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Boris Johnson

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Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Assumed office
4 May 2008
Deputy Richard Barnes
Victoria Borwick
Preceded by Ken Livingstone
Shadow Minister for Higher Education
In office
6 December 2005 – 16 July 2007
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by David Cameron
Succeeded by Adam Afriyie
Shadow Minister for the Arts
In office
14 April 2004 – 17 November 2004
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Gerald Howarth
Succeeded by Tony Baldry
Member of Parliament
for Henley
In office
9 June 2001 – 4 June 2008
Preceded by Michael Heseltine
Succeeded by John Howell
Personal details
Born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
(1964-06-19) 19 June 1964
New York City, United States
Citizenship British, United States
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Allegra Mostyn-Owen (1987–1993)
Marina Wheeler (1993–present)
Children Lara Lettice
Milo Arthur
Cassia Peaches
Theodore Apollo
Stephanie Carlotta
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Religion Anglicanism[1]
Website Government website

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (born 19 June 1964) is a British Conservative Party politician, who has served as Mayor of London since 2008. Initially coming to public attention as a journalist, he became editor of The Spectator in 1999, then later served as the Member of Parliament for Henley from 2001 until 2008.

Born in New York City, Johnson was educated at the European School of Brussels, Ashdown House School, Eton College, and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Classics. Beginning his career in journalism with The Times and then The Daily Telegraph, he became Assistant Editor from 1994 to 1999 before taking editorship of The Spectator, a position he held until 2005. Joining the Conservatives, he was elected MP for Henley in 2001. During his period in the House of Commons, Johnson became one of the most conspicuous politicians in the country, authoring books and making regular television appearances. Under Conservative leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron, Johnson served on the opposition front bench, first as Shadow Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and then for Higher Education.

Selected as Conservative candidate for the 2008 London mayoral election, Johnson defeated Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone to become Mayor, resigning his seat in parliament. During his first term, he banned alcohol on public transport and oversaw the 2012 London Olympic Games. In 2012, he was re-elected as Mayor, again defeating Livingstone.[2] On 12 September 2014, Johnson was adopted as the Conservative Party candidate for MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the 2015 general election.[3]

Parental origins, education and marriages

Johnson's 8th great grandfather King George II.

Johnson is the eldest of the four children of Stanley Johnson, a former Conservative Member of the European Parliament and employee of the European Commission and World Bank, and the painter Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett),[4] the daughter of Sir James Fawcett, a barrister[5] and president of the European Commission of Human Rights.[6] His younger siblings are Rachel Johnson, a writer and journalist; Leo Johnson, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers specialising in Sustainability;[7] and Jo Johnson, Assistant Government Whip and Conservative MP for Orpington. His stepfather was the American academic Nicholas Wahl.

Johnson's maternal great-grandparents were James I/VI, a descendant of all of the previous British royal houses. Johnson is an 8th cousin of David Cameron.[11]

Johnson was born in New York City,[12] but his family returned to Britain soon afterwards, as his mother had yet to take her Oxford University final exams. Johnson's sister Rachel was born a year later. As a child, Johnson suffered from severe deafness and had to undergo several operations to have grommets inserted in his ears. He was reported to have been rather quiet as a child.[1] He was educated at the European School in Brussels,[13] at Ashdown House School and at Eton College, where he was a King's Scholar.

He read Radosław Sikorski, he was a member of Oxford's Bullingdon Club, a student dining society known for destroying restaurant dining rooms and paying for the repairs afterwards.[15][16] He graduated from Balliol College with a 2:1.[17]

In 1987, he married Allegra Mostyn-Owen; the marriage was dissolved in 1993.[18] Later that year, he married Marina Wheeler, a barrister and daughter of journalist and broadcaster Sir Charles Wheeler and his wife, Dip Singh.[19] The Wheeler and Johnson families have known each other for decades,[1] and Marina Wheeler was at the European School in Brussels at the same time as her future husband. They have two daughters—Lara Lettice (born 1993) and Cassia Peaches (born 1997) —and two sons—Milo Arthur (born 1995) and Theodore Apollo (born 1999).[20] Johnson and his family live in Islington, North London. Johnson's stepmother, Jenny, the second wife of his father Stanley, is the stepdaughter of Teddy Sieff, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer.[21]

