, Connecticut.
In summer 1969, the family returned to the United Kingdom, settling into Stanley’s family farm at Nethercote, near Winsford in Exmoor. At Nethercote, Johnson gained his first experiences with fox hunting.Stanley was regularly absent from Nethercote, leaving Johnson to be raised largely by his mother and au pairs. As a child, Johnson was quiet and studious, although he suffered from severe deafness, resulting in several operations to insert grommets into his ears. He and his siblings were encouraged to engage in high-brow activities from a young age, with high achievement being greatly valued; Johnson’s earliest recorded ambition was to be “world king”. Having few or no friends other than their siblings, the children became very close. In autumn 1969 the family relocated to Maida Vale, North London, where Stanley began post-doctoral research at the London School of Economics. In 1970, Charlotte and the children briefly returned to Nethercote, where Johnson was schooled at the Winsford Village School, before returning to London to settle in Primrose Hill, there being educated at Primrose Hill Primary School. In late 1971 another son, Jo Johnson, was born to the family.
After Stanley secured employment at the European Commission, he moved his family to Brussels in April 1973, where they settled in Uccle and Johnson became fluent in French. Charlotte had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalised withclinical depression, with Johnson and his siblings being sent to Ashdown House preparatory boarding school in East Sussex in 1975. There he developed a love of rugby and excelled at Ancient Greek and Latin,; he was appalled at the teachers’ use of corporal punishment. Meanwhile, Stanley and Charlotte’s relationship broke down in December 1978 and they divorced in 1980. Charlotte moved into a flat in Notting Hill, where her children spent much of their time with her.
Eton and Oxford: 1977–87
“As a kid I was extremely spotty, extremely nerdy and horribly swotty. My idea of a really good time was to travel across London on the tube to visit the British Museum.”
— Boris Johnson
Johnson was awarded a King’s Scholarship to study at Eton College, the elite independent boarding school in Eton, Berkshire. Arriving there in the autumn term of 1977, at Eton Johnson began using the given name “Boris” rather than “Alex”, and developed “the eccentric English persona” for which he later became known. He also abandoned his mother’s Catholicism and became an Anglican, joining the Church of England. Although school reports complained about his idleness, complacency, and lateness, he established himself as a popular and well-known figure within the school. His friends were largely from the wealthy upper middle-classes, with his best friends being Darius Guppy and Charles Spencer, both of whom would accompany him to Oxford University and remain friends into adulthood. Johnson excelled in English and Classics, winning prizes in both,became secretary of the school debating society, and then editor of the school newspaper, The Eton College Chronicle. In autumn 1981 he was admitted to the Eton Society, better known as “Pop”. Upon finishing his time at Eton, Johnson went on a gap year to Australia, where he taught English and Latin at Geelong Grammar, an elite independent boarding school.
Johnson won a scholarship to read Literae Humaniores, a four-year course based in the study of Classics, at Balliol College, Oxford.Arriving at Oxford in the autumn of 1983, he was part of a generation of Oxford undergraduates who later dominated British politics and media in the early 21st century, among them senior Conservative Party members David Cameron, William Hague, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, and Nick Boles. At the university he played rugby for Balliol, and associated primarily with Old Etonians, joining the Old Etonian-dominated Bullingdon Club, an upper-class drinking society known for its acts of local vandalism. Johnson entered into a relationship with the aristocrat Allegra Mostyn-Owen, and they became engaged while at university.
Johnson became a popular and well-known public figure at Oxford, and with Guppy co-edited its satirical magazineTributary. In 1984 he was elected secretary of the Oxford Union, before campaigning for the position of Union president, losing the election to Neil Sherlock. In 1986 Johnson ran for president again, aided by undergraduate Frank Luntz; his campaign focused on reaching out from his established upper-class support base by emphasising his popular persona and downplaying his connections to the Conservatives. Hoping to court their vote, Johnson associated with university groups affiliated with the centrist Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Liberal Party. Luntz later alleged that Johnson portrayed himself as an SDP supporter during the campaign, although Johnson claims no recollection of this.Johnson won the election and was appointed president, although his presidency was not seen as particularly distinguished or memorable, and questions were raised regarding his competency and seriousness. Having specialised in the study of ancient literature and classical philosophy, Johnson graduated from Balliol College with an upper second-class degree, but was deeply unhappy that he did not receive a first.
The Times and The Daily Telegraph: 1987–94
“I saw the whole [European Union] change. It was a wonderful time to be there. The Berlin Wall fell and the French and Germans had to decide how they were going to respond to this event, and what was Europe going to become, and there was this fantastic pressure to create a single polity, to create an answer to the historic German problem, and this produced the most fantastic strains in the Conservative Party, so everything I wrote from Brussels, I found was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party, and it really gave me this I suppose rather weird sense of power.”
Johnson and Mostyn-Owen married in West Felton, Shropshire, in September 1987; a violin piece was specially commissioned for the wedding from Hans Werner Henze. The couple honeymooned in Egypt before settling into a flat in West Kensington, West London.There, Johnson secured work for a management consultancycompany, L.E.K. Consulting; finding it incredibly boring, he resigned after a week. Through family connections, in late 1987 he began work as a graduate trainee at The Times, shadowing one of its journalists. Scandal erupted when Johnson wrote an article on thearchaeological discovery of Edward II‘s palace for the newspaper. Johnson invented a quote for the article that he falsely claimed came from the historian Colin Lucas, his own godfather. After The Times‘editor Charles Wilson learned of the deception, Johnson was sacked.
