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Boris Johnson

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Boris Johnson officially became prime minister of the United Kingdom on July 24, 2019.

Boris Johnson was born in New York City, New York, U.S., on June 19, 1964.

Boris Johnson was elected twice as mayor of London. On May 1, 2008, Johnson won a narrow victory by defeating Ken Livingstone. In 2012 he was reelected mayor, besting Livingstone again.

Boris Johnson was a leading spokesman for the “Leave” campaign in the run-up to the June 23, 2016, national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union.

Boris Johnson wrote The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History (2014), based on the life of Winston Churchill.

Boris Johnson, in full Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, (born June 19, 1964, New York City, New York, U.S.), American-born British journalist and Conservative Party politician who became prime minister of the United Kingdom in July 2019. Earlier he served as the second elected mayor of London (2008–16) and as secretary of state for foreign affairs (2016–18) under Prime Minister Theresa May.

Early life and career as a journalist

As a child, Johnson lived in New York City, London, and Brussels before attending boarding school in England. He won a scholarship to Eton College and later studied classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was president of the Oxford Union. After briefly working as a management consultant, Johnson embarked on a career in journalism. He started as a reporter for The Times in 1987 but was fired for fabricating a quotation. He then began working for The Daily Telegraph, where he served as a correspondent covering the European Community (1989–94) and later as an assistant editor (1994–99). In 1994 Johnson became a political columnist for The Spectator, and in 1999 he was named the magazine’s editor, continuing in that role until 2005.

Election to Parliament

In 1997 Johnson was selected as the Conservative candidate for Clwyd South in the House of Commons, but he lost decisively to the Labour Party incumbent Martyn Jones. Soon after, Johnson began appearing on a variety of television shows, beginning in 1998 with the BBC talk program Have I Got News for You. His bumbling demeanour and occasionally irreverent remarks made him a perennial favourite on British talk shows. Johnson again stood for Parliament in 2001, this time winning the contest in the Henley-on-Thames constituency. Though he continued to appear frequently on British television programs and became one of the country’s most-recognized politicians, Johnson’s political rise was threatened on a number of occasions. He was forced to apologize to the city of Liverpool after the publication of an insensitive editorial in The Spectator, and in 2004 he was dismissed from his position as shadow arts minister after rumours surfaced of an affair between Johnson and a journalist. Despite such public rebukes, Johnson was reelected to his parliamentary seat in 2005.

Mayor of London

Johnson entered into the London mayoral election in July 2007, challenging Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone. During the tightly contested election, he overcame perceptions that he was a gaffe-prone and insubstantial politician by focusing on issues of crime and transportation. On May 1, 2008, Johnson won a narrow victory, seen by many as a repudiation of the national Labour government led by Gordon Brown. Early the following month, Johnson fulfilled a campaign promise by stepping down as MP. In 2012 Johnson was reelected mayor, besting Livingstone again. His win was one of the few bright spots for the Conservative Party in the midterm local elections in which it lost more than 800 seats in England, Scotland, and Wales.

While pursuing his political career, Johnson continued to write. His output as an author included Lend Me Your Ears (2003), a collection of essays; Seventy-two Virgins (2004), a novel; and The Dream of Rome (2006), a historical survey of the Roman Empire. In 2014 he added The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, which was described by one reviewer as a “breathless romp through the life and times” of Winston Churchill.

Return to Parliament, the Brexit referendum, and failed pursuit of the Conservative leadership

Johnson returned to Parliament in 2015, winning the west London seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, in an election that saw the Conservative Party capture its first clear majority since the 1990s. He retained his post as mayor of London, and the victory fueled speculation that he would eventually challenge Prime Minister David Cameron for leadership of the Conservative Party.

Some critics, however, charged that Johnson’s personal political ambitions led him to be less interested and less involved in his job as mayor than he was in self-promotion. Even before leaving the office of mayor—having chosen not to run for reelection in 2016—Johnson became the leading spokesman for the “Leave” campaign in the run-up to the June 23, 2016, national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union. In that capacity, he faced off with Cameron, who was the country’s most prominent proponent of Britain remaining in the EU, and came under criticism for equating the EU’s efforts to unify Europe with those undertaken by Napoleon I and Adolf Hitler.

