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Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson [BoJo] became UK's new prime minister 24 July 2019 after the Queen invited him to form a government in her name. Johnson powered his inexorable rise by tying his jovial persona to the inexorable rise of Tory anti-Europeanism – from his first flash of fame writing funny, often untrue stories about Brussels for The Daily Telegraph to the moment he got Brexit done. But since Britain left the EU, blunders and scandals marred Johnson’s premiership.

Johnson’s crowning achievement was the December 2019 general election, the Brexit election that finally enabled divorce from the EU as the Conservatives won their biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher’s third landslide in 1987. “Boris, Brexit and Corbyn” were the three dominant factors behind this historic victory – defying the forces of political gravity after the Tories’ nine years in power – noted an article in scholarly review Parliamentary Affairs.

Johnson was placed in the Intensive Care Unit ato St. Thomas Hospital in London 05 April 2020, as his condition has not improved since he was diagnosed with coronavirus some 10 days earlier. On 06 April 2020, in an almost unprecedented move, he handed over the running of the government to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

The UK put physical distancing measures into place later than other countries. Rather than rush to contain the virus by promptly closing schools and banning mass gatherings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson instead announced less stringent measures, following advice from the government’s chief scientific adviser that the UK would be better off allowing a significant part of the population to get coronavirus to build immunity against it in the long-run. On 03 March 2020 Boris reported "I was at a hospital where there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody". Johnson told reporters that he will continue to shake hands with people despite the outbreak of the coronavirus around the world. He acknowledged that coronavirus was “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and that “more families are going to lose loved ones before their time,” but only advised that people with symptoms stay at home for 7 days – a limited response.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved out of intensive care but was still in hospital, a spokesman said on 09 April 2020. "The Prime Minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he received close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery," the spokesman said, adding that the PM was in "extremely good spirits." Johnson was discharged 12 April 2020 from hospital to will continue his recovery from Covid-19 at Chequers, his official country residence. Johnson returned to work 27 April 2020, less than three weeks after leaving the critical-care ward of a London hospital, where he nearly lost his life to the coronavirus.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is an Eton educated Toff, a person of the upper class who communicates an air of superiority. The word conveys a nose in the air, looking down at the working classes and those “in trade”. The King's College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor, commonly known as Eton College or just Eton, is a prestigious and internationally known independent school for boys, which is often described as the most famous school in the world. This bastion of unearned privilege has a very long list of well known alumni, including 19 former British Prime Ministers. Many think of Eton boys as a bunch of pampered, arrogant, entitled, snooty toffs.

The feeling that one is born to rule, buttressed by an expensive education at Eton and Oxford. An effortless belief in one’s racial and national superiority over Johnny Foreigner (including the upstart Americans). A contempt only blunted a little by noblesse oblige for one’s own countrymen and women who either don’t look like you, or even for those that just don’t sound like you. In this sense Boris Johnson is a throwback to former times – not quite to the 19th century like his aide-de-camp Jacob Rees-Mogg but at least to the middle of the 20th century.

Boris is what the Scots call a Scunner, a person who produces a feeling of disgust or loathing, or a strong dislike (as in “tak a scunner“, or “git oot o' ma face ya wee scunner“). Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on 20 July 2019, John Oliver described Boris Johnson as a "failed clone of Donald Trump", with "entitlement from an early age, a kind of deep, deep, deep, white hot ambition pulsing through his life, no real principles to name of any kind." Oliver said Johnson was "a moral windsock, he will go whichever way the wind is blowing."

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

The race for Britain's next prime minister narrowed down to two candidates on 20 June 2019, with former London Mayor Boris Johnson set to face off against Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Johnson, who previously also served as foreign secretary, garnered the most support from Conservative MPs in their fifth and final round of voting, coming in at 160 votes. Hunt came in second with 77 votes, narrowly edging out Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who got 75 votes. A final decision on Conservative Party leader — and Britain's next prime minister — was expected by the end of July, with some 160,000 Conservative Party members deciding between the two top candidates.

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 were 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. Like his hero Winston Churchill, he believes history will treat him kindly because HE intends to write it.

Johnson is a huge Churchill fan. Johnson didn’t face the threat of an imminent Nazi invasion, but his prospects look no rosier than Churchill‘s did. Like Johnson, Churchill was a divisive and controversial figure who a lot of people felt was totally unsuited to the job. Churchill had to deal with a Tory party which included a faction- centerd around Lord Halifax- who felt he was on completely the wrong track. 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, later 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 had 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 were down 43%.

Shortly after his re-election in 2012 London staged what were 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 spent £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 than any year since 1981. Overall the Mayor set London it’s highest housebuilding target ever - half a million homes over the 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 gave tens of thousands of Londoners the chance to put a foot on the housing ladder through shared ownership, but the Mayor acknowledged much more work lies ahead to improve conditions for renters and deliver enough affordable homes for a rapidly growing population.

The London he was mayor of was an exciting, truly international city to visit. Obviously, much of this was probably down to Ken Livingstone.

As well as being a passionate cyclist, Boris enjoys painting, and playing tennis. 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.