Johnson secured employment on the leader writing desk of The Daily Telegraph, having known its editor, Max Hastings, through his OU presidency. His articles were designed to appeal to the newspaper’s conservative, middle-class and middle-aged ‘Middle England‘ readership, and were known for their unique literary style, replete with old-fashioned words and phrases, and for regularly referring to the readership as “my friends”.In spring 1989, Johnson was appointed to the newspaper’s Brussels bureau to report on the European Commission. A strong critic of Commission President Jacques Delors, he established himself as one of the few Eurosceptic journalists in the city. Many of his fellow journalists based in the city were critical of his articles, opining that they often contained untruths designed to discredit the Commission, with The Guardian‘s John Palmer stating that “as a journalist he is thoroughly irresponsible, making up stories.”
Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson believed that these articles made Johnson “one of [Euroscepticism’s] most famous exponents”, while according to fellow biographer Sonia Purnell, he helped to make Euroscepticism “an attractive and emotionally resonant cause for the Right”, whereas previously it had been associated with the British Left. Johnson’s articles established him as the favourite journalist of the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, although Thatcher’s successor John Major was annoyed by Johnson and spent much time attempting to refute his claims.Johnson’s articles exacerbated tensions between the Eurosceptic and Europhile factions of the Conservative Party, and it was these tensions which were widely viewed as a contributing factor to the party’s failure in the 1997 general election; as a result Johnson earned the mistrust of many party members. His writings were also a key influence on the emergence of the right-wing Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the early 1990s.
In February 1990, Allegra left Johnson and returned to London; after several attempts to reconcile, they divorced in April 1993. He had entered a relationship with a childhood friend, Marina Wheeler, who had moved to Brussels in 1990. In May 1993, they married at Horsham, Sussex, and gave birth to a daughter soon after. Johnson and his wife settled inIslington, North London, an area known for its left-liberal intelligentsia. Under the influence of this milieu and his new wife, Johnson moved in a more liberal direction on issues like climate change, LGBT rights, and race relations. It was here that the couple had three further children, all of whom were given the joint surname of Johnson-Wheeler. The children were sent to the local Canonbury Primary School and then private secondary schools. Devoting much time to his children, he authored a book of verse, Perils of the Pushy Parents – A Cautionary Tale, which was published to largely poor reviews.
Political columnist: 1994–99
Back in London, Hastings turned down Johnson’s request to become a war reporter, instead promoting him to the position of assistant editor and chief political columnist. Johnson’s column received praise for being ideologically eclectic and uniquely written, and earned him a Commentator of the Year Award at the What the Papers Say awards. However, it was also accused of bigotry; in a 2002 column he used the words “piccannies“, and “watermelon smiles” when referring to Africans, and championed European colonialism in Uganda, while in another he referred to gay men as “tank-topped bumboys”.
Contemplating a political career, in 1993 Johnson outlined his desire to stand as a Conservative candidate to be a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in the 1994 European Parliament elections. Although Major considered vetoing Johnson’s candidacy, Andrew Mitchell convinced him not to; nevertheless Johnson found it impossible to find a constituency and did not stand in that election. He subsequently turned his attention to obtaining a seat in the UK House of Commons, and after being rejected as Conservative candidate for Holborn and St. Pancras he was selected as the party’s candidate for Clwyd South in North Wales, a Labour Party safe seat. Spending six weeks campaigning, he attained 9,091 votes (23%) in the 1997 general election, losing to the Labour candidate.
Scandal erupted in June 1995 when a recording of a 1990 telephone conversation between Johnson and his friend Guppy was made public. In the conversation, Guppy revealed that his criminal activities were being investigated by News of the World journalist Stuart Collier, and he asked Johnson to provide him with Collier’s private address, seeking to have the latter beaten up. Johnson agreed to supply the information although expressed concern that he would be associated with the attack. When the phone conversation was published in 1995, Johnson insisted that he did not ultimately give the information to Guppy; Hastings reprimanded Johnson’s behaviour but did not sack him.
Johnson was given a regular column in The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph‘s sister publication; it attracted mixed reviews, and was often thought rushed. In 1999, he was also given a column on new cars in the magazine GQ. His behaviour regularly annoyed his editors; those at GQ were frustrated by the large number of parking fines that Johnson acquired while testing cars for them, while he was consistently late in providing his columns for The Telegraph and The Spectator, forcing many staff to stay late to accommodate him; they related that if they went ahead and published without his work included, he would get angry and shout at them with expletives.
Johnson’s appearance on an April 1998 episode of Have I Got News for You brought him to a far wider audience; emphasising a bumbling upper-class persona, he was viewed as entertaining and invited back on to later episodes, including as a guest presenter. After these, he came to be recognised on the street by the public, and was invited to appear on other television shows, such as Top Gear, Parkinson, Breakfast with Frost, and Question Time.
The Spectator and MP for Henley: 1999–2008
“The selection of Boris Johnson… confirms the Tory Party’s increasing weakness for celebrity personalities over the dreary exigencies of politics. Johnson, for all his gifts, is unlikely to grace any future Tory cabinet. Indeed, he is not known for his excessive interest in serious policy matters, and it is hard to see him grubbing away at administrative detail as an obscure, hardworking junior minister for social security. To maintain his funny man reputation he will no doubt find himself refining his Bertie Wooster interpretation to the point where the impersonation becomes the man.”