When all of the votes were counted in the referendum, some 52 percent of those who went to the polls had opted for Britain to leave the EU, prompting Cameron to announce his imminent resignation as prime minister. He said that his successor should oversee the negotiations with the EU over Britain’s withdrawal and that he would step down before the Conservative Party conference in October 2016. Many observers believed that the path now had been laid for Johnson’s ascent to the party leadership and the premiership.

In the morning at the end of June when he was set to officially announce his candidacy, however, Johnson was deserted by his key ally and prospective campaign chairman, Michael Gove, the justice secretary. Gove, who had worked alongside Johnson on the “Leave” campaign, concluded that Johnson could not “provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead” and, instead of backing Johnson’s candidacy, announced his own. The British media were quick to see betrayals of Shakespearean proportions in the political drama involving Cameron, Johnson, and Gove, whose families had been close and who had moved up the ranks of the Conservative Party together. When he left, Gove took several of Johnson’s key lieutenants with him, and Johnson, seemingly concluding that he no longer had enough support in the party to win its leadership, quickly withdrew his candidacy.

Tenure as foreign secretary

When Theresa May became Conservative Party leader and prime minister, she named Johnson her foreign secretary. Johnson maintained his seat in the House of Commons in the snap election called by May for June 2017, and he remained foreign secretary when May reshuffled her cabinet after the Conservatives lost their legislative majority in that election and formed a minority government. In April 2018 Johnson defended May’s decision to join the United States and France in the strategic air strikes that were undertaken against the regime of Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad in response to evidence that it had again used chemical weapons on its own people. Opposition parties were critical of the May government’s use of force without having first sought approval from Parliament.

Johnson himself was taken to task in some quarters for statements he had made regarding an incident in March 2018 in which a former Russian intelligence officer who had acted as a double agent for Britain was found unconscious with his daughter in Salisbury, England. Investigators believed that the pair had been exposed to a “ novichok,” a complex nerve agent that had been developed by the Soviets, but Johnson was accused of misleading the public by saying that Britain’s top military laboratory had determined with certainty that the novichok used in the attack had come from Russia; the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory actually had only identified the substance as a novichok. Nonetheless, the British government was confident enough of the likelihood of Russian complicity in the attack that it expelled nearly two dozen Russian intelligence operatives who had been working in Britain under diplomatic cover. In May 2018 Johnson was the target of a prank—also thought to have been perpetrated by Russia—when a recording was made of a telephone conversation between him and a pair of individuals, one of whom fooled Johnson by pretending to be the new prime minister of Armenia.

While all these events unfolded, Johnson remained a persistent advocate of “hard” Brexit as May’s government struggled to formulate the details of its exit strategy for its negotiations with the EU. Johnson publicly (and not always tactfully) cautioned May to not relinquish British autonomy in pursuit of maintaining close economic involvement in the common market. When May summoned her cabinet to Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat, on July 6, 2018, to try to reach a nuts-and-bolts consensus on its Brexit plan, Johnson reportedly was crudely obstinate. Nonetheless, by the gathering’s end, he seemed to have joined the other cabinet members in support of May’s softer approach to Brexit. However, after Brexit secretary David Davis resigned on July 8, saying that he could not continue as Britain’s chief negotiator with the EU because May was “giving too much away, too easily,” Johnson followed suit the next day, tendering his resignation as foreign secretary. In his letter of resignation, Johnson wrote in part:

It is more than two years since the British people voted to leave the European Union on an unambiguous and categorical promise that if they did so they would be taking back control of their democracy.

They were told that they would be able to manage their own immigration policy, repatriate the sums of UK cash currently spent by the EU, and, above all, that they would be able to pass laws independently and in the interests of the people of this country.…

That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt.

May named Jeremy Hunt, the long-serving health secretary, as Johnson’s replacement.

