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Boris Johnson

Now that outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has given her resignation speech in front of Number 10, speculation is rife as to who might be replacing her in Britain’s top job. While the speculative candidate list is growing, only a few Tories have formally thrown their hat into the ring. Of those, the gaffe-prone former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has emerged as the bookmakers’ favorite.

Conservative favorite and Brexit proponent Boris Johnson said June 30, 2016 he would not be running for Prime Minister of Britain. Johnson announced that he will not be a candidate for leadership of the Conservative party, leaving Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who supported Brexit, and Home Secretary Theresa May, who backed the remain campaign, as front-runners to lead the country. In all probability, Johnson had embarked on his support of the leave campaign believing the campaign would lose, but he would solidify support in the conservative wing of the Conservative Party. He was unprepared for victory.

In a surprise choice, on 14 July 2016 incoming Prime Minister Theresa May named Boris Johnson as her Foreign Secretary. He had angered and frustrated many Brits who voted to remain, along with other European leaders who believed Britain made a great mistake.

Boris Johnson is not Britain's Donald Trump. They share strange blond hair and a flair for showmanship. Particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, immigration has become a highly politicized issue in Britain, as in the United States, and both rode this wave of discontent. Both share a popular reputation as being plain-spoken, and are regarded by political professionals as loose cannons.

But Donald Trump has no prior political experience, and is given to making provocative utterances one day and retracting them the next. Boris served eight years as Mayor of London, without blotting his copybook. The Donald has close connections with the mafia and Russian organized crime, and has spent decades engaged in shady business practices [Hillary Clinton quipped "He's written a lot of books about business, but they all seem to end at Chapter 11"] Apart from marital infidelities, the reputation of Boris is relatively clean.

Boris Johnson broke with British Prime Minister David Cameron on February 22, 2016, declaring he was joining the campaign calling for Britain's exit from the European Union. Some of his critics said they would rather "vote for a dead sheep" [possibly the English counterpart to Yellow Dog Democrat]. One furious source close to Cameron said: “There is a special place in hell reserved for Boris. Tory grandee Lord Heseltine – once seen as the natural successor to Margaret Thatcher as Tory Leader before quitting her cabinet on a matter of principal over the Westland affair – told the BBC: "He is now behaving irresponsibly and recklessly and I fear that his judgment is going."

Boris Johnson was Mayor of London since May 2008, when he received the largest personal mandate in British political history. He was re-elected in May 2012 to serve a second four year term, and in May 2015 he was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for the West London constituency of Uxbridge & South Ruislip. Johnson stepped down as Mayor in May 2016 when his second term expired. He attended Prime Minister David Cameron’s political cabinet, but as Mayor he isn’t a minister and doesn’t attend full cabinet.

Born in New York in 1964, he describes himself as a 'one man melting-pot', with French, Turkish, Russian and German ancestry. Boris went to school in Camden, Brussels, and Sussex before attending Eton College in Berkshire, where he went on a scholarship. He read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford as a Brackenbury scholar, and served as President of the Oxford Union. Upon graduation he lasted a week as a management consultant before becoming a trainee reporter for The Times. After a short spell as a writer for the Wolverhampton Express and Star, he joined The Daily Telegraph in 1987 as leader and feature writer.

Boris made an early reputation as a journalist mocking the European Union. From 1989 to 1994 he was the Telegraph's European Community correspondent and from 1994 to 1999 he served as assistant editor. His association with The Spectator magazine began as political columnist in 1994. In 1999 he became editor of the Spectator, a post he held for six years before stepping down in December 2005. He has won several awards for journalism, both as editor and columnist. He still writes a weekly column for the Telegraph.

Besides his work as a journalist, Boris has published several books, including 'Friends, Voters and Countrymen', an autobiographical account of his experience of the 2001 election campaign, 'Johnson’s Life of London', a celebration of some of the people who gave London its vibrancy and character, and in 2014 ‘The Churchill Factor’, a critically acclaimed best-seller that re-assessed Churchill’s character and the difference that character made to events that still shape our world today.

