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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."

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP (born 19 June 1964 in New York City), sometimes nicknamed "BoJo" and commonly known simply as "Boris," is a British Conservative politician, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2019 to 2022, the Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, Member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip from 2015 to 2023 (and for Henley from 2001 to 2008), the Foreign Secretary from 2016 to 2018, as well as a journalist, novellist, historian, classicist and TV personality. He is 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.

He was born in New York City to British parents Stanley and Charlotte Johnson, giving him dual US–UK citizenship; he renounced the former in 2015.note  He is additionally one of the most ethnically mixed high-ranking global politicians of the 21st century, being not only English, but additionally French, German,note  Russian, and Turkish.note  (He's the whole Crimean War in one messy blond package!) Until the age of eight, he had severely impaired hearing due to a condition known as "glue ear" and was "a subdued child" before it was surgically corrected. He attended Eton College and read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1986. In 1987 he went to work for The Times, but its editor fired him for the false attribution of a quotation. In 1989, he became the Brussels correspondent, and later political columnist, for The Daily Telegraph, then became editor of The Spectator magazine, then came to major fame with an appearance on Have I Got News for You. Ian Hislop had a transcript of a phone call in which Johnson agreed to help an old school friend of his beat up another journalist, which Hislop used to mock Johnson, something Johnson 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.

After being elected to Parliament for Henley in 2001,note  Johnson served as a shadow junior minister under Conservative leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron. He was fired from his position as editor of The Spectator in 2005 after management became dissatisfied with his lacklustre performance. He resigned from the House of Commons in 2008 after he was elected mayor of London. He was re-elected as mayor in 2012.

In the 2015 national election, Johnson was elected MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip; as a result, he did not seek re-election as mayor the following year. He became a prominent figure in the successful Vote Leave campaign for Brexit in the 2016 referendum on membership of The European Union. When David Cameron resigned following Vote Leave's victory, Johnson quickly announced his intention to run for the now vacant post of prime minister. Although he quickly became the favourite to win, he pulled out of the leadership election before it even started when his fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove betrayed him and decided to run himself, claiming that Johnson would not be a capable PM. The erstwhile Remain supporter Theresa May won, then (needing or wanting to keep her enemies closer than her friends) appointed him Foreign Secretary after the referendum; he resigned the position two years later in protest at May's approach to Brexit. Returning to the back benches, Johnson spent the next several months doing his best to destabilise May's position.

After May resigned in 2019, Johnson was elected Conservative leader and finally achieved his long-held dream of becoming prime minister. He reopened Brexit negotiations and in early September controversially prorogued Parliament; the Supreme Court ruled the action unlawful later that month. After agreeing to a revised Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU, but failing to win parliamentary support for the agreement, Johnson called a snap election for December 2019. He led the Conservative Party to victory: they won the most votes in British electoral history after John Major's 1992 win; their largest seat share and count since Margaret Thatcher's final win in 1987; and their largest share of the popular vote since Thatcher's first win in 1979. The United Kingdom withdrew from the EU on 31 January 2020, entering a period of transition and trade negotiations. Little sooner had Brexit taken effect, though, than the COVID-19 Pandemic became a major issue of his premiership; the government responded with various emergency powers, introduced measures to mitigate its impact, and approved the rollout of a nationwide vaccination programme. Many scientists criticised Johnson for his slow response to the outbreak, including his resistance to introducing lockdown measures, though others later praised him for the successful implementation of the vaccination programme, as well as relaxing laws to allow fast development of a workable vaccine. He was also criticised for missing five emergency COBRA meetings on how to handle the rapidly approaching pandemic, with it being rumored that he had instead decided to finish writing his long-overdue biography of William Shakespeare.note 

Despite criticisms of his actions early in the pandemic, his government maintained extremely strong approval ratings from the start of the pandemic all the way through to late 2021, thanks to a combination of the typically British mentality that it's bad form to undermine the government during a time of national crisis, sympathy from Johnson himself having fallen severely ill with the disease, and the smooth rollout of the country's COVID vaccination programme. This contributed to his party enjoying a highly successful round of post-COVID local elections in May 2021, as well as the Conservatives winning the previously safe Labour seat of Hartlepool in a landslide by-election on the same day. Much like Tony Blair before him, Johnson earned the nickname "Teflon Boris" for his seeming ability to shrug off any scandal; between that and Brexit, many assumed that he would probably enjoy at least a decade in power. As it turned out, however, he would barely even outlast his immediate predecessor's time in office.

