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Boris Johnson

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Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson July 2015.jpg
Johnson, photographed in 2015
2nd Mayor of London
Assumed office
4 May 2008
Deputy Richard Barnes (2008-2012)
Victoria Borwick (2012-2015)
Roger Evans (2015-present)
Preceded by Ken Livingstone
Shadow Minister for Higher Education
In office
6 December 2005 – 16 July 2007
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by David Cameron
Succeeded by Adam Afriyie
Shadow Minister for the Arts
In office
14 April 2004 – 17 November 2004
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Gerald Howarth
Succeeded by Tony Baldry
Member of Parliament
for Uxbridge and South Ruislip
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded by John Randall
Member of Parliament
for Henley
In office
9 June 2001 – 4 June 2008
Preceded by Michael Heseltine
Succeeded by John Howell
Personal details
Born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
(1964-06-19) 19 June 1964 (age 51)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Allegra Mostyn-Owen (1987–1993)
Marina Wheeler (1993–present)
Children 6
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Religion Anglicanism
Website Government website

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (born 19 June 1964) is a British politician, popular historian and journalist who has served as Mayor of London since 2008 and as Member of Parliament (MP) for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015. Johnson previously served as the MP for Henley from 2001 until 2008. A member of the Conservative Party, Johnson considers himself a One Nation Conservative and has been described as a libertarian due to his association with both economically liberal and socially liberal policies.

Born in New York City to upper middle class English parents, Johnson was educated at the European School of Brussels, Ashdown House School, and Eton College. He read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club and 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 growing Eurosceptic sentiment among the British right-wing. He became assistant editor from 1994 to 1999 before taking the editorship of The Spectator from 1999 to 2005. Joining the Conservatives, he was elected to the House of Commons as MP for Henley in 2001. Making regular television appearances as well as continuing with his journalism and book writing, Johnson became one of the most conspicuous politicians in the country. Under the Conservative leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron, Johnson served on the opposition front bench, first as Shadow Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and then for Higher Education.

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, introduced the New Routemaster buses and 'Boris Bikes', and championed London's financial sector. In 2012, he was re-elected as Mayor, again defeating Livingstone; during his second term he oversaw the 2012 London Olympic Games. In 2015 he was elected as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and has said he will stand down as London Mayor in 2016 by not contesting that year's election.

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. Critics have accused him of laziness and dishonesty, racism, homophobia, and being out of touch with working people. The author of various books, he is also the subject of several biographies and a number of fictionalised portrayals.

Early life

Birth and ancestry

Johnson's eighth great grandfather King George II

Johnson was born on 19 June 1964[1] at The Clinic, a hospital on the Upper East Side of New York City.[2] His birth was registered with both the U.S. authorities and the city's British Consulate, and thus he was awarded both American and British citizenship.[3] His parents were both English. His father, Stanley Johnson, had moved to the United States to study creative writing at the University of Iowa, before transferring to study economics at New York's Columbia University.[4] Boris's mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett),[5] had been from a family of left-wing and liberal intellectuals and had married the politically conservative Stanley in 1963, before accompanying him to the U.S.[6]

Stanley's father, Johnny Johnson, had been born Osman Kemal[7] in Bournemouth to a half-English and half-Swiss mother, Winifred.[8] Johnny's father, Ali Kemal Bey, was a Turkish journalist who had been killed for his anti-Nationalist sympathies during the Turkish War of Independence.[9][10] After Winifred died shortly after childbirth, Osman was orphaned, and moved in with his English maternal grandmother, where he was renamed Wilfred "Johnny" Johnson and rejected his Turkish heritage.[11] Stanley's mother, Irène Johnson (née Williams) was half-English and half-French, having been the illegitimate granddaughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg and through him a descendant of King George II of Great Britain.[12] Via this royal connection, Boris is related to most of the royal families of Europe, and is an eighth cousin of British Prime Minister David Cameron.[13][14]

Johnson's mother, Charlotte, was the daughter of barrister James Fawcett, and the granddaughter of palaeographer Elias Avery Lowe (who was of Russian Jewish extraction)[15] and translator Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter. In reference to his cosmopolitan ancestry, Johnson has described himself as a "one-man melting pot"—with a combination of Muslims, Jews, and Christians as great-grandparents.[16] The journalist Toby Young has described Johnson's background as being "lower-upper-middle class".[17]

Childhood: 1964–77

When Boris was born, his parents were living in an apartment opposite the Chelsea Hotel,[18] although soon embarked on a tour of Canada, New Hampshire, and Vermont with their newborn.[19] In September 1964 they returned to Britain, enabling Charlotte to undertake an English degree at the University of Oxford.[20] There, she and her son lived in a flat in Summertown, Oxford; it was here that she gave birth to a daughter, Rachel, in 1965.[19] In July 1965 the family moved to Crouch End in North London,[21] although in February 1966 they relocated to Washington D.C., where Stanley had gained a job with the World Bank.[22] A third child, Leo, was born there in September 1967, and Charlotte took up the painting for which she would become publicly known.[23] After Stanley was fired, he obtained a new job as project director of a policy panel on population control, in June moving the family to Harbor Island in Norwalk, Connecticut.[24] As a child, Johnson was quiet and studious.[21] He suffered from severe deafness and aged eight underwent several operations to have grommets inserted in his ears.[25]

