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 "ignore that car behind me" 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.
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, and discovering that because he was born in the United States, and its law requiring any citizen anywhere has to pay income taxes on the profit from the sale, even though he had not lived there since he was a child, disgustedly paid the tax then subsequently renounced his American citizenship.
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 ), which came up again following the 2020 birth of his latest child and his somewhat evasive answer on the number of children he has — leading to speculation on how many children Boris actually has becoming a Running Gag. 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 his old Friendly Enemy Cameron (their rivalry dated 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. Yet, possibly due to the latter's tenuous situation and need to "keep her friends close but enemies closer," Johnson was appointed as Foreign secretary in May's reshuffled cabinet. This left much of the country utterly baffled — not least because Boris is perhaps second only to the legendarily blunt Prince Philip as the least diplomatic person in British politics. And Philip has the excuse of being well into his tenth decade.
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. 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 the first PM to have been directly elected by (at least some of) the people,note stating he would rather be dead in a ditch than have the UK still be in the EU after 31 October. Unfortunately, there was trouble right out of the gate.
His attempt 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's 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 an arguably harsher 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 territory that had voted Leave in the referendum. This might or might not have happened on the advice of Donald Trump, whom Farage has been constantly positive and supportive of.
For the first time since Margaret Thatcher's leadership in the 1980s, the Conservatives finally 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.
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 made a complete recovery, 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. The comparison intensified when he became prime minister, of course. It wasn't helped by the fact that Trump has consistently expressed support for him (and actively disparaged Labour and its now-former leader, Jeremy Corbyn), despite Boris previously insulting and criticising Trump prior to him becoming president.
However, what differentiates Boris from other right-wing populists like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen is his deliberately clownish image. Whereas other right-wing politicians portray themselves as infallible supermen, Boris routinely pokes fun of 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 messy hair style and tendency to wear an eccentric mishmash of used clothes. Boris' self-parodying image helps him escape the Conservative Party's elitist stigma and helps explain why his membership in the Bullingdon Club wasn't as much of a liability as it was for David Cameron.
On a different note, he is probably the most ethnically-mixed political person of significance living today after Barack Obama himself, being not only English but American,note French, German,note Russian, and Turkish. He's the whole Crimean War in one messy blond package!
Tropes applied to Boris Johnson in his 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: 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/Middle Name Basis: Often referred to in the media simply as "Boris", making him the only British political figure excepting royalty known by (a) given name alone.note
- Obfuscating Stupidity: He's pretty upfront about it, as the page quote shows. He is extremely well-read and educated, and it is generally accepted that he is much more ruthlessly Machiavellian than he seems, with his on-screen persona being just that — a persona. However, people seem willing to go with it anyway (though approximately half the population came to hate him following the Brexit referendum, so there's that).
- On the other hand, the COVID-19 outbreak (which started less than six months after he became Prime Minister, and less than a month after he was re-elected) has been noted to severely test his supposed abilities; quite a few commentators, including a number from within his own party, have started to sound the alarm that even if he was a competent operator before (which is something not universally agreed-upon), he's started to flag after having contracted the virus and been laid up in hospital. His response to the virus outbreak has also, shall we say, not been universally lauded.
- Politician Guest Star: To the point where there is a special part of the HIGNFY DVD collection called "The Full Boris".
- Sophisticated as Hell: Combines Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness with a set of "oh, gosh", "um, ah" placeholder noise Verbal Tics to odd effect, leading Russell Howard on Mock the Week to speculate that when really excited, "he'd sound like a thesaurus going through a blender".
- Too Funny to Be Evil: According to The Daily Telegraph:
A not inconsiderable number of people either a) dont believe bad things about him because they think hes funny, charming and boyishly harmless; or b) do believe bad things about him but let him off because they think hes funny, charming and boyishly harmless.
- Verbal Tic: He has a habit of stammering and stuttering, as well as punctuating his speech with strange noises. Dead Ringers lampoons this by having his dialogue being made up more of nonsensical blither and blather than actual speech.