Journalism and history

Upon graduating from Oxford, he spent only a week as a management consultant at L.E.K. Consulting.[22] He later gave the following reason for his short tenure there: "Try as I might I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth-profit matrix and stay conscious".[23]

He then became a trainee reporter for The Times. Within a year, he was sacked for falsifying a quotation from his godfather, Colin Lucas, later Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.[24] Years later, in a television interview, he admitted: "I mildly sandpapered something somebody said".[25]

After a short time as a writer for the Wolverhampton Express & Star, he joined The Daily Telegraph (1987) as leader and feature writer and was the paper's European Community correspondent (1989–94). He served as Assistant Editor (1994–99). In 1995, a recording of a telephone conversation was made public revealing a plot by a friend to physically assault a News of the World journalist. Johnson retained his position at The Daily Telegraph as there was no evidence that he intended to provide information that would facilitate the assault of the journalist, even though he promised under pressure to provide this information. His association with The Spectator began as political columnist (1994–95); and, in 1999, he became the editor, where he stayed until December 2005 upon being appointed Shadow Minister for Higher Education.

He wrote an autobiographical account of his experience of the 2001 election campaign Friends, Voters, Countrymen: Jottings on the Stump. He is also author of three collections of journalism, Johnson's Column, Lend Me Your Ears and Have I Got Views For You. His comic first novel Seventy-Two Virgins was published in 2004,[26] and his next book has been claimed to be The New British Revolution.[27] He was nominated in 2004 for a British Academy Television Award and has attracted several unofficial fan clubs and sites. His official website and blog started in September 2004.

Johnson is a popular historian; and his first documentary series, based on his book The Dream of Rome, comparing the Roman Empire and the modern-day European Union, was broadcast in 2006.

After being elected mayor, he announced that he would be resuming his weekly column for The Daily Telegraph. The Guardian reported that he had agreed to a £250,000 annual salary for doing so. It added that he would donate £25,000 each towards two scholarships: one for students of Journalism, and the other for the teaching of Classics.[28]

Political career

After having been defeated in Clwyd South in the 1997 general election, Johnson was elected MP for Henley, succeeding Michael Heseltine, in the 2001 general election. He described this election in his 2002 book, Friends, Voters, Countrymen. In 2004 he was appointed to the front bench as Shadow Minister for the Arts in a small reshuffle resulting from the resignation of the Shadow Home Affairs Spokesman, Nick Hawkins. He was also from November 2003 vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, with an emphasis on campaigning.[29]

Johnson was dismissed from these high-profile posts in November 2004 over accusations that he lied to Michael Howard about a four-year extramarital affair with Petronella Wyatt, The Spectator's New York correspondent and former deputy editor. Johnson derided these allegations as "an inverted pyramid of piffle", but Howard sacked Johnson because he believed press reports showed Johnson had lied, rather than for the affair itself.[30] In a 2013 television interview, Johnson, according to Guardian Political Editor Patrick Wintour, he "failed to deny he lied to [his] party leader at the time".[25]

Johnson explained his political philosophy in 2010, linking it to the One nation conservatism of Disraeli:

"I'm a one-nation Tory. There is a duty on the part of the rich to the poor and to the needy, but you are not going to help people express that duty and satisfy it if you punish them fiscally so viciously that they leave this city and this country. I want London to be a competitive, dynamic place to come to work."[31]

During his mayoralty, Johnson has been the subject of numerous rumours as to the future of his political career, and the possibility that he would stand to be the head of the Conservative Party. In 2012 Grant Shapps claimed that Johnson lacks many of the skills that are needed as the leader of a political party and prime minister.[32]

In August 2014, Johnson announced he would stand for election in the 2015 general election.[33][34]

Higher education

He was appointed Shadow Minister for Higher Education on 9 December 2005 by new Conservative Leader David Cameron, and resigned as editor of The Spectator soon afterwards. In April 2006 it was alleged in the News of the World[35] that Johnson had had another extramarital affair, this time with Times Higher Education Supplement journalist Anna Fazackerley.[36][37] A report in The Times stated that Cameron regarded the possible affair as a private matter, and that Johnson would not lose his job over it.[38][39]