Ascent to prime minister

Meanwhile, Johnson remained a persistent critic of May’s attempts to push her version of Brexit through Parliament. After failing twice to win support for her plan in votes in the House of Commons, May, in a closed-door meeting with rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party on March 27, 2019, pledged to step down as prime minister if Parliament approved her plan. This time around, the promise of May’s imminent departure won Johnson’s support for her plan; however, once again it went down to defeat. Having failed to win sufficient support for her plan from Conservatives, unable to negotiate a compromise with the opposition, and assailed by ever more members of her own party, May announced that she would resign as party leader on June 7 but remain as caretaker prime minister until her party had chosen her successor.

This opened up a campaign to replace her that found Johnson among 10 candidates who were put to the parliamentary party in a series of Ivotes that eventually winnowed the field to four contenders: Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, and Sajid Javid, the home secretary. After Gove and Javid fell by the wayside in subsequent votes, Johnson and Hunt stood as the final candidates in an election in which all of the party’s nearly 160,000 members were eligible to vote. Some 87 percent of those eligible voters participated and elevated Johnson to the leadership when the results were announced on July 23. In winning 92,153 votes, Johnson captured some 66 percent of the vote, compared with about 34 percent for Hunt, who garnered 46,656 votes.

Johnson had campaigned on a promise to leave the EU without a deal (“no-deal Brexit”) if the exit agreement with the EU was not altered to his satisfaction by October 31, 2019, the revised departure deadline that had been negotiated by May. In his victory speech, he pledged to “deliver Brexit, unite the country, and defeat Jeremy Corbyn” and then rounded out the dud acronym for his pledge to dude by promising to “energize the country.” On July 24 Johnson officially became prime minister.

Faced with a threat by Corbyn to hold a vote of confidence and then confronted by a broader effort by opponents of a no-deal Brexit to move toward legislation that would prevent that option for leaving the EU, Johnson boldly announced on August 28 that he had requested the queen to prorogue Parliament, delaying its resumption from its scheduled suspension for the yearly political party conferences. The schedule called for Parliament to convene during the first two weeks of September and then to take a break until October 9. Johnson reset the return date for October 14, just over two weeks before the Brexit deadline. The queen’s approval of the request, a formality, was granted shortly after it was submitted by Johnson. Outraged critics of Johnson’s initiative argued that he was seeking to limit debate and narrow the window of opportunity for taking legislative action on an alternative to a no-deal departure. Johnson denied that this was his intention and emphasized his desire to move forward on Britain’s domestic agenda.

Opponents of a no-deal Brexit took the offensive on September 3, as members of the opposition and 21 rebellious Conservative MPs came together on a vote that allowed the House of Commons to temporarily usurp the government’s control of the legislative body’s agenda (as it had earlier done during May’s tenure as prime minister). The 328–301 vote was a humiliating defeat for Johnson, who responded vindictively by effectively expelling the 21 dissident MPs from the Conservative Party. Taking control of the agenda of the House of Commons allowed those opposed to a no-deal Brexit to set the stage for a vote on a bill that would mandate Johnson to request a delay for Brexit. Johnson sought to regain control of the narrative by announcing that he would call for a snap election. Under the Fixed Terms of Parliament Act, however, a prime minister must win the support of at least two-thirds of the House of Commons to hold such an election when it falls outside of the body’s fixed five-year terms, meaning that Johnson would have to win opposition support for that vote. The political drama heightened on September 4, as the House of Commons voted 327–299 to force Johnson to request a delay of the British withdrawal from the EU until January 31, 2020, if by October 19, 2019, he had not either submitted an agreement on Brexit for Parliament’s approval or gotten the House of Commons to approve a no-deal Brexit.

By October Johnson was able to find common ground with the EU on a renegotiated agreement that greatly resembled May’s proposal but replaced the backstop with a plan to keep Northern Ireland aligned with the EU for at least four years from the end of the transition period. On October 22 the House of Commons approved Johnson’s revised plan in principle but then quickly stymied his effort to push the agreement through to formal Parliamentary acceptance before the October 31 deadline. Thus, Johnson was compelled to ask the EU for an extension of the deadline, which was granted, and the deadline was reset for January 31, 2020. With no-deal Brexit off the table, Corbyn indicated that he would now support an early election, which was scheduled for December 12. After three failed attempts to hold a snap election, Johnson was finally able to take his case to the people, and during the campaign he promised to deliver Brexit by the new deadline. Although Johnson’s solution to the backstop pitfall looked certain to lose him the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, opinion polling prior to the election showed the Conservatives to be the likely winners and poised to gain seats. When the votes were counted, the projected Conservative victory proved to be wildly more decisive than anyone had expected. In winning 365 seats, the party increased its presence in the House of Commons by 47 seats and recorded its most commanding win in a parliamentary election since 1987. With a solid majority in place, Johnson stood poised to guide his preferred version of Brexit across the finish line.