In summer 1969, the family returned to the United Kingdom, settling into a cottage on Stanley's family farm at Nethercote, near to Winsford in Exmoor; the cottage was adjacent to a house inhabited by Stanley's parents, Johnny and Irène Johnson.[26] Stanley was regularly absent from Nethercote, leaving Boris to be raised largely by his mother and au pairs.[27] He and his siblings were encouraged to engage in high-brow activities from a young age,[28] with high achievement also being highly valued; Johnson's earliest recorded ambition was to be "world king".[29] Having few or no friends other than their siblings, the children became very close,[30] although Boris became highly competitive toward Rachel.[31] It was there that Johnson also gained his first experiences with fox hunting.[32] In autumn 1969 the family relocated to Maida Vale in North London to enable Stanley to undertake post-doctoral work at the London School of Economics.[33] In 1970, Charlotte and the children briefly returned to Nethercote, where Boris was schooled at the Winsford Village School, before returning to London to settle in Primrose Hill,[34] there being educated at Primrose Hill Primary School.[35] In late 1971 a further child, Jo Johnson, was born to the family, and in November 1972 they relocated to a larger house nearby.[36]

After Stanley secured a job in the environmental sub-directorate of the European Commission, he moved his family to the Belgian city of Brussels in April 1973, where they settled in Uccle and where Boris became fluent in French.[37] There, Stanley's repeated infidelities resulted in Charlotte's nervous breakdown; she was hospitalised with clinical depression, and so in September 1975 Boris and his siblings were sent to a preparatory boarding school, Ashdown House in East Sussex.[38] It was there that he developed a love of rugby, and excelled at Ancient Greek and Latin.[39] However, he was appalled by the regularity and brutality with which Ashdown's teachers beat the students, thus becoming a strong critic of corporal punishment.[40] Meanwhile, Stanley and Charlotte's relationship broke apart in December 1978 and they divorced in 1980.[41] Charlotte moved into a flat in Notting Hill, where her children spent much of their time with her.[42]

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[43]

While at Ashdown, Johnson was awarded a King's Scholarship to study at Eton College, the elite independent boarding school in Eton, Berkshire.[44] Beginning his education there in the autumn term of 1977,[45] as a King's Scholar he was assigned to live at College boarding house, which had a more liberal bent than the conservative and right-wing dominated milieu of the wider school.[45] It was at Eton that Johnson began using the name Boris rather than Alex, and developed "the eccentric English persona" for which he later became known.[46] It was also here that he abandoned his mother's Catholicism and became an Anglican, joining the Church of England.[47]

Although school reports contain complaints regarding Johnson's idleness, complacency, and lateness,[48] he proved popular and established himself as a well-known figure within the school.[46] 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.[49] While he did poorly at science and maths, he excelled in English and Classics, winning prizes in both including the prestigious Newcastle Prize.[50] He began writing for Eton College's newspaper, The Chronicle, and in 1981 was appointed its editor, beginning his journalistic career.[51] He also took part in the college's debating society, eventually becoming its secretary,[52] and in autumn 1981 was admitted to the Eton Society, better known as "Pop".[53] 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.[54]

Johnson read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford.

Johnson won a scholarship to read Literae Humaniores, a four-year course rooted in the study of Classics, at Balliol College, Oxford,[55] arriving there in the autumn of 1983.[56] There, he was part of a generation of Oxford undergraduates who came to dominate 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.[57] At the university he associated primarily with Old Etonians and joined the Old Etonian-dominated Bullingdon Club, an upper-class drinking society known for its acts of local vandalism and for wrecking restaurants before paying for the damage.[58][59] According to Johnson biographer Sonia Purnell, he was "now ensconced in a closeted upper-class world of entitlement and wealth" quite dissimilar from his upper middle-class upbringing.[60] He also began playing rugby for Balliol, continuing to do so for the four years of his degree.[61] Intent on finding a wife,[56] he entered into a relationship with the aristocrat Allegra Mostyn-Owen, and they became engaged while at university.[62]

Johnson became a popular and well-known public figure at the university,[63] and with Guppy co-edited its satirical magazine Tributary.[64] In 1984 he was elected Secretary of the Oxford Union,[65] and subsequently campaigned for the position of Union President; his campaign focused largely on obtaining the support of those from independent schools. With 43% of the vote, he lost the election to Neil Sherlock.[66] In 1986 he launched a second attempt at the Presidency, in which his campaign was aided by fellow undergraduate Frank Luntz; it focused on reaching out from Johnson's established upper-class support base by emphasising his popular persona and downplaying his connections to the Conservatives.[67] Hoping to court their vote, he associated with university groups affiliated with the centrist Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Liberal Party, as part of which he called for electoral reform via the introduction of proportional representation.[68] Luntz later alleged that Johnson actively portrayed himself as an SDP supporter during the campaign, although Johnson claims no recollection of having done so.[68][69] Johnson won the election and was appointed president.[70] His presidency was not seen as particularly distinguished or memorable,[71] and questions were raised regarding his competency and seriousness.[72] Having specialised in the study of Ancient Literature and Classical Philosophy, Johnson graduated from Balliol College with an upper second-class degree.[73][74] He was deeply unhappy that he did not receive a first, losing sleep over the issue.[75]

Early career

The Times and The Daily Telegraph: 1987–99

Johnson's first wedding was held at St. Michael and All Angels Church, West Felton.

Johnson and Mostyn-Owen married at St. Michael and All Angels Church in West Felton, Shropshire on 5 September 1987, with their wedding reception held at her nearby country seat of Woodhouse. A violin piece was specially commissioned from Hans Werner Henze, while Johnson lost his wedding ring an hour after the service.[76] The couple honeymooned in Egypt before settling into a flat in West Kensington, West London.[77] From there, Johnson secured work for a management consultancy company, L.E.K. Consulting; finding it incredibly boring, he resigned after a week.[78] Through family connections, in late 1987 he began work as a graduate trainee at The Times; initially stationed for a three-month posting at the Wolverhampton Express & Star, he was then given a series of low-grade jobs in The Times office and assigned to shadow established journalist David Sapsted.[79] Scandal erupted when he authored an article for the newspaper on the archaeological discovery of the palace of Edward II. Johnson had consulted his own godfather, the historian Colin Lucas, for information about the site, and then added a fictionalised quote which he attributed to Lucas. The quotation contained historically incorrect information, embarrassing Lucas, who complained to The Times' manager Charles Wilson; Wilson then sacked Johnson for falsifying the quote.[80][81][82]

Johnson immediately gained a job on the lead writing desk of The Times' main rival, The Daily Telegraph, having known its editor, Max Hastings, through his Presidency of the Oxford Union.[83] His articles were known for their unique literary style, replete with old-fashioned words, phrases, and humour, and for regularly referring to the readership as "my friends".[84] They were constructed to appeal strongly to the traditionalist and conservative attitudes of the newspaper's largely middle-class and middle-aged 'Middle England' readership.[85] Colleagues at the newspaper noted that he socialised little with them, but instead with bankers and members of the wealthy elite, and that he carefully avoided offending establishment figures with his articles.[86]

"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."