Max Hastings, Evening Standard
In July 1999, Conrad Black — proprietor of The Daily Telegraph andThe Spectator — offered Johnson the editorship of the latter on the condition that he abandoned his parliamentary aspirations; Johnson agreed. He brought in contributions from figures whom he had known from his past, and while retaining The Spectator‘s traditional right-wing bent, he also welcomed contributions from leftist writers and cartoonists. Under Johnson’s editorship, the circulation of The Spectator grew by 10% to 62,000 and it began to turn a profit. His editorship also drew criticism; some opined that under his leadership The Spectator avoided covering serious issues and focused on trivial topics, while colleagues became annoyed that he was regularly absent from the office and often missed meetings and events. He gained a reputation as a poor political pundit for incorrect political predictions that he made in the magazine, and was also strongly criticised — including by his father-in-law Charles Wheeler — for allowingSpectator columnist Taki Theodoracopulos to publish racist and anti-Semitic language in the magazine.
Following the retirement of Michael Heseltine, Johnson decided to stand as the Conservative candidate for Henley, a Conservative safe seat in Oxfordshire. The local Conservative branch were split over Johnson’s candidacy; some found him amusing and charming, while others were critical of his flippant attitude to serious matters and his lack of knowledge about the local area, although he was nevertheless selected. Boosted by his television fame, Johnson stood as the Conservative candidate for the constituency in the 2001 general election, winning with a majority of 8,500 votes.Alongside his main Islington home, Johnson purchased a farmhouse outside Thame in his new constituency. He regularly attended Henley social events and wrote an occasional column for the Henley Standard. His constituency surgeries proved popular, and he involved himself in local campaigns to save Townlands Hospital and the local air ambulance from closure, as well as to keep Brakspear as an independent brewer.
In becoming a Member of Parliament, Johnson broke his promise to Black that he would not do so while editing The Spectator. Although labelling Johnson as “ineffably duplicitous”, Black did not sack him, viewing him as “a capable editor” who “helped promote the magazine and raise its circulation”. In Parliament, Johnson was appointed to serve on astanding committee assessing the Proceeds of Crime Bill, although missed many of its meetings. Despite his credentials as a public speaker, his speeches in the House of Commons were widely deemed lacklustre and lacking in passion, with Johnson later admitting that they were “crap”. In his first four years as MP for Henley he attended just over half of the votes in the House of Commons, although by his second term this had declined to 45%. In most cases he supported the Conservative party line, only rebelling against it five times during this period, when he adopted a more socially liberal attitude than the mainstream party; he for instance voted to repeal Section 28 and supported the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Although initially claiming that he would not do so, he voted in support of the government’s plans to join the US in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in April 2003 visited occupied Baghdad. By December 2006 he was publicly regretting his decision, describing the invasion as “a colossal mistake and misadventure”.
Alongside his full-time job as an MP, he continued editing The Spectator, writing columns for The Daily Telegraph and GQ, and making television appearances. He also published a book, Friends, Voters, Countrymen: Jottings on the Stump, which recounted his experiences with the 2001 election campaign. His next publication was 2003’s Lend Me Your Ears, a collection of previously published columns and articles. In 2004 this was followed by his first novel,Seventy-Two Virgins: A Comedy of Errors, which revolved around the life of a Conservative MP and contained various biographical elements. Responding to critics who argued that he was juggling too many positions, he cited prominent Conservative politiciansWinston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli as exemplars who combined their political and writing careers. To manage the stress he took up jogging and cycling, and became so well known for the latter that Gimson suggested that he was “perhaps the most famous cyclist in Britain”.
Following William Hague‘s resignation as Conservative leader, Johnson used The Spectator to support the candidacy of the only pro-EU figure, Kenneth Clarke. Johnson argued that Clarke was the only candidate capable of winning a general election, however Iain Duncan Smith was selected. Johnson had a strained relationship with Duncan Smith, with The Spectator becoming very critical of the latter’s party leadership. Duncan Smith was removed from his position in November 2003 and replaced by Michael Howard; Howard deemed Johnson to be the most popular Conservative politician with the electorate and appointed him vice-chairman of the party, responsible for overseeing their electoral campaign. In his shadow cabinet reshuffle of May 2004, Howard appointed Johnson to the position of shadow arts minister. In October 2004 Howard ordered Johnson to go to Liverpool and issue a public apology for an article anonymously authored by Simon Heffer that Johnson had published in The Spectator; in the article, Heffer claimed that the crowds at theHillsborough disaster had contributed towards the incident and that Liverpool had a predilection for reliance on the welfare state.
In November 2004, the British tabloids revealed that since 2000, Johnson had been having an affair with Spectatorcolumnist Petronella Wyatt, resulting in two terminated pregnancies. Johnson initially dismissed the claims as “piffle”.After the allegations were proven, Howard asked Johnson to resign from his position as vice-chairman and shadow arts minister, not because of the affair but because he had publicly lied about it. Johnson refused, at which Howard sacked him from those positions. The scandal was satirised by The Spectator‘s theatre critics Toby Young and Lloyd Evans in a play, Who’s the Daddy?, performed at Islington’s King’s Head Theatre in July 2005; the play upset Johnson. In April 2006, the News of the World alleged that Johnson was having an affair with the journalist Anna Fazackerley; both Fazackerley and Johnson refused to comment although the former stepped down from her job and was subsequently employed by Johnson. That month, he attracted further public attention for taking part in a charity football match between former professional footballers and celebrities from England and Germany, in which he rugby tackled Maurizio Gaudino. In September 2006 his comparison between the frequently changing leadership of the Conservatives tocannibalism in Papua New Guinea drew criticism from the latter country’s high commission.
