Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP (born 19 June 1964), sometimes nicknamed "BoJo", is a British Conservative politician, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the former Mayor of London, Member of Parliament for Uxbridge & South Ruislip (and formerly for Henley), the former Foreign Secretary of Theresa May's cabinet, as well as a journalist, novelist, historian, classicist and TV personality.
He's also at least the second most famous modern Tory bicyclist, 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.
A journalist covering politics and cars and editor of The Spectator magazine, he 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.
While others will point out to him that he's made controversial comments out loud, while microphones are still on, and kept on digging himself deeper even after it's been pointed out to him, he appears to be immune to embarrassment. It's everyone else who gets embarrassed instead, one of the key components in his ability to defy political gravity — despite all the above mentioned gaffes and many, many, many more. These include an affair and at least one illegitimate child (the sort of offences for which any other politician would and have been tarred, feathered, and run out of the Conservative Party on principle) — and a not entirely unjustified perception that Boris had only joined the Leave campaign in the EU referendum (in which he was a crucial component, because approximately 80% of the country unconditionally despised then-United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage) as part of his own political ambitions, especially since several months before the referendum he had said leaving the EU would be disastrous. Many people therefore thought he had screwed over the country for his own vanity.
After the EU referendum and Cameron's consequent downfall, Johnson was however promptly stabbed in the back by supposed political ally Michael Gove, ultimately leaving the way open for Theresa May to become new Conservative leader and Prime Minister. Yet, possibly due to the latter's tenuous situation and need to "keep her friends close but enemies closer", Johnson performed a phoenix-like resurrection barely a week later to become the Foreign Secretary in May's reshuffled Cabinet. This left much of the country utterly baffled — not least because Boris is second only to the legendarily blunt Prince Philip in being possibly the least diplomatic person in British politics, especially where foreigners are concerned. And Philip has the excuse of being well into his tenth decade.
Following this Boris continued to be a thorn in Theresa May's side, constantly opposing her Brexit deals and finally resigning as Foreign Secretary in July 2018. It was widely believed he was courting the more extreme wing of the Conservative Party to win their support and become Prime Minister himself.
A year later, following May's eventual resignation, Johnson was elected at the head of the Conservative Party on 23 July 2019, becoming the new Prime Minister of the UK. Unfortunately, there was trouble right out of the gate.
His attempt to prorogue parliament prompted defections and led to rebels 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 ruling coalition losing their majority. Johnson then immediately called for new elections 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 quit government and announced that he'd not seek reelection 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 in the courts, the Supreme Court decided on 24 September that it was unlawful and that parliament could resume.
To give you an idea of just how badly Boris' start of tenure as PM has been so far, his government has lost their first seven parliamentary votes, the first three defeats occurring in the space of less than twenty-four hours, and is yet to win one. No other Prime Minister in British history has lost more than four votes without winning one.
And as all this has been 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's gone so far as to be referred Independent Office for Police Conduct for further investigation.
Since the 2016 US election, he has sometimes been compared to Donald Trump — while the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment demands caution, it is worth noting that they have certain similarities viz. saying ludicrous things that would ruin most careers, an antipathy toward other countries and the people who live there, and a dodgy hairstyle. However, it is also worth noting that the common consensus is that Johnson's persona is a case of Obfuscating Stupidity. Despite some people's beliefs and hopes to the contrary, the common consensus is that Trump's ... isn't. The comparison intensified when he became Prime Minister, of course.
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 (born in New York, which means it is possible for him to be the only man ever to have served as Mayor of London and President of the United States — though as of 2015, he has apparently given up his American citizenship), French, German, 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 Erdogan 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.
- Kavorka Man: To the point where it was noted by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian (Britain's chief centre-left newspaper) and the British edition of Cards Against Humanity. In Toynbee's words, "It's that sodding hair."
- Obfuscating Stupidity: He's pretty upfront about it, as the page quote shows. 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 hates him following the Brexit referendum, so there's that).
- Politician Guest Star: To the point where there is a special part of the HIGNFY DVD collection called "The Full Boris".
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Combines this 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".
- 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.