Ironically, while (at least some) people felt Johnson had permanently settled the "European question" that had ended the careers of so many Conservative prime ministers before him (Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, Thatcher, Major, Cameron, and May had all foundered over Europe in one way or another), he ultimately ended up losing power thanks to the other thing that had dogged his predecessors, sleaze. The first step towards his downfall came in November 2021, when he attempted to change the parliamentary standards rules in what many saw as an obvious effort to get ally Owen Paterson acquitted for a donations scandal, resulting in a massive backlash that forced Johnson to back down.note  He later became embroiled in a more serious controversy when it was revealed that during the pandemic, Johnson violated health restrictions on public gatherings by hosting parties in 10 Downing Street and other government buildings. Known as "Partygate", the scandal made him the first British prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office when he received a fixed penalty notice in April 2022 for breach of COVID-19 regulations. The publishing of a subsequent report on the scandal and a widespread sense of dissatisfaction led to a confidence vote among Conservative MPs on 6 June 2022, in which 211 supported Johnson and 148 opposed him.note 

Weeks later, he was forced from office by the Chris Pincher scandal, where he first denied knowing that multiple people had accused Pincher of sexual harassment at the time he appointed him to be Conservative Deputy Chief Whip; then got other cabinet members to tell the media that he didn't know about the allegations as well; then was forced to admit that he'd known about them all along. The ensuing mass resignations (62 MPs resigned from government positions in all, including 36 in a 24-hour period, a record in British history) finally forced him to announce his own departure. Despite Brexit being a huge part of his political legacy, he is the first Conservative PM since Alec Douglas-Home whose departure from Number 10 was not a byproduct of Britain's relationship with Europe.

He was replaced as PM by the winner of the September 2022 Conservative Party leadership contest, Liz Truss, the UK's third woman to hold the office, two days before the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. However, in October, after Truss herself was driven from office after a short and disastrous tenure, Johnson attempted to mount a comeback and declared his candidacy for the next leadership election. This was met with ambivalence among the Tory electorate: some thought he could get the country back on track since he could claim a mandate through his victory at the last general election, while others felt his presence would remind the public of his various failings, which would just weaken the Tories even further after the Truss debacle. Ultimately, he withdrew from consideration despite previously declaring that he had the 100 votes necessary to stand — a claim that was generally met with scepticism. Consequently, Rishi Sunak was acclaimed as leader of the Conservative Party on 24 October.

Johnson remained on the Tory backbenches for some time, becoming a thorn in Sunak's side via all sorts of public announcements about what he felt the government ought to do, complicating Sunak's efforts in areas such as the war in Ukraine and sorting out the Northern Ireland situation with respect to Brexit. He eventually resigned from his seat in June 2023 as continued investigations into his conduct while he was PM — including charges that he hosted in-person parties during COVID lockdowns, and crucially, that he lied to Parliament about said parties — which looked like they might get him ejected,note  intensified. Ironically, considering the crushing series of parliamentary by-election defeats that the party experienced throughout 2022 and 2023, Johnson's former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip was the one seatnote  the Tories didn't lose in this period, though most people attributed it, rightly or wrongly, more to a controversial emissions tax that was due to be imposed on older vehicles in London than anything to do with Johnson.