In the 2005 general election, Johnson was re-elected MP for Henley, increasing his majority to 12,793. Following Labour’s victory in the election, Howard stood down as Conservative leader, with Johnson backing David Cameron as his successor. After being successfully selected, Cameron appointed Johnson as the shadow higher education minister, acknowledging his popularity among students. Johnson’s main interest was in streamlining university funding, as part of which he supported Labour’s proposed top-up fees. In September 2006, his image was used in ‘Boris needs you’ and ‘I Love Boris’ material to promote the Conservative Party’s image during Freshers’ Week in universities. In 2006 Johnson campaigned to become Rector of Edinburgh University, but his support for top-up fees damaged his campaign and he ultimately came third, losing to Mark Ballard.
In 2005, The Spectator‘s new chief executive, Andrew Neil, removed Johnson from the editorship of the magazine. With his reduction of earnings, Johnson convinced The Daily Telegraph to raise his annual fee from £200,000 to £250,000, averaging at £5,000 per column, each of which took up around an hour and a half of his time. He presented apopular history television show, The Dream of Rome, for Tiger Aspect; the show was broadcast in January 2006 and a book followed in February. Through his own production company, he then produced a sequel, After Rome, which focused on early Islamic history. As a result of his various activities, in 2007 he earned £540,000, making him the UK’s third highest earning MP that year.
Mayor of London
Mayoral election: 2008
In March 2007, Johnson suggested that he stand for the position of Mayor of London in the 2008 mayoral election. His candidacy was not initially taken seriously within the Conservative Party, who favoured Nick Boles as its candidate.However, after Boles withdrew, Johnson gained the support of Cameron, as well as the London Evening Standardnewspaper. In July, he officially announced his candidacy, and was selected as Conservative candidate in September after gaining 79% of the vote in a public London-wide primary. The Conservatives hired election strategist Lynton Crosby to run Johnson’s campaign, which was primarily funded by sympathetic individuals in London’s financial sector. Johnson’s campaign focused on reducing youth crime, making public transport safer, and replacing the ‘bendy buses‘ with a new fleet of Routemasters. It also targeted the Conservative-leaning suburbs on outer London, hoping to capitalise on a perception that they had been overlooked by a Labour Mayoralty that had paid more attention toinner London. His campaign capitalised on his popularity, even among those who opposed his policies, with opponents complaining that a common attitude among voters was that “I’m voting for Boris because he is a laugh”.
Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone took Johnson seriously, referring to him as “the most formidable opponent I will face in my political career.” Livingstone’s campaign portrayed Johnson as both an out-of-touch toff and a bigot, as evidenced by racist and homophobic language that he had used in his column; Johnson responded that these quotes had been taken out of context and were meant assatire. Johnson insisted that he was not a bigot, declaring that “I’m absolutely 100% anti-racist; I despise and loath racism”. Publicly emphasising his Turkish ancestry, he went contrary to Conservative policy by declaring his support for an earned amnesty for illegal immigrants. However, the allegations were exacerbated when the far right British National Party (BNP) urged its supporters to give their second preference votes to Johnson; he responded by “utterly and unreservedly” condemning the BNP. Controversy was also generated when during the campaign Johnson admitted that as a student he had used cannabis andcocaine.
The election took place in May 2008, and witnessed a turnout of approximately 45% of eligible voters, with Johnson receiving 43.2% and Livingstone 37% of first-preference votes; when second-preference votes were added, Johnson proved victorious with 53.2% to Livingstone’s 46.8%. Johnson benefited from a large voter turnout in Conservative strongholds, in particular Bexley and Bromley. Johnson thus won the largest personal electoral mandate in the UK.Following his victory, he praised Livingstone as a “very considerable public servant” and added that he hoped to “discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London”. He also announced that, as a result of his victory, he would resign as Member of Parliament for Henley, generating some anger from Henley party members and constituents who felt that Johnson was abandoning them for London.
First term: 2008–12
Settling into the Mayoral offices at City Hall, Johnson’s first official engagement was an appearance at the Sikh celebrations for Vaisakhi in Trafalgar Square.His first policy initiative, issued that month, was a ban on drinking alcohol on public transport. He received criticism during the early weeks of his administration, largely because he was late to two official functions in his first week on the job, and because after three weeks he embarked on a holiday to Turkey. In July 2008 Johnson visited the closing ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, there offending his Chinese hosts with his attire. Rather than bringing a team of assistants with him to the job as Livingstone had done, Johnson built his team over the following six months. Those in City Hall who were deemed too closely allied to Livingstone’s administration had their employment terminated. Johnson appointed Tim Parker to be first deputy mayor, but after Parker began taking increasing control at City Hall and insisted that all staff report directly to him, Johnson sacked him. As a result of these problems, many in the Conservative Party initially distanced themselves from Johnson’s administration, fearing that it would be counter-productive to achieving a Conservative victory in the 2010 general election.