Johnson's personal and professional character flaws left serious questions about his suitability to become Prime Minister. Johnson wrote that Muslim women look like letterboxes and bank robbers and called black Africans piccaninnies with watermelon smiles. He called gay men “bum boys”. He has admitted to using cocaine on at least one occaision, and that he was a frequent user of marijuana before he came to university, calling it "jolly nice". He fabricated quotes in stories he filed when a reporter for the London Times, which led to his sacking from the paper. Johnson’s shambolic persona is more real than some suggest. The closer you get to Boris Johnson, a distinguished former colleague once said, the less you like him. Some who have worked with him describe him as insecure, self-obsessed, bullying, and difficult to be around, fused with a ruthless ambition to succeed.

His unruly private life has been marked by serial relationships, children fathered out of wedlock and terminated pregnancies. Critics charge that the frontrunner’s highly colorful private life represents a security risk. It could leave him vulnerable to leaks about past behavior and even open to blackmail by foreign powers, they charge. His unruly private life has been marked by serial relationships, children fathered out of wedlock and terminated pregnancies.

'BoJo' and his wife Marina had four children and lived in north London. He lied to his then party leader Michael Howard about whether he’d had an affair with another journalist, which led to his being sacked from the Tory front bench. In 2013 a judge refused him a gagging order concerning an illegitimate child, observing that the public had a right to know about his “reckless” conduct. Johnson announced in September 2018 he had split from his wife and was divorcing, revealing they separated ‘several months ago,’ amid claims he cheated on his spouse. Johnson, who is said to have had at least three affairs during his 25 year marriage with Marina Wheeler, was kicked out of his marital home after reports of more flings. In June 2019 Johnson’s furious partner Carrie Symonds claimed she had been “stitched up” after cops dashed to a late-night row between the couple, summoned by Boris and Carrie's leftie, anti-Brexit neighbors.

A poll conducted on 21 June 2019 showed support for Johnson had dropped after reports of a domestic "row" at his girlfriend's home. The 55-year-old's lead over Jeremy Hunt for the Conservative Party leadership had dropped from 27% to 11% among party members, according to Survation, which carried out the poll for the Mail on Sunday.

Johnson’s supporters said he remains the favorite of party activists because he had the star quality the party needs to win elections and curb both the populist threat from Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party and combat Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. They also claim he had the political inventiveness to break the Brexit deadlock that turned traditional British politics upside down and might even have the ability to persuade hardline Brexiters to accept a compromise and something short of their objective to break completely with the EU.

No one has any idea, possibly not even the man himself, what a Johnson government would look like or do. Like Trump, he is a politician without the normal constraints or red lines. He will do anything to hold onto power. And with Nigel Farage's new Brexit party threatening to split the Tory vote, that means tacking hard right. Add to this Johnson's right-wing credentials and history, and his desire to align himself with the "hard men" of the new world order, and everything is in place for Britain's slide into the politics of authoritarian populism to continue. What's more Johnson's historical beliefs can be easily adapted to the wave of authoritarian populism sweeping the planet.

Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn criticized Johnson's first speech as prime minister, saying it was "a lot of bluff." Corbyn believes the new premier will not be unable to honor his commitment to deliver Brexit by the end of October. "I don't see how he can," he said. "All he did today was a lot of bluff about delivering it and a whole load of stuff about the social issues in Britain – of which there are serious problems, most of which he was party to the creation of," he added.

Top members of Boris Johnson's Conservative Party urged the embattled Prime Minister to resign after a scandal erupted over allegations that, back in 2020, when the United Kingdom struggled under the strict coronavirus restrictions, there were alcohol-fuelled parties taking place all over Downing Street. Apologies delivered by Boris Johnson on 12 January 2022 over Downing Street's alleged "bring your own bottle" parties had not appeared to make matters any better for him. In fact, people ended up mocking what they dubbed his "half-apology", rolling out memes and cartoons rather than appreciating that their PM was "taking responsibility".

Johnson was fighting for his political future as outrage mounted after revelations that Johnson and Downing Street staff breached restrictions at the height of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown have enraged the public, who were forced to abide by rules that prevented them from visiting sick and dying loved ones or attending funerals. The scandal looked set to deepen Friday as the conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph published an exclusive claiming Johnson’s staff held an alcohol-fuelled party just hours before the socially distanced funeral of Prince Philip in April 2021. The image of Queen Elizabeth sitting alone in church at her late husband’s memorial service was one of the starkest images of Britain under lockdown.

Martin Kettle wrote : "Conservative MPs are well aware their leader is a dodgy chancer. Some of them actively admire this. Others are happy to profit from it. Many loathe it while quietly despising themselves for permitting it. But the style works only while it succeeds."

Problematically for Johnson, his reputation as a vote winner was challenged by his own party, with less than a quarter of members saying the prime minister would be more successful than Ms Truss at the next general election, and just 16% saying that he would perform better than Mr Sunak. The results came in a YouGov poll of 1,005 Tory members for Sky News conducted between 30 December and 6 January, the first such survey since July 2020. The poll found that the proportion who think Mr Johnson is doing "well" as prime minister has dropped from 85% in July 2020 to 61% today, while the proportion thinking he is doing "badly" increased to 38%, up from 5%. While 59% think he should remain as Tory leader, 34% say he should stand down, up from 9% in July 2020.

