Boris Johnson – Profile

Boris Johnson (Bojo) United Kingdom
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is currently the leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Johnson had previously served as Mayor of London between 2008 and 2016. During this time, he became well known to the British public as humorous and entertaining, whilst politically, described as withholding the ideology of one-nation and national conservatism. He then served as the Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2016 to 2018 before becoming Prime Minister in 2019.

Premier Minister of the United Kingdom

Johnson took on the premiership of the UK at a time of extraordinary political turmoil. When the EU referendum in 2016 produced a “leave” vote, the then-prime minister and vocal remain Conservative, David Cameron resigned, leaving the role to Theresa May. The country saw years of policy ping-ponging over Brexit negotiations both with the EU and internally, the reason for which Johnson resigned from the cabinet. A consequential unravelling of the Conservative party, leading to the resignation of May, the appointment of Johnson as Prime Minister came after winning a conservative leadership election on the 23 July 2019.

Johnson’s initial days of his Prime Ministry were troubled, particularly by a suggested prorogation of government overturned by the Supreme Court, an expulsion of 21 MPs from the Conservative Party and a fierce opposition in the House. However, to make his government more effective, Johnson gambled a snap general election to settle country-wide divisions over Brexit and in December 2019 gained the largest Tory majority since 1987 (under Margaret Thatcher). This enabled him to have a sufficient majority in the House of Commons in order to ratify his Brexit withdrawal agreement which came into effect on 31 January 2020, triggering an 11-month transition period.

Praised by Brexiteers for finally “getting Brexit done” after quite some time of government squabbling has given Johnson a comfortable domestic standing. His national conservatism has been echoed in his approach in the Brexit negotiations and now as leader of an independent country vying for presence on the geo-political stage. Therefore, his rise to power requires in-depth research to predict what may be in store for the world with a Johnson-led independent UK.

Background: Upbringing and early life

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born in 1964 in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City, to an Englishman studying economics at Columbia University and an Oxford-born artist from a family of liberal intellectuals. From a young age, Johnson and his siblings were encouraged into highbrow activities. Therefore naturally, in 1977, Johnson gained a scholarship to study at Eton College, an elite independent school in Windsor, Berkshire, and later went on to higher education at Oxford University, an archetypal educational path for Conservative Ministers. Studying English and Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, he excelled academically and in extra-curricular activities but, more contentiously, joined the Bullingdon Club, an old-Etonian dominated society group for drinking which is notorious for causing disruptions through acts of vandalism on host premises. Photographs of him and other society members came to be the pinnacle of his negative press.

A notable point in his career was when he won a Commentator of the Year Award for his position at The Daily Telegraph writing articles which appealed mostly to “middle” England. Though his writing was also criticised for his use of bigoted phrases when referring to African people and gay men, and his frequent championing of European colonialism in Uganda.

His initial journey into politics was met with fraud accusations, a particular disdain from John Major, the PM at the time, and losses in his bids to become Conservative MP in some of the UK’s constituents.[1]  Johnson then turned to television show appearances, such as the BBC’s satirical affairs show, Have I Got News for You and writing for The Spectator. During this time, he was under criticism for allowing racist and antisemitic language to be published in the magazine and faced sexual assault allegations from colleagues.

Elle Osborn

R&A Alumna