During the electoral campaign, Johnson had confided to Brian Paddick that he was unsure how he would retain his current lifestyle while relying upon the Mayoral salary of £140,000 a year. Dealing with this problem, he agreed to continue hisTelegraph column alongside his Mayoral job, thus earning a further £250,000 a year. His team believed that this would cause controversy, and made him promise to donate a fifth of his Telegraph fee to a charitable cause providing bursaries for students. Johnson resented this, and ultimately did not pay a full fifth. Controversy erupted when he was questioned about his Telegraph fee on BBC‘s HARDtalk; here, he referred to the £250,000 as “chicken feed”, something that was widely condemned given that this was roughly ten times the average yearly wage for a British worker.
Johnson made no major changes to the mayoral system as developed by Livingstone. He did however reverse a number of measures implemented by Livingstone’s administration, ending the city’s oil deal with Venezuela, abolishingThe Londoner newsletter, and scrapping the half yearly inspections of black cabs, although the latter were reinstated three years later. Abolishing the western wing of the congestion charging zone, he cancelled plans to increase the congestion charge for four-wheel drives. He retained Livingstone projects like Crossrail and the 2012 Olympic Games, although was accused of trying to take credit for them. He introduced a public bicycle scheme which had been mooted by Livingstone’s administration; colloquially known as “Boris Bikes“, the partly privately financed system cost £140 million and was a significant financial loss although proved popular. Despite Johnson’s support of cycling in London – and his much publicised identity as a cyclist himself – his administration was criticised by some cycling groups who argued that he had failed to make the city’s roads safer for cyclists. As per his election pledge, he also commissioned the development of the New Routemaster buses for central London. He also ordered the construction of a cable-car system that crossed the River Thames betweenGreenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. At the beginning of his tenure as Mayor, Johnson announced plans to extend Pay As You Go Oyster card to national rail services in London One of the pledges in Johnson’s election manifesto was to retain Tube ticket offices, in opposition to Livingstone’s proposal to close up to 40 London Underground ticket offices. On 2 July 2008 the Mayor’s office announced that the closure plan was to be abandoned and that offices would remain open. On 21 November 2013, Transport for London announced that all London Underground ticket offices would close by 2015. In financing these projects, Johnson’s administration borrowed £100 million, while public transport fares were increased by 50%.
Johnson assumed control at City Hall on 4 May 2008. He appointed Richard Barnes as his Deputy Mayor on 6 May 2008, as well as appointing the following to newly devolved offices; Ian Clement as Deputy Mayor for Government Relations, Kit Malthouse as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Ray Lewis as Deputy Mayor for Young People. The Mayor also appointedMunira Mirza as his cultural adviser and Nick Boles, the founder of Policy Exchange, as Chief of Staff. Sir Simon Miltonbecame Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning, as well as Chief of Staff. Political opponents questioned Johnson’s judgement when Ray Lewis resigned on 4 July 2008, shortly after taking up his post, following allegations of financial misconduct during his prior career as a Church of England priest and inappropriate behaviour in respect of a false claim to have been appointed as a magistrate.
During the first term of his mayoralty, Johnson was perceived as having moved leftward on certain issues, for instance by supporting the London Living Wage and the idea of an amnesty for illegal migrants. He tried placating critics who had deemed him a bigot by appearing at London’s gay pride parade and praising ethnic minority newspapers. In 2012 he banned London buses from displaying the adverts of Core Issues Trust, a Christian group, which compared being gay to an illness. In August 2008, Johnson broke from the traditional procedure of those in public office not publicly commenting on other nations’ elections by endorsingBarack Obama for the presidency of the United States.
Johnson appointed himself Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), and in October 2008 successfully pushed for the resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair after the latter was criticised for allegedly handing contracts to friends and for his handling of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. This earned Johnson great respect among Conservatives, who interpreted it as his first act of strength and assertiveness. Although resigning as MPA Chairman in January 2010, throughout his mayoralty Johnson was highly supportive of the Metropolitan Police, particularly during the controversy surrounding the death of Ian Tomlinson. Overall crime in London fell during his administration, although his claim that serious youth crime had decreased was shown to be false, as it had increased. Similarly, his claim that Metropolitan Police numbers had increased was also shown to be incorrect, as the city’s police force had decreased in size under his administration, in line with the rest of the country. He was also criticised for his response to the 2011 London riots; holidaying with his family in British Columbia when the rioting broke out, he did not immediately return to London, only returning 48 hours after it had begun and addressing Londoners 60 hours after. Upon visiting shopkeepers and residents affected by the riots in Clapham, he was booed and jeered away by some elements within the crowds.
Johnson championed London’s financial sector and denounced what he saw as “banker bashing” following the financial crisis of 2007–08, condemning the anti-capitalist Occupy London movement that appeared in 2011. He spent much time with those involved in the financial services, and criticised the government’s 50p tax rate for higher earners. He collected donations from the city’s wealthy for a charitable enterprise, the Mayor’s Fund, which he had established to aid disadvantaged youths; although initially announcing that it would raise £100 million, by 2010 it had only spent £1.5 million. He also retained extensive personal contacts throughout the British media, which resulted in widespread favourable press coverage of his administration. In turn he remained largely supportive of his friends in the media, among them Rupert Murdoch, during the News International phone hacking scandal.