Books he has written

  • Friends, Voters, Countrymen: Jottings on the Stump (2001)
  • Johnson's Column (2003)
  • Lend Me Your Ears (2003)
  • Seventy-Two Virgins (2004)
  • Aspire Ever Higher/University Policy for the 21st Century (2006)
  • The Dream of Rome (2006)
  • Have I Got Views for You (2006)
  • Life in the Fast Lane: The Johnson Guide to Cars (2007)
  • The Perils of the Pushy Parents: A Cautionary Tale (2007)
  • Johnson's Life of London (2011)
  • The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History (2014)

In Media

Johnson's political career has been the subject of several television docudramas, with varying actors playing him:

  • Stuart McQuarrie in the 2005 television film A Very Social Secretary.
  • Christian Brassington in the 2009 drama documentary When Boris Met Dave.
  • Will Barton in the 2017 BBC drama Theresa vs. Boris: How May Became PM.
  • Richard Goulding in the 2019 HBO/Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War.
  • Kenneth Branagh in the 2022 Sky Atlantic television drama This England.
  • In Channel 4's drama Partygate, real news footage of Johnson is mixed with dramatised scenes where he's The Faceless, voiced by Jon Culshaw.

Likewise, he has also been the subject of parody, mainly due to his bumbling mannerisms and distinctive hairstyle:

  • In the 2008–2012 children's TV cartoon Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom, the mayor of Fairy Town, voiced by Alexander Armstrong, is based on Johnson, who was mayor of London at the time.
  • Johnson is voiced by Lewis MacLeod in the fourth and fifth series of 2DTV as well as the radio revival of Dead Ringers.
  • MacLeod reprises his voice role as Johnson in the puppet/CGI sketch series Newzoids.
  • He is voiced by Jon Culshaw in Headcases. In it, Johnson is portrayed as a half-man half-dog who would rather engage in acts of canine behaviour, such as chase his tail, than answer questions.
  • In 2019, James Corden portrayed Johnson in a sketch on Saturday Night Live.
  • In the 2020 revival of Spitting Image, Johnson's puppet is voiced by Matt Forde.
  • In The Undeclared War, set in 2024, Boris Johnson is mentioned to have been forced out of office 15 months before after losing a confidence vote. Ironically, while the series was airing, Boris Johnson did have to resign, even though he'd won a confidence vote just before the series began airing.
  • For the fifteenth anniversary of the Revival Series of Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies wrote an epilogue to his novelization of its debut story, "Rose", where the Nestene Consciousness merges with the corpse of a man heavily implied to be Johnson, who in-universe was killed during the Auton attack.

He has even been the subject of British music and music media:

  • Robbie Williams plays Boris in the music video for his 2020 festive single "Can't Stop Christmas".
  • Johnson is the subject of the 2020 song "Boris Johnson Is a Fucking Cunt" by Kunt and the Gang. It reached number five on the UK Singles Chart. The group released a sequel song, "Boris Johnson Is Still a Fucking Cunt", in 2021; it too reached number five in the chart.


Tropes applied to Boris Johnson's works and appearances in media:

  • Author Avatar: In the mid-noughties, while he was an opposition MP, he wrote a novel called Seventy-Two Virgins, which stars "a tousled, bicycling Tory MP who believes everything is up for grabs". Sound familiar?
  • Colbert Bump: 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, members of the public came to recognise him on the street, and he was invited to appear on other television shows, such as Top Gear, Parkinson, Breakfast with Frost, and Question Time.
  • First-Name Basis: Subverted. 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" (his full name being Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson). Although most treat "Boris" as his first name, the trope that's actually in play in the media is therefore Middle Name Basis.
  • It's All About Me: One sceptical review of his book about Winston Churchill was subtitled "All about our greatest leader (plus a bit about Churchill)", because of the amount of time Johnson spent in the book talking about himself.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Many, many people have said that he has very carefully cultivated his famous air of amiable distraction. Of course, many other people have claimed that underneath that is just another "blithering idiot."
  • Politician Guest-Star: He appeared so frequently on Have I Got News for You that they produced a DVD collection with his appearances called The Full Boris.

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