Boris Johnson[87]

In Spring 1989, Johnson was appointed to the newspaper's Brussels bureau, where he was assigned to report on the events surrounding the European Commission.[88] There, he established himself as one of the few Eurosceptic journalists based in the city, becoming a particularly vehement critic of the Commission President Jacques Delors.[89] Many of his fellow journalists based in the city were critical of his reports, feeling that they were often dishonest and contained untruths designed to discredit the Commission,[90] with John Palmer of The Guardian stating that "as a journalist he is thoroughly irresponsible, making up stories."[91] Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson believed that these articles led to him becoming "one of [Euroscepticism's] most famous exponents",[87] while according to Purnell, "he helped to take [Euroscepticism] out of the hands of its traditional proponents from the Left, such as veteran Labour MPs Tony Benn and Peter Shore, and make it an attractive and emotionally resonant cause for the Right."[92] Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described Johnson as her favourite journalist on the basis of these articles.[93] However, Thatcher's successor John Major was annoyed by Johnson and spent much time attempting to rebuke his claims, unsuccessfully appealing to Hastings to control him.[94] 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.[95] His writings have also been cited as a key influence on the emergence of the right-wing Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the early 1990s.[92]

Johnson's devotion to his journalism exacerbated problems in his marriage, and in February 1990 Allegra left him and returned to London. Although they made various attempts to reconcile, they divorced in April 1993.[96] He had entered into a romantic relationship with a childhood friend, the lawyer Marina Wheeler, who had moved to Brussels for work purposes in 1990.[97] In May 1993, they married at Horsham town hall in Sussex before embarking on a one-night honeymoon in East Grinstead.[98] Soon after, a daughter was born to the couple.[99] In 1994, Johnson returned to London, where Hastings turned down his request to become a war reporter.[100] Instead, he was promoted to the position of assistant editor and chief political columnist.[101] His column was recognised as ideologically eclectic and uniquely written, and earned him a Commentator of the Year Award at the What the Papers Say awards.[102][103]

Johnson's column would also be criticised in some quarters for exhibiting bigotry and prejudice. In one 2002 column he used the words "piccannies", and "watermelon smiles" when referring to Africans, also championing European colonialism in Uganda.[104][105][106] Elsewhere, he used homophobic terminology when referring to gay men as "tank-topped bumboys" further stating that it was "appalling" that the Labour government of Prime Minister Tony Blair were repealing Section 28, a piece of Conservative legislation that was intended to prevent the promotion of homosexuality, particularly with regards to children.[107] Johnson was given a regular column in The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph's sister paper; it attracted mixed reviews, and was often thought rushed.[102] In 1999, he was also given a column on new cars in the magazine GQ.[108] 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,[107] while he was consistently late in providing his columns for The Telegraph and The Spectator, forcing many staff to stay late to accommodate him; if they went ahead and published without his work included, he would get very angry, and shout at them with expletives.[109]

Johnson's influential Eurosceptic articles were enjoyed by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (left) but annoyed her successor, John Major (right)

Upon returning to Britain, Johnson and his wife settled in Calabria Road in Islington, North London,[110] before moving to the nearby Furlong Road in March 1999.[111] The Islington area was known for its left-liberal intelligentsia; under the influence of this milieu and the ideas of his new wife, Johnson came to better appreciate alternate points of view. His rightist, traditionalist Conservative attitudes toward issues such as climate change, LGBT rights, and race relations changed, reflecting this liberal influence.[112] It was here that the couple had three further children, all of whom were given the joint surname of Johnson-Wheeler.[113] The children were sent to local Canonbury Primary School, before being sent to independent secondary schools.[114] 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.[115]

Scandal erupted in June 1995 when a recording of a telephone conversation between Johnson and Guppy in 1990 was made public. Guppy had requested the private address and telephone number of News of the World journalist Stuart Collier, wishing to have Collier beaten up to prevent him investigating Guppy's criminal activities. In the conversation, Johnson agreed to provide the information, and expressed concern that he would be associated with the attack. Johnson insisted that he had never actually given Guppy the information, and Collier was not attacked; although Hastings reprimanded Johnson's behaviour, he was not sacked.[116][117]

Johnson had begun to actively contemplate a political career, and in 1993 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 he did not stand in that election.[118] He subsequently turned his attention to obtaining a seat in the U.K. House of Commons, and after being rejected as Conservative candidate for Holborn and St. Pancras he was selected as the Conservative candidate for the Labour safe seat of Clwyd South in North Wales. Spending six-weeks campaigning, he read-up on farming and learned some Welsh, although attained only 9,091 votes (23%) in the 1997 general election, losing to the Labour candidate.[119] Moving to become a media personality, in April 1998 he appeared on an episode of Have I Got News For You, which 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.[120] After these appearances, 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.[121]