The formation of the Forensic Audit Panel was announced on 8 May 2008. The Panel is tasked with monitoring and investigating financial management at the London Development Agency and the Greater London Authority. Johnson’s announcement was criticised by Labour for the perceived politicisation of this nominally independent panel, who asked if the appointment of these key Johnson allies to the panel – “to dig dirt on Ken Livingstone” – was “an appropriate use of public funds”. Wheatcroft is married to a Conservative councillor and three of the four remaining panel members also have close links to the Conservatives: Stephen Greenhalgh (Conservative Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council),Patrick Frederick (Chairman of Conservative Business Relations for South East England and Southern London) and Edward Lister (Conservative Leader of Wandsworth Council).
During his first administration, Johnson was embroiled in several personal scandals. After moving to a new house in Islington, he built a shed on his balcony without obtaining planning permission; after neighbours complained, he dismantled the shed. The press also accused him of having an affair with Helen Macintyre and of fathering her child, allegations that he did not deny. Controversy was generated when Johnson was accused of warning the MP Damian Green that police were planning to arrest him; Johnson denied the claims and did not face criminal charges under the Criminal Justice Act. He was accused ofcronyism, in particular for appointing Veronica Wadley, a former Evening Standard editor who had supported him, as the chair of London’s Arts Council when she was widely regarded as not being the best candidate for the position. He was caught up in the parliamentary expenses scandal and accused of excessive personal spending on taxi journeys, with his deputy mayor Ian Clement having been found to have misused a City Hall credit card, resulting in his resignation. Johnson remained a popular figure in London with a strong celebrity status. In 2009, he rescued a woman, Franny Armstrong, from anti-social teenagers who had threatened her while he was cycling past.
Up for re-election in 2012, Johnson again hired Crosby to orchestrate his campaign. Before the election, Johnson published Johnson’s Life of London, a work of popular history which the historian A. N. Wilson characterised as a “coded plea” for votes. Polls suggested that while Livingstone’s approach to transport was preferred, voters in London placed greater trust in Johnson over issues of crime and the economy. During the 2012 Mayoral election, Johnson sought re-election, while Livingstone was again selected as the Labour candidate. Johnson’s campaign emphasised the accusation that Livingstone was guilty of tax evasion, for which Livingstone called Johnson a “bare-faced liar”. The political scientist Andrew Crines believed that Livingstone’s campaign focused on criticising Johnson rather than presenting an alternate and progressive vision of London’s future. In 2012, he was re-elected as Mayor, again defeating Livingstone.
Second term: 2012–16
London was successful in its bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics while Ken Livingstone was still Mayor in 2005. Johnson’s role in the proceedings was to be the co-chair of an Olympic board which oversaw the Games. Two of his actions subsequent to taking on this role were to improve the transport around London by making more tickets available and laying on more buses around the capital during the busy period, when thousands of spectators were temporary visitors in London, and also to allow shops and supermarkets to have longer opening hours on Sundays.
In November 2013, Johnson announced major changes to the operation of London Underground, including the extension of Tube operating hours to run through the night at weekends. The announcement also revealed that all staffed Underground ticket offices would be closed with the aim of saving over £40 million a year, with automated ticketing systems provided instead.
In February 2013, during a London Assembly meeting following the publication of the 2014 budget for London, Johnson was ejected from the meeting following a vote and on the grounds that his Deputy Victoria Borwick had left the chamber. Upon realising that the vote meant that he would not be questioned on the budget, Johnson referred to his political opponents as “great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies”.
Johnson attended the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum in London in July 2013, where he answered questions alongside Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. He joked that Malaysian women attended university in order to find husbands, causing some offence among female attendees.
In 2014, Johnson pushed his biography of Churchill, The Churchill Factor, with media emphasising how Johnson repeatedly compared himself to Churchill throughout.
In 2016, three German-made water cannon, which he had bought for the Metropolitan Police without waiting for clearance for use by Theresa May, were sold by his successor, with the funds going to youth services.
Return to Parliament
‘Brexit’ campaign: 2015–16
Johnson initially denied that he would return to the House of Commons while remaining Mayor. However, after much media speculation, in August 2014 he sought selection as the Conservative candidate for the safe seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the 2015 general election, being selected as the party’s candidate in September. The United Kingdom general election, 2015 took place on 7 May and Johnson was elected. There was much speculation that he had returned to Parliament because he wanted to replace Cameron as Conservative leader and Prime Minister.
Johnson became the centre of media interest in early 2016 when he refused to clarify his support for Brexit. In February 2016 he endorsed Vote Leave in the “Out” campaign for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016. He labelled Cameron’s fears on the matter as “greatly over exaggerated”. Following this announcement, which was interpreted by financial markets as making Brexit more probable, the pound sterling slumped by nearly 2% to its lowest level since March 2009. When Obama urged the UK to remain in the EU, Johnson alleged that the President was motivated by anti-British sentiment caused by his Kenyan ancestry. The comments were condemned as racist and unacceptable by several Labour and Liberal Democratic politicians, and a King’s College London student society revoked a speaking invitation to him on the basis of it. Conversely, his comments were defended by both UKIP leaderNigel Farage and the Conservative Iain Duncan Smith.
