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"You can’t rule out the possibility that beneath the carefully constructed veneer of a blithering idiot there lurks a blithering idiot."
Boris, in a rare display of political self-awareness
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Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP (born 19 June 1964 in New York City to two British subjects, giving him dual US and UK citizenship), sometimes nicknamed "BoJo" and commonly known simply as "Boris," is a British Conservative politician, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the former Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, Member of Parliament for Uxbridge & South Ruislip since 2015 (and formerly for Henley from 2001 to 2008), the former Foreign Secretary under Theresa May, as well as a journalist, novellist, historian, classicist and TV personality.

He's also at least the second most famous Tory bicyclist of the 21st century, the other one being fellow Eton and Oxford alum (and Bullingdon Club member) David Cameron. Easily recognizable by his unruly mop of blond hair, general air of amiable distraction, and tendency to talk like somebody out of P. G. Wodehouse.

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He began as a journalist covering politics and cars and editor of The Spectator magazine, then came to major fame with an appearance on Have I Got News for You. He was a journalist only known — and then only really to other journalists — for an audio tape of a phone call in which he agrees to help an old school friend of his beat up another journalist. Ian Hislop had a transcript of this which he used to mock Johnson, which he hadn't been expecting; following this, he claimed in his column that the show was entirely scripted. Later, he reappeared on the show to retract this, reassuring "all the little children out there" that the show was indeed entirely spontaneous, and admitting that he'd agreed to come back purely for the money. He also appeared later as a repeat guest host.

In 2015, after selling a home he owned in Britain, he discovered that, because he was born in the United States, he was subject to a US law requiring any citizen, anywhere, to pay income taxes on sales profits even though he had not lived there since he was a child; he disgustedly paid the tax, then promptly renounced his American citizenship.

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While others will point out to him that he's made controversial comments out loud, while microphones are still on, he appears to be immune to embarrassment, one of the key components in his ability to defy political gravity, despite a raft of verbal and nonverbal faux pas. These include several affairs and at least one illegitimate child (the sort of offences for which any other politician would have been tarred, feathered, and run out of the Conservative Party on principlenote ). This came up again following his partner giving birth in 2020, where his somewhat evasive answer on the number of children he has, triggered speculation about how many children he really has; this has now become a Running Gag in media, and has generated many memes.

Boris has been married three times, his third wedding being a Catholic ceremony at Westminster Cathedral with Carrie Symonds on 29 May 2021. He is only the second PM to marry while in office, the first being Lord Liverpool almost two hundred years earlier (1822). Although Johnson was baptized Catholic he was believed to be non-practising, but was allowed to marry Symonds; this generated a lot of public controversy because he was twice divorced, leading to public confirmation that such marriages are allowed when the previous marriages were not celebrated in the Catholic Church.note  This technically makes him the first Roman Catholic prime minister (Tony Blair converted after leaving office). Despite this, he has refused to answer questions from journalists as to his professed faith, beyond a generic "Christian".

A lot of people also believed, with some justification, that Boris had only joined the Leave campaign in the EU referendum (of which he became a leading figure) as part of his own political ambitions, especially since, several months before the referendum, he had publicly opposed leaving the EU. This put him in conflict with David Cameron, a rival of his dating back to their Eton days, the then-prime minister who had bet his career on the country voting to remain. After the EU referendum and Cameron's consequent downfall, Boris was mere hours away from announcing his bid to be Tory leader (and therefore prime minister) but was promptly stabbed in the back by Michael Gove, his campaign manager in-waiting (and his, at the time, Chancellor of the Exchequer to be) who announced his own bid instead. When Gove's bid flamed out, the way opened for Theresa May, Cameron's Home secretary and preferred successor, to take the job instead. Possibly due to the latter's tenuous situation and need to "keep her friends close but enemies closer (and out of the way)", Johnson was appointed as Foreign Secretary in May's reshuffled cabinet. This left much of the country utterly baffled — not least because Boris was perhaps second only to the legendarily blunt Prince Philip as the least diplomatic person in British public life.

Following this, Boris was a constant thorn in May's side, persistently opposing her Brexit deal and finally resigning as Foreign Secretary in July 2018, around the same time Brexit Secretary David Davis (who, we should note, had a longer and more consistent track record of Euroscepticism than Johnson) also stepped down from Cabinet. His resignation was ostensibly because of his aforementioned opposition, but it was widely believed that he was also doing so to court the ardent Brexiteer wing of the Conservative Party and become prime minister himself.

A year later, following May's eventual resignation, Johnson was handily elected the head of the Conservative Party on 23 July 2019, becoming the new prime minister of the UK and stating he would rather be dead in a ditch than have the UK still be in the EU after 31 October, neither of which ended up occurring. Unfortunately, there was trouble right out of the gate.