The Spectator and Henley-on-Thames: 1999–2008

In July 1999, Conrad Black, proprietor of both The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, offered Johnson the editorship of the latter on the condition that he abandoned his parliamentary aspirations; Johnson agreed.[122] Under Johnson's editorship, the circulation of The Spectator grew by 10% to 62,000 and it began to turn a profit.[123] He brought in contributions from many figures whom he had known through life, including from his extended family, Eton, Oxford, and his time at The Telegraph.[124] Although retaining The Spectator's traditional right-wing bent, he also welcomed contributions from leftist writers and cartoonists like Steve Bell and Andy McSmith.[125] Critics, including many involved in The Telegraph, thought that under Johnson's leadership The Spectator had avoided covering serious issues and focused on insubstantial and trivial topics.[126] Johnson was strongly criticised – including by his father-in-law Charles Wheeler – for permitting Taki Theodoracopulos's use of racist and anti-semitic language in his Spectator column,[127] while Johnson also earned a reputation as a poor political pundit for the incorrect political predictions that he made in the magazine.[126] Within the magazine itself, many were annoyed that Johnson was regularly absent from the office, often missing meetings and events, and that he left much of his work to the last moment.[128]

"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[129]

Johnson continued to seek a parliamentary seat, and following the retirement of Michael Heseltine was invited to stand as a potential Conservative candidate for Henley, a Conservative safe seat in Oxfordshire.[130] 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.[131] Boosted by his television fame, Johnson stood as the Conservative candidate for Henley-on-Thames in the 2001 general election, winning with a majority of 8,500 votes.[132] In becoming a Member of Parliament, Johnson had broken his promise to Black that he would not do so while editing The Spectator; although labeling Johnson as "ineffably duplicitous", Black did not sack him, viewing him as "a capable editor" who "helped promote the magazine and raise its circulation" through his regular radio and television appearances.[133]

Although retaining his main home in Islington, Johnson purchased a £650,000 farmhouse outside Thame in his new constituency.[134] Johnson regularly attended Henley social events, thus attracting local press coverage, and also wrote an occasional column for the Henley Standard.[135] 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.[136] In Parliament, Johnson was appointed to serve on a standing committee assessing the Proceeds of Crime Bill, although missed many of its meetings.[137] 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".[138] 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%.[139] 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 that the mainstream party; he for instance voted to repeal Section 28 and supported the Gender Recognition Act 2004.[140] Although initially claiming that he would not do so, he voted in support of the government's plans to join the U.S. in the 2003 invasion of Iraq,[134] and in April 2003 visited the newly liberated Baghdad.[141] By December 2006 he was publicly regretting his decision, describing the invasion as "a colossal mistake and misadventure".[142]

Alongside his full-time job as an MP, he continued as editor of The Spectator, as well as with his columns for The Daily Telegraph and GQ, and making television appearances.[143] He also published a book, Friends, Voters, Countrymen: Jottings on the Stump, which recounted his experiences with the 2001 election campaign.[144] His next publication was 2003's Lend Me Your Ears, a collection of his previously published columns and articles.[145] 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.[146] Responding to his critics who believed that he was juggling too many positions, he cited prominent Conservative politicians Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli as exemplars who combined their political and writing careers.[147] To manage the stress he took up jogging and cycling,[148] and became so well known for the latter that Andrew Gimson suggested that he was "perhaps the most famous cyclist in Britain".[149]

Johnson represented Henley in Parliament

Following William Hague's resignation as Conservative leader, Johnson supported the candidacy of the only pro-EU figure, Kenneth Clarke, arguing that he was the only candidate capable of winning an election. Johnson devoted The Spectator to supporting Clarke, although Iain Duncan Smith proved successful.[150] Johnson had a strained relationship with Duncan Smith, with The Spectator becoming very critical of the latter's party leadership.[151] Duncan Smith was removed from his position in November 2003, being 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.[152] In May 2004 Howard organised a shadow cabinet reshuffle in which he appointed Johnson to the position of shadow arts minister.[153] 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 had claimed that the crowds at the Hillsborough disaster had contributed towards the incident and that Liverpool had an excessive predilection for reliance on the welfare state.[154][155]

In November 2004 the British tabloids revealed that since 2000, Johnson had been having an affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt, resulting in two terminated pregnancies. Johnson initially dismissed the claims as "piffle".[156] 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, defending his right to lie, at which Howard sacked him from those positions.[157][158] The scandal was satirised by The Spectator's theatre critics Toby Young and Lloyd Evans, who produced a play, Who's the Daddy? at the King's Head Theatre in Islington in July 2005. Although he did not prevent them from doing so, Johnson was upset by the play.[159]

In the 2005 general election, Johnson was re-elected MP for Henley, increasing his majority to 12,793.[160] Following Labour's victory in the election, Howard stood down as Conservative leader, with Johnson backing David Cameron as his successor.[161] After being successfully selected, Cameron appointed Johnson as the shadow higher education minister, acknowledging his popularity among students.[162] Johnson's main interest was in streamlining university funding,[163] as part of which he supported Labour's proposed top-up fees.[164] 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.[165] In 2006 Johnson campaigned to become Rector of Edinburgh University, but opponents criticised him with such taglines as "Anyone but Boris" and "Bog off Boris, you Top-up Tory", and he ultimately came third, with Mark Ballard winning.[166][167]

The Spectator's new chief executive, Andrew Neil, removed Johnson from his position as editor of the magazine.[168] With his reduction of earnings, Johnson convinced John Bryant, acting editor of The Daily Telegraph, to raise his annual fee from £200,000 to £250,000, averaging at £5000 per column, each of which took up around an hour and a half of his time.[169][170] He also presented a popular history television show, The Dream of Rome, for Tiger Aspect; the show was broadcast on January 2006 and a book followed in February.[171] He then produced a sequel, After Rome: Holy Wars and Conquest, in which he focused on early Islamic history, created by his own production studio, Finland Station.[172] As a result of his various activities in 2007 he earned £540,000, making him the third highest earning MP in the country that year.[173] In April 2006, the News of the World stated that Johnson was having an affair with the Times Higher Education Supplement journalist Anna Fazackerley, although both Fackerley and Johnson refused to comment. Fazackerley subsequently stepped down from her job, and was appointed to a new job working for Johnson.[174][175] He attracted further public attention in April 2006 when he took part in a charity football match between former professional footballers and celebrities from England and Germany, in which he stumbled on the field and rugby tackled former German international Maurizio Gaudino.[176] In September 2006 he drew criticism from the Papua New Guinea high commission when he compared the frequently-changing leadership within the Conservative Party to cannibalism in Papua New Guinea.[177] After being criticised by the High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea, Johnson stated "I meant no insult to the people of Papua New Guinea who I'm sure lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity in common with the rest of us."[178]