Most cabinet members rallied around Johnson after his mea culpa, but the backing from potential successors such as powerful finance minister Rishi Sunak had been distinctly lukewarm.

London's police chief on 25 January 2022 said her officers were investigating several parties that took place at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office and government departments during Covid lockdowns. "The Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told the London Assembly local authority. Allegations that a string of parties were held at Downing Street while the rest of the country was in lockdown had shaken Johnson's government in recent weeks, prompting the worst crisis of his premiership and calls for him to quit.

In April 2022 lawmakers discussed “partygate” and whether Johnson should be referred to Parliament’s standards committee. That’s after police fined him over a birthday party during the pandemic — making him the first U.K. prime minister found to have broken the law. Conservative MPs know that keeping him in place is a gamble, with public anger running high over the lockdown-rules scandal.

Since high-ranking civil servant Sue Gray’s damning report was published in late May 2022, polls suggest a majority of the British electorate want Johnson to resign after revelations that he and his staff broke lockdown rules they imposed on the country in 2020 and 2021 – with particular outrage over two Downing Street parties held the night before Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, at which Queen Elizabeth II sat alone in accordance with Covid regulations. Under the pressure of Partygate and the cost of living crisis, there’s been mounting evidence from surveys and focus groups that he’s not going to be able to save enough of their seats at the next election to persuade them to stick with him.

Boris Johnson faced the greatest threat to his premiership yet after the necessary 54 Tory MPs triggered the parliamentary party’s vote of no confidence on 06 June 2022, after the long-simmering Partygate scandal saw Platinum Jubilee crowds jeer him over the weekend. Analysts did expect him to win the necessary majority of Conservative MPs for now – 211 voted in Johnson’s favour, 148 against – but said the vote itself likely signalled a looming departure from Downing Street.

On the surface, the paucity of natural successors to Johnson looks like a potential means of escape. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was hailed for his management of the Covid crisis, notably in creating the furlough scheme to preserve jobs during lockdowns. But Sunak’s popularity took a hit in April when he was fined for Partygate lockdown breaches, like Johnson – and when it was revealed that his multi-millionaire wife Akshata Murthy has non-domiciled status, meaning she did not pay tax on income earned overseas while residing in the UK.

Other potential candidates like Local Government Secretary Michael Gove and ex-health secretary Jeremy Hunt were seen as competent administrators but lacked personal popularity.

In July 2022, Johnson's government started to collapse. On 05 July 2022 finance minister Rishi Sunak and health minister Sajid Javid resigned in what appeared to be a choreographed release of letters to the prime minister, in which both took aim at his ability to run an administration that adhered to standards. The resignations came as Johnson was apologising for what he said was a mistake for not realising that a former minister in charge of pastoral care was unsuitable for a job in government after complaints of sexual misconduct were made against him.

On 06 July 2022 a group of cabinet ministers tell Johnson to quit, including the man who has just been appointed as the new chancellor of the exchequer. Five more junior ministers quit Johnson's government en masse, taking the total number to 27 of Tory MPs who had resigned in the preceeding 24 hours. "In good faith, we must ask that, for the good of the party and the country, you step aside," the quintet said in their letter to him, as the chorus of calls grew from within the ruling Conservatives for Johnson to resign.

Johnson sacked senior minister Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Daily Mail reported earlier in the day that Gove had told Johnson to resign. Although Gove's role is not one of the most senior in the cabinet, he is arguably considered the most heavyweight figure in government, with more than a decade of experience and a track record of getting things done in government. Home Secretary Priti Patel has joined the group of ministers saying Johnson must resign, a reporter for The Times said. Patel was hitherto a key ally of Johnson.

Johnson told a parliamentary committee it wouldn't be "responsible" for him to resign amid the war in Ukraine: "I look at the the issues that this country faces [...] I look at the biggest war in Europe for 80 years," he said. "And I cannot, for the life of me, see how it is responsible just to walk away from that." Johnson's days as UK prime minister looked numbered after a series of ministerial resignations. But while several possible successors have been suggested, there is no clear favorite.

After after more than 50 resignations from all levels of government, and waves of backbenchers appealing for him to go, on 07 July 2022 the Prime Minister announced his resignation as Conservative leader. He is to remain as Prime Minister until the fall, with a new Tory leader set to be in place by the party's conference in October. Former chancellor Rishi Sunak and trade policy minister Penny Mordaunt are leading the odds to take over from Johnson.

A divisive figure until his last weeks in office, some will remember him as an outspoken and controversial leader, while others view him as a jolly and affable prime minister with a can-do attitude. Known for offensive gaffes, as a politician, he based much of his career on waging war against the European Union and what he saw as its constraining rules. One of the masterminds of Brexit, as prime minister, he led the country out of the bloc. He was ultimately the prime minister who secured a withdrawal agreement that had the support of the British parliament. While Johnson’s critics dismissed him as a clownish figure, his proponents praised his optimism and resolve to get things, as well as Brexit, done.

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Page last modified: 10-01-2023 05:14:09 ZULU