Following the success of the “Leave” campaign in the referendum, Cameron announced his resignation, and Johnson was widely regarded as the front-runner inthe election of his replacement, both as Conservative leader and as Prime Minister. In what was anticipated to be the launch of his leadership campaign, Johnson declared he would not campaign for leader, as he did not believe he could provide the necessary unity or leadership for the party. This followed the surprise launch of a leadership campaign by Michael Gove, previously seen as a key ally of the Johnson campaign, who said (earlier that morning) that he had reluctantly come to the conclusion that Johnson “cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.” The Telegraph stated that Gove’s actions in undermining Johnson’s leadership aspirations constituted “the most spectacular political assassination in a generation.” Meanwhile, Michael Heseltine stated that Johnson had “ripped apart” the Conservative Party and that “He’s created the greatest constitutional crisis of modern times. He knocked billions off the value of the nation’s savings”. Johnson then endorsed Andrea Leadsom as a candidate for the Conservative leadership, but she dropped out of the race a week later.
Foreign Secretary: 2016–
Following Theresa May‘s victory in the leadership contest and subsequent appointment as Prime Minister, Johnson was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 13 July 2016. Johnson’s appointment was criticized by some journalists and foreign politicians due to his history of controversial statements about other countries and their leaders. Former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt said “I wish it was a joke”, and France’s foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated: “I am not at all worried about Boris Johnson, but … during the campaign he lied a lot to the British people and now it is he who has his back against the wall.” Conversely, former Prime Minister of AustraliaTony Abbott welcomed the appointment and called him “a friend of Australia”. A senior official in the Obama administration suggested that the appointment of Johnson would push the United States further towards ties with Germanyat the expense of the special relationship with the United Kingdom.
Several analysts described the appointment as a possible tactic by May to weaken her leadership rival Johnson politically: the new positions of “Brexit Secretary” and International Trade Secretary leave the Foreign Secretary as a figurehead with few powers, and the appointment would ensure that Johnson would often be out of the country and unable to organize a rebel coalition, while also forcing him to take responsibility for any problems caused by withdrawal from the EU.
Ideologically, Johnson has described himself as a “One-Nation Tory“ and a “very moderate liberal conservative“.Academic Tony Travers of the London School of Economics described Johnson as “a fairly classic—that is, small-state—mildly eurosceptic Conservative” who like his contemporaries Cameron and Osborne also embraced “modern social liberalism”. The Guardian agreed that while Mayor, Johnson had blended economic and social liberalism, with The Economist claiming that in doing so Johnson “transcends his Tory identity” and adopts a more libertarian perspective.Stuart Reid, Johnson’s colleague at The Spectator, described the latter’s views as being those of a “liberal libertarian”.Johnson’s biographer and friend Andrew Gimson noted that while “in economic and social matters, [Johnson] is a genuine liberal”, he retains a “Tory element” to his personality through his “love of existing institutions, and a recognition of the inevitability of hierarchy”.
“[I am] free-market, tolerant, broadly libertarian (though perhaps not ultra-libertarian), inclined to see the merit of traditions, anti-regulation, pro-immigrant, pro-standing on your own two feet, pro-alcohol, pro-hunting, pro-motorist and ready to defend to the death the right ofGlenn Hoddle to believe in reincarnation.”
Stuart Wilks-Heeg, executive director of Democratic Audit, noted that “Boris is politically nimble”, while biographer Sonia Purnell stated that Johnson regularly changed his opinion on political issues, commenting on what she perceived to be “an ideological emptiness beneath the staunch Tory exterior.” She later referred to his “opportunistic—some might say pragmatic—approach to politics”.Former Mayor Ken Livingstone claimed in an interview with the New Statesman that while he had once feared Johnson as “the most hardline right-wing ideologue since Thatcher”, over the course of Johnson’s mayoralty he had instead concluded that he was “a fairly lazy tosser who just wants to be there” while doing very little work. He has sometimes been described as a “populist“ and a “nationalist“.
Although Johnson became widely known for his strongly Eurosceptic articles in The Daily Telegraph, many of his close associates have believed this to be an opportunistic ruse, expressing the view that he is not a genuine Eurosceptic, with some suggesting that he might be sympathetic to the cause of European federalism. He welcomed Turkey’s entry into the EU in 2012.[clarification needed] Highlighting these claims, Purnell stated that he is “neither truly anti-European nor aLittle Englander“.
Purnell has noted that Johnson “is nothing if not an elitist”, and in an article titled “Long Live Elitism” he stated that “without elites and elitism man would still be in his caves.” Purnell believed that it was the influence of Johnson’s maternal family, the left-wing Fawcetts, that led to him developing “a genuine abhorrence of racial discrimination”.
Widely known simply as “Boris”, Johnson has attracted a variety of nicknames, including “BoJo”, a portmanteau of his forename and surname. Biographer Sonia Purnell described his public persona as “brand Boris”, noting that he developed it while at Oxford University. Max Hastings referred to this public image as a “façade resembling that of P. G. Wodehouse‘s Gussie Fink-Nottle, allied to wit, charm, brilliance and startling flashes of instability”, while political scientist Andrew Crines stated that Johnson had created “the character of a likable and trustworthy individual with strong intellectual capital”. Private Eye editor Ian Hislop has defined him as “Beano Boris” due to his perceived comical nature, saying: “He’s our Berlusconi … He’s the only feel-good politician we have, everyone else is too busy being responsible.”