Mayor of London

2008 election

In March 2007, Johnson began suggesting standing for the position of Mayor of London in the 2008 mayoral election.[179] His candidacy was not initially taken seriously within the Conservative Party, who instead considered Nick Boles the party's main contender for the job.[180] However, after Boles had to withdraw and no other well-known candidate was forthcoming, Cameron agreed to back Johnson's candidacy.[181] He was reassured by London's free newspaper, The Evening Standard, that they would support him throughout the campaign.[36] In July 2007, he officially announced his candidacy,[182][183] and was selected as Conservative candidate in September after gaining 79% of the vote in a public London-wide primary.[184][185] There was some anger in Henley among party members and constituents who felt that Johnson was abandoning them for London.[186] Right-wing journalists Simon Heffer and Peregrine Worsthorne described no candidate as not being serious enough to hold the role of Mayor of London,[187] Worsthorne noting that the "harder he tried [to be serious], the more insincere, incoherent, evasive and even puerile he looked and sounded".[188] Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone took Johnson more seriously than many others were doing, referring to him as "the most formidable opponent I will face in my political career."[189] Livingstone's campaign focused on portraying Johnson as an upper-class toff who was out of touch with the lives of most Londoners, also alleging that he was a bigot, as evidenced by racist and homophobic language that he had used in his Telegraph column; Johnson responded that these quotes had been taken out of context and had been meant in a satirical manner.[190] This situation was exacerbated when the far right British National Party (BNP) urged its supporters to give their second preference votes to Johnson; he responded that "I utterly and unreservedly condemn the BNP".[191][192] Controversy was also generated when Johnson admitted that while a student he had used cannabis and cocaine.[193]

Johnson pledged to introduce new Routemaster-derived buses to replace the city's fleet of articulated buses if elected Mayor.

Johnson's candidacy was primarily funded by sympathetic individuals in London's financial sector.[194] The Conservative Party hired Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby to run Johnson's campaign.[195] Aware of Johnson's propensity for committing gaffes, Crosby prevented him from holding interviews with the print and broadcast media in favour of radio talk shows and daytime television which asked "easier" questions.[196][197] Crosby also made Johnson tell fewer jokes and have a simpler haircut to help make him appear more serious.[196] Johnson's campaign focused on reducing youth crime, making public transport safer, and replacing the 'bendy buses' with a new fleet of Routemasters.[198] Johnson's campaign capitalised on his popularity, even among those who opposed his policies.[199] His political opponents complained that a common attitude among voters was that "I'm voting for Boris because he is a laugh".[198] The campaign targeted Conservative-leaning suburbs in outer London to capitalise on a sense of being overlooked by the Livingstone administration which had paid most attention to inner London areas.[200][197] Johnson also focused on counteracting his image as a bigot; he declared that "I'm absolutely 100% anti-racist; I despise and loath racism".[201] Publicly emphasising his Turkish ancestry,[202] he went contrary to Conservative policy by declaring his support for an earned amnesty for illegal immigrants.[203]

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%.[204][205] Johnson benefited from a large voter turnout in Conservative strongholds, in particular Bexley and Bromley where he amassed a majority of over 80,000 over Livingstone.[206] Johnson thus won the largest personal electoral mandate in the UK.[207] 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".[205] He also announced that, as a result of his victory, he would resign as Member of Parliament for Henley.[208][209]

First term: 2008–12

Johnson giving a victory speech in City Hall after being elected Mayor of London.

Upon his victory, Johnson settled in to the Mayoral offices at City Hall.[210] His first official engagement came several days after the election, when he appeared at the Sikh celebrations for Vaisakhi in Trafalgar Square.[211] His first policy initiative, issued that month, came as a ban on drinking alcohol on public transport.[212][213] 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.[214] In July 2008 Johnson visited Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics as London's representative to receive the Olympic flag from Guo Jinlong, the Mayor of Beijing to announce formally London as Olympic host city. While taking on the Olympic flag, he offended his Chinese hosts by not having his jacket buttoned-up.[215]

Johnson had not brought a team of assistants with him to the job as Livingstone had done, instead developing his team over the following six months.[216] Those in City Hall who were deemed too closely allied to the previous Livingstone administration had their employment terminated.[214] Johnson appointed Tim Parker to be first deputy mayor, but after Parker began insisting that all staff report directly to him and took increasing control over the running of City Hall, Johnson was convinced to sack him.[217] 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.[218]

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.[219] Dealing with this problem, he agreed to continue writing his Telegraph column alongside his Mayoral position, thus earning him a further £250,000 a year.[220] His team recognised that this would prove controversial with the electorate, and made him promise to donate a fifth of his Telegraph fee to a charitable cause providing bursaries for students of journalism and Classics. Johnson resented this, and ultimately did not pay a full fifth.[221] The situation generated controversy when he was questioned regarding his Telegraph fee on BBC's HARDtalk; here, he referred to the £250,000 as "chicken feed", something that was widely condemned given that £250,000 was roughly ten times the average yearly wage for a British worker.[222][223][224]