In his address to the British people late on January 31, 2020, as the U.K. formally withdrew from the EU, Johnson said:

This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama.

Battling the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

Although the formal withdrawal had taken place, final details relating to a new trade deal between the U.K. and the EU remained to be hammered out, and the deadline for agreement on this was set for December 31, 2020. Perhaps not surprisingly, those negotiations also proved to be protracted and often bitter; however, Johnson was able to announce that an accord had been reached on December 24. The 2,000-page agreement specified that there would be no limits or taxes on goods traded between U.K. and EU parties but there would now be a regimen of extensive paperwork for such transactions and for the transport of goods. Moreover, the freedom to live, work, and study in one another’s countries that U.K. nationals and EU citizens had enjoyed would be eliminated for many. Fishing rights, which had proved to be a particular sticking point in the negotiations, were agreed upon for a five-year period only.

As important as these negotiations were, they took a back seat to the catastrophic public health crisis that came to dominate events not only in the U.K. and the EU but also in the world as a whole—the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic, which likely originated in China, where the first cases were reported in December 2019. Heeding the controversial guidance of its key scientific advisers that the best way to limit the long-term effects of the pandemic would be to allow the virus to spread naturally and thus generate “herd immunity,” the Johnson government initially took a low-key approach to combating the pandemic, which was at odds with the aggressive measures taken in much of the rest of the world. By mid-March 2020, as COVID-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the virus, began spreading rapidly in Britain, the fallacy of this approach had become clear, and the government imposed social-distancing and mask-wearing requirements, along with a lockdown that included the closing of schools, pubs, restaurants, and other businesses.

The severity of the crisis became very personal for Johnson when he contracted the virus at the end of March, became so ill that he had to be hospitalized, and, with his life in danger, spent three nights in an intensive-care unit. While he was incapacitated, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab steered the government. After Johnson returned to his post, the grateful prime minister in his Easter message to the country on April 12 thanked the health care workers who had saved his life, called on Britons to adhere to social-distancing measures, and lavished praise on the National Health Service (NHS) for its response to the crisis:

We will win because our NHS is the beating heart of this country. It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love.

Over the coming year, Johnson initiated and rescinded a series of stay-at-home orders (which varied by region) as the spread of the disease waxed and waned in Britain. Although many observers were critical of Johnson’s slow, unsteady response to the crisis, British scientists, aided by government funding, made historically rapid advances on the vaccine front. Notably, the University of Oxford and the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca developed and successfully tested one of the first effective vaccines. Moreover, in December 2020 the U.K. became the first country to approve and deploy the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with which it quickly began a national immunization program. Nonetheless, by March 2021 the U.K. had suffered more COVID-19-related deaths (about 126,000) than all but four other countries (the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and India)—a situation that had been made worse in September 2020 by the emergence in Britain of a new, more easily transmissible variant of the disease (B.1.1.7).

“ Partygate”

The Johnson government’s response to the pandemic would make headlines for very different reasons beginning in late November 2021, when reports began surfacing that members of the prime minister’s cabinet and staff, as well as Johnson himself, had attended parties earlier in the pandemic that violated prohibitions on social gatherings set forth by the government. Dubbed “Partygate,” the resulting scandal hinged not only on the nature of the alleged violations but also on Johnson’s initial insistence that the government-issued guidelines had been “followed at all times.” As reports came to light of an increasing number of illegal social gatherings at Downing Street during lockdowns imposed because of the public health crisis in 2020 and 2021, Johnson apologized for having attended one such party at which drinks were served but which he said he had thought was going to be a work event. A picture began to emerge of a culture of excessive workplace drinking in Johnson’s orbit and of a prime minister who had misled Parliament with his claim that no pandemic-related rules had been broken—the last being an offense that historically had called for resignation.