Johnson purposely cultivates a “semi-shambolic look”, for instance by specifically ruffling his hair in a certain way for when he makes public appearances. Purnell described him as “a manic self-promoter” who filled his life with “fun and jokes”. Described by Crines as “a joker”, Johnson has stated that “humour is a utensil that you can use to sugar the pill and to get important points across.” Purnell noted that colleagues of his regularly expressed the view that he used people to advance his own interests, with Gimson noting that he was “one of the great flatterers of our times”.Purnell noted that he deflected serious questions using “a little humour and a good deal of bravado”. According to Gimson, Johnson was “a humane man” who “could also be staggeringly inconsiderate of others” when focusing upon his own interests. Gimson also noted that Johnson has “an excessive desire to be liked”.
According to Purnell, “[Johnson] is blessed with immense charisma, wit, sex appeal and celebrity gold dust; he is also recognised and loved by millions—although perhaps less so by many who have had to work closely with him (let alone depend on him). Resourceful, cunning and strategic, he can pull off serious political coups when the greater good happens to coincide with his personal advantage but these aspirations are rarely backed up by concrete achievements, or even detailed plans.”
Purnell noted that Johnson was a “highly evasive figure” when it came to his personal life, who remained detached from others and who had very few if any intimate friends. Among friends and family, Johnson is known as “Al” rather than “Boris”. Gimson stated that Johnson “has very bad manners. He tends to be late, does not care about being late, and dresses without much care”. Highly ambitious and very competitive, Gimson noted that he was born “to wage a ceaseless struggle for supremacy”. He would be particularly angered with those he thought insulted aspects of his personal life; for instance, when an article in The Telegraph upset him he e-mailed commissioning editor Sam Leith with the simple message “Fuck off and die.” Thus Purnell notes that Johnson hides his ruthlessness “using bumbling, self-deprecation or humour”, adding that he was a fan of “laddish banter and crude sexual references”. Johnson is a fluent speaker of French and Italian, has a good grasp of German and Spanish, and is a lover of Latin, frequently using classical references in his newspaper columns and speeches. Stating that in the past he has “often smoked cannabis”, Johnson is in favour of legalising medical marijuana.
“Boris is an original—the opposite of a stereotype, the exception to the rule. Overweight and goosey-fleshed, he’s the antithesis of an airbrushed pin-up. He resembles a ‘human laundry-basket’ and has a habit of forgetting to shower.”
Biographer Sonia Purnell
Johnson is a controversial figure in British politics and journalism. Purnell described Johnson as “the most unconventional, yet compelling politician of the post-Blair era” in British politics. She added that in Britain, he was “beloved by millions and recognised by all”. Giles Edwards and Jonathan Isaby commented that Johnson appealed to “a broad cross-section of the public”. Gimson expressed the view that “people love him because he makes them laugh”, noting that he had become “the darling of the Tory rank and file”. Purnell recognised that during the 2008 mayoral election, he was “polarising opinions to the extreme”, with critics viewing him as “variously evil, a clown, a racist and a bigot”. Writing in The Guardian, journalist Polly Toynbee for instance referred to him as “Jester, toff, self-absorbed sociopath and serial liar”, while Labour politician Hazel Blears called him “a nasty right-wing elitist, with odious views and criminal friends”. More recently, Johnson has evoked comparisons with 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. In June 2016, Nick Clegg described him as “like Donald Trump with a thesaurus”, while fellow Conservative MP Kenneth Clarkedescribed him as a “nicer Donald Trump” and EU official Martin Selmayr described the potential election of Johnson and Trump to the leadership of their respective countries as a “horror scenario”. However, Johnson has chosen to distance himself from Trump, criticising him on numerous occasions.
Johnson has dual citizenship in both the United Kingdom and the United States, since he was born in New York City to English parents. In 2014 Johnson acknowledged he was disputing a demand for capital gains tax from the US tax authorities, which ultimately he paid. In February 2015 Boris Johnson announced his intention to give up US citizenship to prove his loyalty to the UK.
Johnson is the eldest of the four children of Stanley Johnson, a former Conservative Member of the European Parliamentand employee of the European Commission and World Bank, and the painter Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett), the daughter of Sir James Fawcett, a barrister and president of the European Commission of Human Rights. His younger siblings are Rachel Johnson, a writer and journalist; Leo Johnson, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers specialising in sustainability; and Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science and Conservative MP forOrpington. His stepfather was the American academic Nicholas Wahl. Johnson’s stepmother, Jenny, the second wife of his father Stanley, is the stepdaughter of Teddy Sieff, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer.
In 1987, he married Allegra Mostyn-Owen; the marriage was dissolved in 1993. Later that year, he married Marina Wheeler, a barrister and daughter of journalist and broadcaster Sir Charles Wheeler and his wife, Dip Singh. The Wheeler and Johnson families have known each other for decades, and Marina Wheeler was at the European School in Brussels at the same time as her future husband. They have four children: two daughters, Lara and Cassia, and two sons, Milo and Theodore. Johnson and his family live in Islington, North London.
In 2009 Johnson fathered a daughter with Helen MacIntyre, an arts consultant. Her existence was the subject of legal action in 2013 with the Court of Appeal quashing an injunction seeking to ban reporting of her existence; the judge ruled that the public had a right to know about Johnson’s “reckless” behaviour.
|[show]Ancestors of Boris Johnson|