The New Routemaster bus introduced by Johnson's administration

Johnson made no major changes to the mayoral system as developed by Livingstone.[225] He did however reverse a number of measures implemented by Livingstone's administration, by ending the city's oil deal with Venezuela, abolishing The Londoner newsletter, and scrapping the half yearly inspections of black cabs (although the latter were reinstated three years later).[226] Abolishing the western wing of the congestion charging zone,[227] he cancelled plans to increase the congestion charge for four-wheel drives.[228] He also sought to claim credit for projects like Crossrail and the 2012 Olympic Games which had been introduced by the Livingstone administration.[229] 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.[230][231] 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.[232] As per his election pledge, he also commissioned the development of the New Routemaster buses for central London.[233] He also ordered the construction of a cable-car system that crossed the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks.[234] In financing these projects, Johnson's administration had borrowed £100 million,[235] while public transport fares had increased by 50%.[236]

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.[237] In August 2008, Johnson broke from the traditional procedure of those in public office not publicly commenting on other nations' elections when he openly endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States.[238][239] He similarly placated critics who had deemed him a bigot by appearing at London's gay pride parade and praising ethnic minority newspapers.[240]

Taking a particular interest in policing within Greater London, 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 heavily criticised for allegedly handing contracts over to friends and for his handling of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.[241][242][243] This action earned Johnson great respect within the Conservative Party, whose members widely interpreted it as his first act of strength and assertiveness.[244] Although he resigned as Chairman of the MPA in January 2010,[237] throughout his mayoralty Johnson would be highly supportive of the Metropolitan Police, particularly during the controversy surrounding the death of Ian Tomlinson.[245] 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.[246] Overall crime in London fell during his administration, although his claim that serious youth crime had decreased was shown to be false, as it has increased.[247][248] 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.[247] 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.[249]

Johnson implemented Livingstone's idea of a public bicycle system; the result was dubbed the "Boris Bike".

Johnson championed London's financial sector and denounced what he saw as "banker bashing" following the financial crisis of 2007–08,[250] condemning the anti-capitalist Occupy London movement that appeared in 2011.[251] He spent much of his time with bankers and others involved in the financial services, and criticised the government's 50p tax rate for higher earners.[252] 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.[253] He also retained extensive personal contacts throughout the British media,[254] which resulted in widespread favourable press coverage of his administration.[254] In turn he remained largely supportive of his friends in the media, among them Rupert Murdoch, during the News International phone hacking scandal.[255]

During his first administration, Johnson was also embroiled in a number of personal scandals; after moving to a £2.3 million house in Colebrooke Row, Islington, he built a shed on his balcony without obtaining planning permission. Neighbours complained and he dismantled the shed, but critics stated that he was either unaware of the law or intentionally disregarded it.[256] The press also accused him of having an affair with Helen Macintyre and of fathering her child; he did not deny the allegations, with Marina throwing him out of the family home for a time.[257][258][259][260] He was accused of cronyism,[261] 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.[262][263][264] 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.[265] Johnson remained a popular figure in London with a strong celebrity status.[266] In 2009, he rescued a woman, Franny Armstrong, from anti-social teenagers who had threatened her while he was cycling past.[267][268][269]

Up for re-election in 2012, Johnson again hired Crosby to orchestrate his campaign.[270] 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.[271] 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.[272]

Staff appointments

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.[273]

The Mayor also appointed Munira Mirza as his cultural adviser and Nick Boles, the founder of Policy Exchange, as Chief of Staff.[274] Sir Simon Milton became Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning, as well as Chief of Staff.[273] He appointed Anthony Browne as Policy Director. Kulveer Ranger was appointed to Advisor for Transport and Isabel Dedring to Advisor for the Environment.

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.[275] Hazel Blears, the UK Communities Secretary, said that "People across the country will note that after just two months, the new Tory administration in London is in complete disarray. Londoners need to know what Boris knew and why the situation has changed."[276] Kit Malthouse, London's Deputy Mayor for Policing, defended Lewis and said that he had "dedicated himself to saving young lives in London", regarding his policies on tackling knife crime, and called the Labour Party "ungracious" and accused them of "dancing on his political grave".[277] Johnson himself said that he was "misled" by Lewis.[278] On 22 June 2009, Ian Clement resigned after breaking rules by paying for personal items using a corporate credit card.

Public transport ticketing

At the beginning of his tenure as Mayor, Johnson announced plans to introduce Oystercard across the entire rail network in London.[279]

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.[280] On 2 July 2008 the Mayor's office announced that the closure plan was to be abandoned and that offices would remain open.[281] On 21 November 2013, Transport for London announced that all London Underground ticket offices would close by 2015.[282]

Forensic Audit Panel

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.[283] It is headed by Patience Wheatcroft, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph. Previously the GLA investigated allegations of financial mismanagement itself.

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".[284] Wheatcroft is married to a Conservative councillor[285] 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).

Three weeks before the London mayoral election, 2012, he prevented London buses from carrying advertising for a Christian campaign which advocated treatment for homosexuality. The campaign was to advertise the phrase, "Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!" Johnson told The Guardian that he regarded London as "one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance". He said, "It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses".[286]

2012 election

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".[287] The political scientist Andrew Crines believed that Livingstone's campaign had focused on criticising Johnson rather than presenting an alternate and progressive vision of London's future.[288] In 2012, he was re-elected as Mayor, again defeating Livingstone.[289]

Johnson at the 2012 Olympics

Second term: 2012–present

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.[290] Two of the 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 as thousands of spectators were temporary visitors in London,[291][292] and also to allow shops and supermarkets to have longer hours on Sundays.[293]

On 21 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.[294][295]

In an interview for the New Statesman in February 2012 he criticised London's St Patrick's Day gala dinner celebrations. Linking them to Sinn Féin, he branded the event as 'Lefty crap'.[296] He subsequently apologised for the remarks.[297]

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.'[298]