In late January 2022 an investigation into the affair by senior civil servant Sue Gray was reported to Parliament, though in a redacted form so as not to compromise the investigation into a number of gatherings that had been subsequently undertaken by the London Metropolitan Police. Gray indicated that “there were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times” and that “some of the events should not have been allowed to take place” whereas “other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.” Johnson apologized again to Parliament and was roundly castigated, even by Conservatives, some of whom joined members of the opposition in calling on the prime minister to step down. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which united most of the West in support of Ukraine, may have forestalled the threat to Johnson’s staying in office, as many Britons seemed to feel that the moment of existential crisis for Europe brought on by Russia’s aggression was not the time for a change of leadership. Nevertheless, Johnson’s grip on power remained precarious, especially after the police investigation led to Johnson’s being served a “fixed penalty notice” in April and being fined for his transgressions of pandemic-related rules, making him the first incumbent British prime minister in living memory found to have broken the law.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt.

Biography Online

Boris Johnson Biography

Boris Johnson is a leading Conservative politician and British Prime Minister, who was elected leader of the Conservative Party in the summer of 2019, in a bid to take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal. He served as Mayor of London for two terms 2008-16, overseeing the 2012 London Olympics. He also played a leading role in the 2016 “Vote Leave” campaign on the EU referendum, afterwards becoming Foreign Secretary and later Prime Minister. He is one of Britain’s most high profile politicians, renowned for his eccentric approach to life but increasingly known for his hardline Brexit stance which has polarised opinion. Johnson’s term has Prime Minister was overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis. In 2021/22, details emerged that unauthorised parties had taken place in number 10 Downing Street – when the rest of the country was in lockdown.

Early life of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson was born on 19th June 1964. His full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson but chooses to use the shortened version of Boris.

Boris is the son of Stanley Johnson, who is descended from Turkish ancestry and a former member of the European Parliament. Boris was educated at Eton, and Balliol College, Oxford University, where he studied classics. During his time at Oxford University, he became president of the prestigious Oxford Union. It is claimed that he was the preferred candidate of the Social Democrat party, although Boris claims he was never an active participant in the centre-left party. During his time at Oxford, he also became involved in various drinking clubs, such as the Bullingdon Club. This drinking society was associated with a “Hurray Henry” mentality. Boris has maintained this impression of being an Oxford toff, into his political and public life. In his own words Boris has said:

“A wise guy playing the fool to win” [2]

The media have often referred to him as “Bozzer”.

On graduating from Oxford he spent one week as a management consultant, before having to resign he memorably said:

“Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious ” [3]

Instead, he pursued a career in journalism. In 1987 he worked as a journalist for the Times, but he was sacked from the Times by editor Charles Wilson for inventing a quote by historian Colin Lucas. After the Times, he moved to the Telegraph where he was appointed to Brussels to cover European issues. At the Telegraph he carved out a niche – writing humorous, Europsceptic articles, which were warmly received by the Telegraph readership. Johnson was criticised by fellow journalists for writing untruths and making up stories to discredit the European Commission. However, the articles had a powerful impact on UK politics, increasing tensions within the Conservative Party, and raising the profile of Euro-scepticism.

In 1999, his profile led him to be hired as editor of the Spectator; his position led to considerable controversy. Not least, over an editorial criticising the people of Liverpool for being “overly sentimental” in response to the murder of British hostage Ken Bigley. The editorial created uproar in Liverpool; Boris Johnson was forced by his party leader Michael Howard to travel to Liverpool to apologise for his behaviour. Boris did go to Liverpool though he faced a frosty reaction.

