Rachel Johnson

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Rachel Johnson
Born Rachel Sabiha Johnson
(1965-09-03) 3 September 1965 (age 52)
Westminster, London, England
Nationality British
Alma mater
Occupation Author, presenter
Political party Liberal Democrats (since 2017)
Conservative (2008–11)
Spouse(s) Ivo Dawnay (m. 1992)
Children 3

Rachel Sabiha Johnson (born 3 September 1965) is a British editor, journalist, television presenter, and author based in London. Johnson has appeared frequently on panels, including Question Time and Sky News's the Pledge[1]. In January 2018, Johnson participated in the twenty-first series of Celebrity Big Brother.[2] She was evicted second.

Early life and education[edit]

Johnson is the daughter of former Conservative MEP Stanley Johnson and artist Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett). She is the younger sister of Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip; and the elder sister of Jo Johnson, Conservative MP for Orpington.[3]

On her father's side, Johnson is a great-granddaughter of Ali Kemal, a liberal Circassian-Turkish journalist and the interior minister in the government of Damat Ferid Pasha, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, who was murdered during the Turkish War of Independence in 1922. During the First World War, her grandfather and great-aunt were recognised as British subjects and took their grandmother's maiden name of Johnson.[4] On her mother's side she is a granddaughter of Sir James Fawcett, a prominent barrister and president of the European Commission of Human Rights.

Johnson's middle name, Sabiha, means "morning" in Arabic and is often used as a given name in Turkey. It was the name of the second wife of her great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, who was a daughter of Zeki Pasha.[5] Stanley Johnson befriended his cousin Zeki Kuneralp, Sabiha's son, when Kuneralp was Turkish ambassador to the Court of St James's in the 1960s.

She was educated at Winsford First School on Exmoor, Primrose Hill Primary in Camden, north London, the European School of Brussels, the independent Ashdown House School in East Sussex, Bryanston School in Dorset and St Paul's Girls' School.[6] In 1984 she went to New College, Oxford to read Classics (Literae Humaniores);[7] there she edited the student paper Isis[8] and graduated with a 2:1.[9]


In 1989 she joined the staff of the Financial Times, becoming the first female graduate trainee at the paper, where she wrote about the economy. She spent a year on secondment to the Foreign Office Policy Planning Staff in 1992-93. She moved to the BBC in 1994, but left to move to Washington D.C. as a columnist and freelancer in 1997. She has written weekly columns for The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard and other regular columns for Easy Living and She magazines, as well as the Financial Times. She is a contributing editor of The Spectator and until 2009 was a weekly columnist on The Sunday Times and the Evening Standard, among other publications. She now writes a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday, and a column for The Big Issue.[10][11]

In April 2014 she was a judge in the BBC Woman's Hour power list 2014.[12] She sits on the boards of Bright Blue, the modernizing Tory think-tank, and Intelligence Squared, the international debate forum. In March 2014 she appeared in Famous, Rich and Hungry on BBC1. She is a panellist on Sky News' weekly debate show, The Pledge.

The Lady[edit]

In September 2009, Johnson became the ninth editor of The Lady, a weekly magazine established in 1885. Her first few months were the subject of a Channel 4 documentary entitled The Lady and the Revamp; this was nominated for a Grierson Award. After taking up the post she rebranded the magazine, introducing well-known contributors (including Justin Webb and Sir Tim Rice) and regular contributors such as Mary Killen and Alexander Chancellor, as well as overseeing a redesign by creative director Stefano Arata, to better compete with the mainstream women's magazines.[13] She was replaced as editor by Matt Warren in January 2012. In March 2013 she presented an hour-long documentary for BBC Four entitled How to Be a Lady: An Elegant History.[14]


As a novelist, her works include Notting Hell (Penguin 2006), a novel about couples living in the Notting Hill area of London, Shire Hell (a follow up to Notting Hell), and The Mummy Diaries (Penguin 2004), a diary of her London-Exmoor year. She also commissioned and edited The Oxford Myth (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988) while still an undergraduate at Oxford. She is also the author of A Diary of The Lady, My First Year as Editor (Penguin, 2010) and A Diary of The Lady, My first Year and a Half (2011). A new novel, Winter Games, was published in 2012. Her final novel in the Notting Hell trilogy, Fresh Hell, was published in 2015. [15][16][17] She was a judge of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013.[18]

Johnson's Shire Hell won the 2008 Bad Sex in Fiction Prize,[19] which she characterised as an "absolute honour".