Boris Johnson was present at the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum in London in July 2013, where he answered questions alongside Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other public figures.[299][300][301] Responding to a question about women in the Islamic world, Razak said, "Before coming here, my officials have told me that the latest university intake in Malaysia, a Muslim country, 68% will be women entering our universities."[299][300][301] Johnson then interrupted and said, "They've got to find men to marry." The remark elicited laughter and groans, and was later criticised by women who attended the event and others who were offended.[299][300][301] Pippa Crerar, political correspondent for the London Evening Standard, was at the event and wrote that it was "a stupid comment" but "clearly a joke and was met with the groans it deserved".[299] After controversy erupted, Johnson issued a statement: "Some people seem to have misconstrued something I said at a press conference 5 days ago, about relative male underachievement in university entrance. It is utterly ludicrous and infuriating to suggest that I think women go to University to find a husband. I was merely pointing out something that I've said several times before — that with a graduate cohort 68 per cent female you intensify the phenomenon sociologists identify as assortative mating."[300] A source at City Hall described the comment as "off the cuff and completely light-hearted".[302]

Return to Parliament

2015 general election

Johnson had initially denied that he would seek a return to the House of Commons while remaining Mayor.[266] However, after much speculation in the media, in August 2014 he announced that he would seek selection as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the safe seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the 2015 general election.[303] In September, he was selected as the seat's Conservative candidate.[304][305] The United Kingdom general election, 2015 took place on 7 May and Johnson was elected.

During his mayoralty, Johnson has been the subject of numerous rumours as to the future of his political career, and the possibility that he would stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party, were David Cameron to stand down and trigger a leadership contest. In 2012, Grant Shapps said that Johnson lacks many of the skills that are needed as the leader of a political party and prime minister.[306] In 2015, Shapps was removed from his position as Conservative party co-chairman.

Political views

"[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 of Glenn Hoddle to believe in reincarnation."

Boris Johnson[137]

Ideologically, Johnson has described himself as a "One-Nation Tory".[307][308] 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 Osbourne also embraced "modern social liberalism".[309] The Guardian agreed that while Mayor, Johnson had blended economic and social liberalism,[310] with The Economist claiming that in doing so Johnson "transcends his Tory identity" and adopts a more libertarian perspective.[311] Stuart Reid, Johnson's colleague at The Spectator, described the latter's views as being those of a "liberal libertarian".[312] 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".[313]

However, Stuart Wilks-Heeg, executive director of Democratic Audit, noted that "Boris is politically nimble",[309] 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."[314] She later referred to his "opportunistic – some might say pragmatic – approach to politics".[315] 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.[316]

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.[317] He has publicly welcomed Turkey's entry into the EU.[318] Highlighting these claims, Purnell stated that he is "neither truly anti-European nor a Little Englander".[319] Purnell has noted that Johnson "is nothing if not an elitist",[320] and in an article titled "Long Live Elitism" he stated that "without elites and elitism man would still be in his caves."[321] 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".[322]

Personal life and public image

Johnson on a demonstration against hospital closures with Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming (left) and Conservative MP Graham Stuart (centre) on 28 March 2006.

Widely known simply as "Boris",[323] Johnson has attracted a variety of nicknames, including "BoJo", a portmanteau of his forename and surname.[324] Biographer Sonia Purnell described his public persona as "brand Boris", noting that he developed it while at Oxford University.[325] Max Hastings referred to this public image as a "façade resembling that of PG Wodehouse's Gussie Fink-Nottle, allied to wit, charm, brilliance and startling flashes of instability",[326] while political scientist Andrew Crines stated that Johnson had created "the character of a likable and trustworthy individual with strong intellectual capital".[327] Johnson purposely cultivates a "semi-shambolic look",[328] for instance by specifically ruffling his hair in a certain way for when he makes public appearances.[329] Purnell described him as "a manic self-promoter" who filled his life with "fun and jokes".[330] Described by Crines as "a joker",[327] Johnson has stated that "humour is a utensil that you can use to sugar the pill and to get important points across."[330] Purnell noted that colleagues of his regularly expressed the view that he used people to advance his own interests,[331] with Gimson noting that he was "one of the great flatterers of our times".[332] Purnell noted that he deflected serious questions using "a little humour and a good deal of bravado".[333] According to Gimson, Johnson was "a humane man" who "could also be staggeringly inconsiderate of others" when focusing upon his own interests.[334] Gimson also noted that Johnson has "an excessive desire to be liked".[335]

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 of 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."[336]

Purnell noted that Johnson was a "highly evasive figure" when it came to his personal life,[337] who remained detached from others and who had very few if any intimate friends.[338] Among friends and family, Johnson is known as "Al" rather than "Boris".[339] Gimson stated that Johnson "has very bad manners. He tends to be late, does not care about being late, and dresses without much care".[340] Highly ambitious and very competitive, Gimson noted that he was born "to wage a ceaseless struggle for supremacy".[341] 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 emailed commissioning editor Sam Leith with the simple message "Fuck off and die."[342] Thus Purnell notes that Johnson hides his ruthlessness "using bumbling, self-deprecation or humour",[343] adding that he was a fan of "laddish banter and crude sexual references".[344] He would typically awake at around 5am.[111] Johnson is a fluent speaker of French and Italian, with a good grasp of German and Spanish.[88] Johnson is a lover of Latin,[345] and regularly made use of Classical references in his newspaper columns and speeches.[325] Stating that in the past he has "often smoked cannabis",[346] Johnson is in favour of legalising medical marijuana.[347]

Johnson has dual citizenship, United Kingdom and U.S. citizenship which he acquired due to his birth in New York. In 2014 Johnson acknowledged he was disputing a demand for capital gains tax from the U.S. tax authorities,[348][349] which ultimately he paid.[350] In 15 February 2015 Boris Johnson announced his intention to give up US citizenship to prove his loyalty to Britain.[351][352]

"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[314]