Boris Johnson as MP

In 2001, Boris Johnson was elected an MP for Henley on Thames, replacing Michael Heseltine. In 2004 he was appointed shadow minister for the arts. However, in November 2004, he was forced to resign over allegations of an extramarital affair with Petronella Wyatt. In 2005, he was reprieved and given the position of shadow minister for education. In 2006, allegations of another extramarital affair arose, but David Cameron did not consider it sufficient to deserve a sacking. In 2015, he was elected MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Boris Johnson and Mayor of London

In July 2007, Boris Johnson resigned from his position as shadow education secretary so that he would be free to stand as the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London. He was successful in beating the incumbent Ken Livingstone. As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has forged a strong political identity, often criticising his own party, for example over placing a cap on housing benefits, which hurts London more than other areas. Describing his own political views, Johnson states:

“[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.”

From 2008-16, Johnson served as Mayor of London becoming one of the highest-profile politicians in the UK. He has often been rumoured as a credible leadership candidate for the Conservative party, though he often denied this. In 2012, Johnson was re-elected Mayor of London, again defeating Ken Livingstone.

How did Boris Johnson become Mayor of London?

  • Developed a high media profile through appearances on TV
  • Ability to turn gaffes into public relation successes.
  • An appeal to young people across traditional party boundaries.
  • Gave the impression of charismatic and unique personality, an increasing rarity in modern politics.
  • It was partly a backlash against the Labour government in 2007, but primarily because of Johnson’s personal profile. It is rare for Conservatives to do well in London.
  • Ken Livingston had his own high public profile after eight years in the job, but there was some desire for a change

Boris Johnson and Cycling

Boris is well known for his love of cycling and frequently commutes to work through the busy streets of London. As mayor of London, he implemented an existing idea to provide hire bikes in London. For a time, they became known as the “Boris Bike”.

He has had many bikes stolen and has written extensively on the injustice of bike theft. For example, he notes that on having a bike stole people usually respond by criticising the cyclist for not taking sufficient precautions or buying a bike that is too flash. He admits that he has fantasised over leaving dummy bikes as bait for thieves and then setting the Navy Seals on to the criminals.

Boris Johnson and Have I got News for You

In 1998 Boris Johnson first appeared on Have I Got News for You. His appearance was considered a success, and he was invited back for future episodes and also twice to host the show. Johnson’s comedy persona of playing the ‘Upper-Class Twit’ made him a media celebrity and raised his profile beyond the political class. Usually, the show lasts for 30 minutes. With Boris in the chair, there were frequent pauses and extra time getting through questions. Merton and Hislop affectionately refer to Johnson as “Wodehousian”, and agree that “every time he’s on it gets better”.

Some of his quotes from the show include:

“We’re moving irresistibly towards a conclusion.”

“Badgers badgers badger badger badgers.”

“There may be a reason I can’t think of, but the problem with that reason is that I can’t think of it now.”

“I think I was once given cocaine, but I sneezed, so it didn’t go up my nose. In fact, it may have been icing sugar.”

“I could not fail to disagree with you less.” [1]

– Boris Johnson, Have I Got News for You

Boris Johnson and London Olympics

Boris was a key figurehead for the successful 2012 London Olympics. Even getting stuck on a high wire, did Boris no harm. At the end of the London Olympics, Johnson said:

“But I suppose there are two emotions – one is obviously some sadness that it is all over, because it’s been an amazing experience, but also a great relief because there is no doubt it has been a prodigious exertion by London and by Londoners.”

Boris Johnson and EU Referendum

In February 2016, Boris Johnson announced he would back the Vote Leave campaign. His decision to support Vote Leave rather than the PM’s ‘Remain’ campaign was seen as a highly influential decision – as his high profile could swing many undecided voters. Johnson, who had previously spoken of the benefits of the Single Market, stated it was a difficult decision. Indeed Boris Johnson wrote two articles – one supporting Leave, one supporting Remain. He stated he wrote two different articles to help make up his mind. Critics argued it showed his insincerity and some feel his decision to support Vote Leave was partly motivated by the belief it would help best his political career.

On the eve of the Referendum, Johnson appeared on a live TV debate and declared 23 June could be “Britain’s independence day”. Against many expectations, Britain voted to leave EU by a majority of 52% – 48%. After the result, the Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, leading to a leadership campaign for the Conservative Party. It was expected Boris Johnson would be the front-runner as he was the most popular with party activists. However, to many people’s surprise, his fellow Vote Leave campaigner Michael Gove announced his decision to stand, causing Johnson to re-evaluate and unexpectedly announce he would not stand after all. In the end, Theresa May, who nominally supported Vote Remain was chosen as party leader.