Johnson stood for the February 2006 election of Rector of the University of Edinburgh, after receiving seven times more nominations than needed to stand.[40] His presence as candidate caused an unprecedented turn-out and sparked an "Anyone but Boris" campaign.[41] Protests included having drinks thrown over him at his first of two visits to the student body.[40][42] Johnson eventually polled third of four, with 2,123 votes, behind 3,052 votes for journalist Magnus Linklater and 3,597 for Green Party MSP Mark Ballard.[41] Johnson was quoted as having been pleased to mobilise the student body, but disappointed at the personal campaign against him as an "English top-up fee merchant".[41]

In September 2006, his image was used in 'Boris needs you' and 'I Love Boris' material to promote the Conservative Party's image during Freshers' Week in universities.[43]

2008 London Mayoral election

After several days of speculation, Johnson announced he was a potential Conservative candidate for the London mayoral election in 2008 on 16 July 2007.[44]

He resigned as Shadow Minister for Higher Education. He was confirmed as the Conservative candidate on 27 September 2007 after gaining 75% of the vote in a public London-wide primary.[45]

The Conservative Party hired Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby to run Johnson's campaign. Aware of Johnson's propensity for committing gaffes, Crosby prevented him from holding interviews with the print and broadcast media in favour of radio talk shows and daytime television which asked "easier" questions.[46][47] Crosby also made Johnson tell fewer jokes and have a simpler haircut to help make him appear more serious.[46] The campaign targeted Conservative-leaning suburbs in outer London to capitalise on a sense of being overlooked by the Livingstone administration which had paid most attention to inner London areas.[47]

His campaign was launched in Edmonton in March 2008 when David Cameron, introducing Johnson, commented "I don't always agree with him, but I respect the fact that he's absolutely his own man."[48]

Johnson pledged to introduce new Routemaster-derived buses to replace the city's fleet of articulated buses if elected Mayor.

Johnson's candidature received opposition from across the political spectrum. Right-wing journalists Simon Heffer and Peregrine Worsthorne described Johnson as not being serious enough to hold the role of Mayor of London,[49] Worsthorne noting that the "harder he tried [to be serious], the more insincere, incoherent, evasive and even puerile he looked and sounded".[50] Ken Livingstone described Johnson as "a joke".[51] Left-of-centre commentators claimed that Johnson was not suited to be Mayor of such an ethnically diverse city because he had previously made comments which they interpreted as racist,[52] a situation exacerbated when the British National Party urged its supporters to give their second preference votes to Johnson.[53] Johnson denied allegations of racism and stated that he did not want any BNP supporters to vote for him.

Johnson's candidacy was the subject of international interest. Germany's Der Spiegel and America's National Public Radio reported the race, both quoting Johnson as saying "if you vote for the Conservatives, your wife will get bigger breasts, and your chances of driving a BMW M3 will increase",[54][55] without however giving a source for this; the BBC has quoted the same statement by him from his 2004 campaign trail.[56]

Though most pollsters—with the exception of YouGov which accurately forecast the final result—predicted either a close result or narrow win for Livingstone,[57] it was announced on 2 May 2008 Johnson had garnered a total of 1,168,738 first and second preference votes to Livingstone's 1,028,966.[58] Johnson benefited from a large voter turnout in Conservative strongholds, in particular Bexley and Bromley where he amassed a majority of over 80,000 over Livingstone.[59] Following his victory, he praised Livingstone as a "very considerable public servant" and added that he hoped to "discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London".[58] He also announced that, as a result of his victory, he would resign as Member of Parliament for Henley.[60]

As Mayor of London

Johnson giving a victory speech in City Hall after being elected Mayor of London.

Staff appointments

Johnson assumed control at City Hall on 4 May 2008. He appointed Richard Barnes as his Deputy Mayor on 6 May 2008, as well as appointing the following to newly devolved offices; Ian Clement as Deputy Mayor for Government Relations, Kit Malthouse as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Ray Lewis as Deputy Mayor for Young People.[61]

The Mayor also appointed Munira Mirza as his cultural adviser and Nick Boles, the founder of Policy Exchange, as Chief of Staff.[62] Sir Simon Milton became Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning, as well as Chief of Staff.[61] He appointed Anthony Browne as Policy Director. Kulveer Ranger was appointed to Advisor for Transport and Isabel Dedring to Advisor for the Environment.