Her short story "Severely Gifted" appeared in The Sunday Times on 21 December 2008.[20]


A member of the Conservative Party from 2008–11, she joined the Liberal Democrats in the run up to the 2017 general election because of the Conservatives' support for Brexit.[21] Johnson had then considered becoming a Lib Dem candidate in a seat in the West Country, but by the time of the election was technically barred under the Party's by-laws, having been a member for less than a year.[22][23] Following the Grenfell Tower fire Johnson expressed the view that Theresa May was also a victim of the fire "because she can do nothing right".[24]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to Ivo Dawnay, a descendant of William Dawnay, 7th Viscount Downe[25] and of the Earls of Glasgow, a director and consultant with the National Trust, and lives in London and Exmoor, Somerset with their three children.[26]



  1. ^ "Here's the lowdown on CBB 2018 star and Boris's sister Rachel Johnson". The Sun. 2018-01-08. Retrieved 2018-01-09. 
  2. ^ "Rachel Johnson to take part in Celeb Big Brother". BBC News. 24 December 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2017. 
  3. ^ "Family of influence behind Boris Johnson". The Daily Telegraph. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "Spectator article by Norman Stone". Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. 
  5. ^ Andrew Gimson, Boris: The Adventures of Boris Johnson (2012), p. 51
  6. ^ Johnson, Rachel. (6 May 2011). "Rachel Johnson: Boarding school made me". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  7. ^ "Rachel Johnson", Soho Literary Festival". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  8. ^ Noble, Victoria. (20 May 2010). "Interview: Rachel Johnson". The Oxford Student. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  9. ^ Johnson, Rachel. (11 May 2013). "Rachel Johnson: Finally, The Firm has given Camilla the top job she deserves (and I don't care what the bigots say – even if they do scrawl it in green ink)". MailOnline. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  10. ^ "Rachel Johnson". MailOnline. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  11. ^ "Rachel Johnson". The Big Issue. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Woman's Hour Power List 2014 – the panel". BBC Radio 4. 
  13. ^ Johnson, Angella (19 July 2009). "Now you can call me The Lady ship: Boris Johnson's sister is the new editor of The Lady magazine". Daily Mail. London. 
  14. ^ "Rachel Johnson to present How To Be A Lady – An Elegant History on BBC Four". (1 February 2013). BBC. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  15. ^ Groskop, Viv. (10 October 2010). "A Diary of the Lady: My First Year As Editor by Rachel Johnson". The Observer. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  16. ^ Johnson, Rachel. (2011). A Diary of The Lady, My first Year and a Half. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780718192327
  17. ^ Day, Elizabeth. (24 March 2013). "Winter Games by Rachel Johnson". The Observer. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  18. ^ "Rachel Johnson". Women's Prize for Fiction. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  19. ^ "John Updike wins special Bad Sex in fiction prize". AP. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008. 
  20. ^ "Login". 
  21. ^ Martinson, Jane (27 April 2017). "Rachel Johnson joins Lib Dems in protest against Tory backing for Brexit". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  22. ^ Martinson, Jane (27 April 2017). "Rachel Johnson joins Lib Dems in protest against Tory backing for Brexit" – via The Guardian. 
  23. ^ "Boris Johnson's sister joins Lib Dems to try and stop Brexit". The Independent. 27 April 2017. 
  24. ^ McFarlane, Jonathan (18 June 2017). "Boris Johnson's sister says PM is a "victim" of the Grenfell Tower fire". Daily Record. Retrieved 18 June 2017. 
  25. ^ Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 2000, Kelly's Directories, pg 506
  26. ^ "'Marrying into the Johnsons is like adopting a litter of very noisy puppies who jump up a lot". Evening Standard. 9 September 2013. 

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