His attempt late in the summer to prorogue Parliament prompted defections and led to rebels (most of whom were Remainers) siding against him in a vote to prevent Britain from a no-deal Brexit. In retaliation, he kicked the rebels out of the Conservative Party, while others defected, resulting in the Conservatives losing the parliamentary majority they had enjoyed from 2017.note  Johnson then immediately called for a new election in the hopes that enough Brexit hardliners would win so that he could finally bring about the UK's departure from the EU, only to have Parliament immediately vote down that proposal as well. As if that wasn't enough, his own brother, Jo Johnson, quit the government and announced that he'd not seek re-election while insinuating that the two had political disagreements that were beginning to damage their familial relationship. To make matters even worse for him, after his decision to prorogue Parliament was challenged, the Supreme Court decided on 24 September that it was unlawful and that Parliament could resume.

Boris' luck improved a great deal afterwards, though. He renegotiated May's deal to be more palatable to the Brexiteers who had previously blocked it, broadening its support in Parliament well beyond what her version ever achieved, enough to pass, conceivably (though many people have pointed out that this is practically the same deal with a few wording changes; Boris just being better at showmanship and a Leaver during the referendum campaign, whereas May was a Remainer, inherently ingratiating him more to the Brexiteers).

And as all this was going on, he became embroiled in another scandal as details began leaking out about an inappropriate relationship he was alleged to have had with Jennifer Arcuri, an American model-turned-entrepreneur. It was even referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct for further investigation.

On 28 October 2019, Parliament passed Johnson's proposal for a new general election, the third one in four years. During the campaign, he was criticised for his unwillingness to attend several interviews, such as one by the notoriously tough interviewer Andrew Neil (himself a Conservative), though he later faced a harsh interview with The BBC's Andrew Marr. Boris' main slogan was "Get Brexit Done", a promise to finish Brexit quickly if his party won a majority, touting the revised agreement he had ready to go.

Leading Eurosceptic Nigel Farage helped the Conservatives by deciding not to field candidates in constituencies the Conservatives won in 2017, enabling his upstart Brexit Partynote  to focus on draining votes in Labour-represented constituencies that had voted Leave in the referendum. This might or might not have happened on the advice of Donald Trump, whom Farage had been constantly positive and supportive of, and who had even endorsed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister during the leadership election.

For the first time since Margaret Thatcher's leadership in the 1980s, the Conservatives secured a large majority, with many traditionally Labour constituencies in northern England voting for them due to a belief that Brexit could be delivered and improve the country, as well as due to interest in the more economically liberal policy proposals that Johnson had brought to the party with his leadership. He was also helped due to the ineffective leadership and controversial endorsements of the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn who promptly resigned after one of Labour's worst defeats.

Within a week, Boris effectively put No Deal back on the table in terms of trade, though the formal withdrawal agreement was approved. He also courted controversy for appointing two Cabinet members — Nicky Morgan, who had retired from the Commons, and Zac Goldsmith, who had lost his seat in the election — to the House of Lords so they could remain in Cabinet. Further controversy followed when Chancellor Sajid Javid resigned in a more comprehensive reshuffle (which also saw Morgan, though not Goldsmith, step down) after he refused to fire his staffers and replace them with a team under direct oversight from No. 10.

In March 2020, amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, Boris revealed that he had tested positive for COVID-19. His symptoms persisted into April, resulting in him being admitted to hospital for tests on the 5th. The next day, his health deteriorated, and he was placed in intensive care. Boris was moved out of intensive care on 9 April, then discharged from the hospital three days later. He has since recovered completely, though he was also criticised for trying to end the nationwide lockdown before medical experts said it was safe, as well as for a bizarre affair involving his adviser Dominic Cummings driving his family across England during the lockdown, especially once Cummings came out with some particularly questionable excuses for the incident.note 

Since 2016, he has been compared to Donald Trump, and while this comparison demands caution, it is worth noting that they have share several political and stylistic similarities like their outspoken personalities and fondness for right-wing populism. Kenneth Clarke, a bigwig of the Conservative Party and former Chancellor who was eventually thrown out of the Party and retired from the Commons when the 2019 election was called, even said in 2016, "He’s a much nicer version of Donald Trump but the [Leave] campaign’s remarkably similar in my opinion and about as relevant to the real problems that the public face." (Listen to the audio here.) The comparison intensified when he became prime minister, of course. It wasn't helped by the fact that Trump consistently expressed support for him (and actively disparaged Labour's then-leader, Jeremy Corbyn), referring to Boris as "Britain Trump", despite Boris previously insulting and criticising Trump prior to him becoming president.