Political opponents questioned Johnson's judgement when Ray Lewis resigned on 4 July 2008, shortly after taking up his post, following allegations of financial misconduct during his prior career as a Church of England priest and inappropriate behaviour in respect of a false claim to have been appointed as a magistrate.[63] Hazel Blears, the UK Communities Secretary, said that "People across the country will note that after just two months, the new Tory administration in London is in complete disarray. Londoners need to know what Boris knew and why the situation has changed."[64] Kit Malthouse, London's Deputy Mayor for Policing, defended Lewis and said that he had "dedicated himself to saving young lives in London", regarding his policies on tackling knife crime, and called the Labour Party "ungracious" and accused them of "dancing on his political grave".[65] Johnson himself said that he was "misled" by Lewis.[66] On 22 June 2009, Ian Clement resigned after breaking rules by paying for personal items using a corporate credit card.

Public transport ticketing

At the beginning of his tenure as Mayor, Johnson announced plans to introduce Oystercard across the entire rail network in London.[67]

One of the pledges in Johnson's election manifesto was to retain Tube ticket offices, in opposition to Livingstone's proposal to close up to 40 London Underground ticket offices.[68] On 2 July 2008 the Mayor's office announced that the closure plan was to be abandoned and that offices would remain open.[69] On 21 November 2013, Transport for London announced that all London Underground ticket offices would close by 2015.[70]

Ban on use of alcohol on public transport

On 7 May 2008, Johnson announced plans to ban the consumption of alcohol on the London transport network, effective from 1 June,[71] a policy described by Jeroen Weimar, Transport for London's director of transport policing and enforcement, as reasonable, saying people should be more considerate on the trains.[72] The ban initially applied on the London Underground, Buses, DLR and Croydon Trams. The London Overground was added later in June 2008. Press releases said that the ban would apply to "stations across the capital", but did not specify whether this included National Rail stations – especially those stations not served by the TfL lines on which alcohol is banned.

On the final evening on which alcohol was to be permitted on London transport, thousands of drinkers descended on the Underground system to mark the event. Six London Underground stations were closed as trouble began, and some staff and police were assaulted. Police made 17 arrests as several trains were damaged and withdrawn from service.[72]

Forensic Audit Panel

The formation of the Forensic Audit Panel was announced on 8 May 2008. The Panel is tasked with monitoring and investigating financial management at the London Development Agency and the Greater London Authority.[73] It is headed by Patience Wheatcroft, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph. Previously the GLA investigated allegations of financial mismanagement itself.

Johnson's announcement was criticised by Labour for the perceived politicisation of this nominally independent panel, who asked if the appointment of these key Johnson allies to the panel – "to dig dirt on Ken Livingstone" – was "an appropriate use of public funds".[74] Wheatcroft is married to a Conservative councillor[75] and three of the four remaining panel members also have close links to the Conservatives: Stephen Greenhalgh (Conservative Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council), Patrick Frederick (Chairman of Conservative Business Relations for South East England and Southern London) and Edward Lister (Conservative Leader of Wandsworth Council).

The panel reported in July 2008.[76] Its findings included that it had "identified failings in the LDA's leadership, governance and basic controls which have led to our overall conclusion that the former LDA board was ineffective" and also raised a number of concerns about the value for money achieved on projects that the LDA had funded. However, on the central allegations that the previous administration had misused their powers, the Panel found "their attempts to influence LDA project decisions did not breach any rules or protocols".

2008 Olympics

Johnson was present at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing as London's representative to receive the Olympic flag from Guo Jinlong, the Mayor of Beijing to announce formally London as Olympic host city. At the subsequent handover party held at London House in Beijing, he gave a speech in which he declared 'ping pong is coming home'.[77]

2012 Olympics

Johnson at the 2012 Olympics

London was successful in its bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics while Ken Livingstone was still Mayor in 2005. Johnson's role in the proceedings was to be the co-chair of an Olympic board which oversaw the Games.[78] Two of the actions subsequent to taking on this role were to improve the transport around London by making more tickets available and laying on more buses around the capital during the busy period as thousands of spectators were temporary visitors in London,[79][80] and also to allow shops and supermarkets to have longer hours on Sundays.[81]

US presidential election

In August 2008, Johnson broke from the traditional procedure of those in public office not publicly commenting on other nations' elections when he openly endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States.[82][83] He later wrote a comment piece in The Daily Telegraph explaining his decision.[84] As a dual citizen (Britain/USA) Mayor Johnson was technically eligible to vote in this presidential election, but it is not known if he has ever availed himself of his American voting privilege or met other aspects of American citizenship such as the requirement to register with the American Selective Service System at age 18, where some waivers are available, or make annual tax filings, where only technical waivers from filing and paying US taxes are available.