In 2001 Boris was elected as the Conservative MP for Henley on Thames, and held shadow government posts as Vice Chairman, Shadow Minister for the Arts and Shadow Minister of Higher Education, before being elected Mayor in 2008, and he stepped down as MP for Henley shortly after.

In 2002, Johnson said that Blair would enjoy his impending tour of Africa as he would be greeted by “flag-waving piccaninnies” and “the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief”. In September 2017 Johnson was inside the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in the former capital Yangon, when he started uttering the opening verse to The Road to Mandalay, including the line: “The temple bells they say/ Come you back you English soldier.” In 2018, now out of work as a foreign secretary but still busy agitating for Brexit, Johnson insultingly compared Muslim women wearing the niqab face veil to “letterboxes” and denigrated them as looking like “bank robbers”, using inflammatory and Islamophobic rhetoric to victimise an already vulnerable segment of the British population.

Conservative candidate Boris de Pfeffel Johnson's successful candidacy for the mayor of London defied the laws of political gravity. Johnson is best known as a mistake-prone former journalist twice exposed for committing adultery, now a Conservative MP. Johnson is also well known for apologizing: to the people of Liverpool for accusing them of mawkish sentimentality following the beheading of a resident of the city in Iraq; to the people of Portsmouth after describing the town as "too full of drugs, (and) obesity"; to the people of Papua New Guinea for associating them "with orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing," and to the people of Africa after remarking on their "watermelon smiles". He was also sacked as a member of the Shadow Cabinet for lying about an extra-marital affair. Despite this record, Johnson was a popular figure and has built up a vast following in London.

As Mayor, Boris made policing and crime his first term priority and under his tenure crime in London has fallen 18%. The capital saw record investment in transport, including the delivery of Crossrail, the modernisation of the Jubilee, Victoria and Northern lines and the introduction of new air-conditioned trains now serving the Metropolitan, District, Hammersmith & City and Circle lines. Tube delays are down 43%.

Shortly after his re-election in 2012 London staged what are widely acknowledged to be the most successful Olympic and Paralympic Games ever. All eight venues on the Olympic Park now have a long term private sector future, something that’s never been achieved by any other host city, and the Mayor has championed an unparalleled legacy on the Olympic park, with well advanced plans for ‘Olympicopolis’, a cultural and scientific centre of excellence in East London with UCL, the V&A and America’s Smithsonian group of museums at its core.

Boris introduced a new 'Routemaster' bus, the cleanest and greenest diesel hybrid in the world and a hugely popular cycle hire scheme. He is spending £913m on making cycling safer and more appealing in the city, and in 2015 construction began on two new fully segregated cycle routes running north/south and east/west across London, that will form the longest continuous segregated urban cycle route in the world.

Boris made jobs and growth his key focus during his second term, prioritising house building, investment in road and rail infrastructure, and support for financial services and the tech sector, as well as championing low and stable tax rates and the construction of a new multi runway hub airport to the east of London. By 2015 London accounted for a record 25% of UK GDP.

Under Boris’s Mayoralty more than 90,000 affordable homes were built by City Hall alone, with more completed last year than any year since 1981. Overall the Mayor has set London it’s highest housebuilding target ever - half a million homes over the next 10 years - the majority on 38 Opportunity Area brownfield sites across the capital, including hundreds of acres of surplus public land released by the Mayor. His ‘First-Steps’ housing programme has given tens of thousands of Londoners the chance to put a foot on the housing ladder through shared ownership, but the Mayor acknowledges much more work lies ahead to improve conditions for renters and deliver enough affordable homes for a rapidly growing population.

As well as being a passionate cyclist, Boris enjoys painting, and playing tennis. He and his wife Marina have four children and live in north London.

Johnson himself is part Turk, claiming descent from his great-grandfather Ali Kemal who was an Ottoman politician. His grandfather was even originally called Osman Kemal before his family, fearful of anti-Turkish sentiment at the time due to the First World War, changed his name to Wilfred Johnson. In other words, he could quite easily have been called “Boris Kemal”. No wonder his modern-day Turkish cousin has denounced him as “a Little Englander” who is “playing at populism” and who would have prevented his great-grandfather from coming to the UK.

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