Despite differences with Theresa May, she appointed Johnson as Foreign Secretary. Boris Johnson later resigned critical of the direction of Theresa May and her withdrawal bill.

In the summer of 2019, Johnson won the leadership contest for the Conservative Party becoming Prime Minister. His main commitment was to take take the UK out of the EU by 31 October 2019 – saying he would rather ‘die in a ditch than ask for a Brexit extension’. However, Johnson lost his first six votes in Parliament. As Parliament passed a bill preventing the UK from leaving the EU without a deal. Johnson also lost a vote to gain an early election.

2019 election

In the November 2019 election, Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister with a large majority, gaining 43% of the vote – with the Conservatives gaining seats in pro-Brexit Labour heartlands in the north and Midlands. His slogan of “Get Brexit Done” appealed to those who had voted Brexit in the 2016 referendum. Johnson benefitted from the unpopularity of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who was seen as far left. Despite the large majority, his popularity ratings were – 22 – a reflection of his divisive politics and legacy of appearing to tell lies or misleading statements.


In 2020, Boris Johnson headed up the UK’s government response to Covid-19, ordering a lockdown in March. He test positive himself for the virus in early April 2020. He was taken to St. Thomas’ Hospital and intensive care after his symptoms worsened. He received around the clock care from two nurses. After spending time in hospital he was released when his symptoms improved. Boris Johnson praised “the brilliant care he has received.” and stated that it could have gone either way.

In 2021/22, details emerged that unauthorised parties had taken place in number 10 Downing Street – when the rest of the country was in lockdown. Initially, Boris Johnson tried to deny he had broken any rules, but his position increasingly looked untenable as more details emerged of the extent and number at the parties. His former chief of staff Dominic Cummings was a key figure in leaking details of the parties, saying that “It is his duty to get rid of Boris Johnson.”

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Boris Johnson”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net, Published 11th Feb 2013. Last updated 10 Jan 2022.

Johnson’s Life of London

Boris Johnson has authored several books on Ancient Rome, Winston Churchill and a best selling account of the history of London.


[1] 2004 winner of the Foot in Mouth Award from the Plain English Campaign, for his comment on the 12 December 2003 edition of Have I Got News For You [1]

[2] Boris Johnson, Sunday Times, 16 July 2000, p. 17.

[3] The Herald (Glasgow), 13 November 2004, p. 15.

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The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP


Boris Johnson became Prime Minister on 24 July 2019. He was previously Foreign Secretary from 13 July 2016 to 9 July 2018. He was elected Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in May 2015. Previously he was the MP for Henley from June 2001 to June 2008.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is the leader of Her Majesty’s Government and is ultimately responsible for the policy and decisions of the government.

As leader of the UK government the Prime Minister also:

  • oversees the operation of the Civil Service and government agencies
  • chooses members of the government
  • is the principal government figure in the House of Commons

As Minister for the Union, the Prime Minister works to ensure that all of government is acting on behalf of the entire United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

First Lord of the Treasury

The First Lord of the Treasury is one of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury. This role is usually held by the Prime Minister.

Since the 17th century, the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury have collectively carried out duties that were previously held by the Lord High Treasurer (head of Her Majesty’s Treasury).

The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury also include:

  • the Second Lord of the Treasury — the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has most of the functional financial responsibilities
  • Junior Lords Commissioners of the Treasury — other members of the government, usually government whips in the House of Commons

10 Downing Street is the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, and not of the Prime Minister.

Minister for the Civil Service

The Minister for the Civil Service is responsible for regulating the Civil Service.

The Civil Service (Management Functions) Act of 1992, allows the Minister for the Civil Service to delegate power to other ministers and devolved administrations.

This role was created in 1968 and is always held by the Prime Minister.

Minister for the Union

As Minister for the Union, the Prime Minister works to ensure that all of government is acting on behalf of the entire United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.