Johnson is the eldest of the four children of Stanley Johnson, a former Conservative Member of the European Parliament and employee of the European Commission and World Bank, and the painter Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett),[5] the daughter of Sir James Fawcett, a barrister[353] and president of the European Commission of Human Rights.[354] His younger siblings are Rachel Johnson, a writer and journalist; Leo Johnson, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers specialising in Sustainability;[355] and Jo Johnson, Assistant Government Whip and Conservative MP for Orpington. His stepfather was the American academic Nicholas Wahl.[citation needed] In 1987, he married Allegra Mostyn-Owen; the marriage was dissolved in 1993.[356] Later that year, he married Marina Wheeler, a barrister and daughter of journalist and broadcaster Sir Charles Wheeler and his wife, Dip Singh.[357] The Wheeler and Johnson families have known each other for decades,[358] and Marina Wheeler was at the European School in Brussels at the same time as her future husband. They have two daughters, born in 1997, and three sons: two born in 1995, and one born 1999).[359] Johnson and his family live in Islington, North London. Johnson's stepmother, Jenny, the second wife of his father Stanley, is the stepdaughter of Teddy Sieff, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer.[360]

In addition to the five children born within his marriage, Johnson allegedly has a daughter born as a result of an affair with Helen MacIntyre in November 2009. [361]

Reception and legacy

Purnell described Johnson as "the most unconventional, yet compelling politician of the post-Blair era" in British politics.[337] She added that in Britain, he was "beloved by millions and recognised by all".[337] Giles Edwards and Jonathan Isaby commented that Johnson appealed to "a broad cross-section of the public".[362] Gimson expressed the view that "people love him because he makes them laugh",[363] noting that he had become "the darling of the Tory rank and file".[364] Purnell recognised that during the 2008 mayoral election, he was "polarising opinions to the extreme",[365] with critics viewing him as "variously evil, a clown, a racist and a bigot".[366] Writing in The Guardian, journalist Polly Toynbee for instance referred to him as "Jester, toff, self-absorbed sociopath and serial liar",[367] while Labour politician Hazel Blears called him "a nasty right-wing elitist, with odious views and criminal friends".[368]



  1. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 10.
  2. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 10; Gimson 2012, p. 1.
  3. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 11.
  4. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 11; Gimson 2012, p. 2.
  5. ^ a b Llewellyn Smith, Julia (18 May 2008). "Boris Johnson, by his mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  6. ^ Purnell 2011, pp. 11, 24–25; Gimson 2012, pp. 12–13.
  7. ^ Singh, Anita (4 August 2008). "Mayor of London Boris Johnson is a distant relative of the Queen". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 August 2015. 
  8. ^ Purnell 2011, pp. 19–20; Gimson 2012, p. 8.
  9. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 44; Purnell 2011, pp. 19–20; Gimson 2012, pp. 5–7.
  10. ^ Stone, Norman (23 April 2008). "My dream for Turkey, by Boris's great-grandfather". The Spectator. London. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  11. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 20; Gimson 2012, p. 8.
  12. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 21; Gimson 2012, p. 10.
  13. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 21.
  14. ^ Warner, Gerald (23 April 2010). "Revealed: how David Cameron and Boris Johnson are related (and Nick Clegg's Mata Hari connection)". The Telegraph blogs (London). Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  15. ^ Interview: Boris Johnson – my Jewish credentials, The Jewish Chronicle, Daniella Peled, April 2008
  16. ^ Woodward, Will (17 July 2007). "Phooey! One-man melting pot ready to take on King Newt". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Popham, Peter (11 August 2011). "The best of enemies: David Cameron vs Boris Johnson". The Independent. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  18. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 12; Gimson 2012, p. 2.
  19. ^ a b Purnell 2011, p. 13.
  20. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 44; Purnell 2011, pp. 12–13; Gimson 2012, p. 11.
  21. ^ a b Purnell 2011, p. 14.
  22. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 44; Purnell 2011, p. 16; Gimson 2012, p. 14.
  23. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 15; Gimson 2012, p. 14.
  24. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 16.
  25. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 13; Gimson 2012, p. 11.
  26. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 44; Purnell 2011, p. 17; Gimson 2012, p. 17, 20–22.
  27. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 18; Gimson 2012, p. 25.
  28. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 26; Gimson 2012, p. 18.
  29. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 45; Purnell 2011, p. 28; Gimson 2012, pp. 17–18.
  30. ^ Purnell 2011, pp. 28–29.
  31. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 27.
  32. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 18.
  33. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 29.
  34. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 30.
  35. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 44; Purnell 2011, p. 30; Gimson 2012, p. 26.
  36. ^ a b Purnell 2011, p. 31.
  37. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 44; Purnell 2011, pp. 31–32; Gimson 2012, p. 26.
  38. ^ Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 44; Purnell 2011, pp. 33–35; Gimson 2012, pp. 27–29.
  39. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 42; Gimson 2012, pp. 30–31.
  40. ^ Purnell 2011, p. 41; Gimson 2012, p. 33.
  41. ^ Purnell 2011, pp. 36, 42.
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Crines, Andrew S. (2013). "Why did Boris Johnson win the 2012 mayoral election?". Public Policy and Administration Research 3 (9): 1–7. 
Edwards, Giles; Isaby, Jonathan (2008). Boris v. Ken: How Boris Johnson Won London. London: Politico's. ISBN 978-1842752258. 
Gimson, Andrew (2012). Boris: The Rise of Boris Johnson (second ed.). Simon & Schuster. 
Hosken, Andrew (2008). Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone. Arcadia Books. ISBN 978-1-905147-72-4. 
Purnell, Sonia (2011). Just Boris: Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity. London: Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 1-84513-665-9. 
Ruddock, Andy (2006). "Invisible Centers: Boris Johnson, Authenticity, Cultural Citizenship and a Centrifugal Model of Media Power". Social Semiotics 16 (2): 263–282. 
Yates, Candida (2010). "Turning to Flirting: Politics and the Pleasures of Boris Johnson". Rising East Essays 2 (1). 


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