However, Boris differentiates himself from Donald Trump and other right-wing populists via his deliberately buffoonish image. Whereas Trump has portrayed himself as an infallible superman, Boris routinely pokes fun at himself and acts like an idiot to make himself more endearing and relatable. Even his fashion choice deliberately invokes the image of a clown with his intentionally messy hairstyle and tendency to wear an eccentric mishmash of used clothes. Boris' self-parodying image helps him escape the Conservative Party's elitist stigma and is at least part of the reason why his membership in the Bullingdon Club wasn't as much of a liability as it was for David Cameron. His fellow Tories are generally accepted to have tolerated these antics because they win elections. However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit fallout and the epidemic of sleaze allegations, including an attempt by Johnson to rig the system to exonerate fellow Conservative MP Owen Patterson for breaching paid advocacy rules, this persona has begun to work against him.

Ideologically, Johnson has often proven himself difficult to place, though he calls himself a "one-nation Tory" like Cameron and May before him. In his days as a journalist, he was seen as being on the right of the Conservative Party and a thorn in the side of John Major. Later, as mayor of London, he governed in a relatively socially liberal manner, championing issues such as LGBT rights and environmentalism and taking relaxed attitudes towards immigration. Once he backed the Leave campaign in 2016, he again became a champion of the Conservative Party's right, and was elected leader with the support of most of the anti-EU ERG. Long thought to have been pro-free market and instinctively libertarian, the COVID-19 crisis saw him expand the role of the state in the economy and pursue multiple lockdowns (sometimes with opposition from some of his backbenchers). Overall, Johnson can be seen as ideologically flexible according to what could be required in a set of circumstances - or, as his enemies might put it, having no consistent principles beyond 'what is good for Boris'.

He is also noted for his rather...complicated personal life, which features multiple marriages, numerous affairs, and plenty of salacious rumours, all of which have resulted in journalists needing to use words like "reportedly", "allegedly", and "at least" when reporting about how many children he has while also providing plenty of hay for British comedians.

On a different note, he is one of the most ethnically mixed significant high-ranking politicians today, being not only English but American,note  French, German,note  Russian, and Turkish. He's the whole Crimean War in one messy blond package!

Like many other politicians, he has a more in-depth page about his life and career on That Other Wiki.


Tropes applied to Boris Johnson's appearances in media:

  • Author Avatar: In the mid-noughties he wrote an infamously terrible novel called Seventy-Two Virgins, which "stars a tousled, bicycling Tory MP who believes everything is up for grabs". Sound familiar?
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: He once won a Spectator competition for a limerick in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sex with a goat. ("There once was a fellow from Ankara, who was an enormous wankerer…")
  • Colbert Bump:invoked Johnson's appearance on an April 1998 episode of Have I Got News for You is credited as being what 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. After these, 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.
  • First-Name Basis: Subverted Trope. In media portrayals of him, he usually goes by the name "Boris", the only British political figure to be portrayed this way outside of the Royal Family. However, he started going by the name "Boris" when he arrived at Eton in 1977, prior to which he had gone by his actual first name "Alex". Although "Boris" is treated as his first name, the trope that's actually in play in the media is therefore Middle Name Basis.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Discussed Trope. The media often discusses whether he's as stupid as he appears to be or whether it's a mask to hide something much more ruthlessly Machiavellian. While he appears to be extremely well-read and educated, he is often criticised for misapplying the cultural, classical and literary references that he makes, which compounds the media's confusion over whether it's done deliberately or ignorantly. Historically, the media has used this trope to portray him in an affectionately bumbling manner. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has seen the media become increasingly critical and impatient with this portrayal.
  • Politician Guest Star: He appeared so frequently on HIGNFY that they produced a DVD collection called "The Full Boris".
  • Punctuality Is for Peasants: When he was three hours late for his televised briefing on 31 October 2020 to announce a second national lockdown, the "supporting acts" kept the audience "entertained" in the form of large numbers of graphs predicting doom and gloom, and a repeated phrase of "next slide, please". Media speculation about the reason for the delay included the theory that this was done deliberately to keep people glued to their televisions, instead of going out trick or treating.
  • Too Funny to Be Evil: The The Daily Telegraph has claimed that the reason Boris seems to be immune to the kind of bad press or scandal that brings down other politicians is because people either think him too funny and roguish to be that bad, or that being funny and roguish gives him a free pass.
    A not inconsiderable number of people either a) don’t believe bad things about him because they think he’s funny, charming and boyishly harmless; or b) do believe bad things about him but let him off because they think he’s funny, charming and boyishly harmless.

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