New Routemaster Bus

As part of his mayoral election campaign in 2008, Johnson pledged to introduce a replacement for the popular Routemaster bus, an icon of the city. Following a design competition and awarding of the contract to the Wrightbus company, the new bus entered service in February 2012, with the first full route run by the bus launched in the summer of 2013. He has pledged to order as many as 600 of the buses for the city.

Resignation of Ian Blair

In October 2008, Johnson forced the resignation of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Ian Blair, hours after taking control of London's police authority. Those in support of this measure claimed that Blair's handling of certain events, such as the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, bonus payments and bias in favour of a piece of Government legislation left his position untenable, but critics have argued that the forced resignation makes the role of the commissioner more political.[85][86]

Expenses controversy

Johnson in 2013

Several expense claims for very short taxi journeys were submitted by the Mayor, many of which included charges for taxis to wait several hours for the Mayor to use them with the meter running (for example, a return journey from City Hall to Elephant and Castle – a journey of 3 miles/5 km – which cost £99.50).[87]

There are questions about whether some of this expenditure was allowed under GLA rules, which state taxis should be used only when there is no feasible public transport alternative and which ban paying taxis to wait more than 20 minutes.[88]

Mugging intervention

On 2 November 2009, Johnson intervened in the attempted mugging of a London resident as she was walking home. The victim, documentary film maker and Ken Livingstone supporter Franny Armstrong, was pushed against a car by a "group of young girls", one wielding an iron bar. Johnson was cycling past when he responded to Armstrong's call for help. Johnson "picked up the iron bar, called after the girls and cycled after them." He also reportedly called the girls "oiks". Johnson then returned to Armstrong and walked her home. Armstrong described Johnson as her "knight on a shining bicycle". The Mayor's office, however, declined to comment on the incident.[89][90]

Youth reoffending statistics disputed

In 2011, Johnson gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, comparing a 19% re-offending rate among those released from the Feltham Young Offenders' Institution to the then national average of around 78%. The chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir Michael Scholar, who served as private secretary to former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s, wrote to the committee's chair Keith Vaz MP to tell him the figures Johnson had quoted to a panel of MPs "do not appear to stand up to scrutiny". When Joanne McCartney, a Labour member of the London Assembly, questioned Johnson's use of the statistic, Johnson replied: "There's this guy Scholar writing me letters who sounds ... like some sort of Labour stooge."[91] Johnson later admitted that his officials told him of "caveats" around the data, but pointed out that the revised re-offending rate for the institution of 39% was still substantially lower than the national average.[92]

Ejection from London Assembly Meeting

In February 2013, during a London Assembly meeting following the publication of the 2014 budget for London, Johnson was ejected from the meeting following a vote and on the grounds that his Deputy Victoria Borwick had left the chamber. Upon realising that the vote meant that he would not be questioned on the budget, Johnson referred to his political opponents as 'great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies.'[93]


Johnson is a keen cyclist and made great political capital out of supporting cycling in London since coming to office in 2008. After heavy criticism, much from bloggers, that his policies were not going far enough and that London was still an extremely dangerous place to cycle, Johnson in March 2013 announced a change in his plans and declared an intention to "de-lycrafy" cycling through nearly £1 billion of investment in a variety of cycle infrastructure over the next few years including a "Crossrail for bikes" of 15 miles/24 km of segregated cycle track running east-west through London.[94][95]

On 4 August 2013, Johnson took part in the inaugural Ride London event, a 100-mile/160 km cycle ride from the Olympic Park in Stratford, passing through the Surrey Hills and finishing on the Mall in central London.

Guardian journalist Peter Walker has questioned Johnson's "true commitment" to cycling, after journalist Andrew Gilligan was appointed as London's Cycling Commissioner with few apparent qualifications in January 2013, but later that year praised Johnson for "daring to think big about cycling".[96]

The cycle hire scheme, unveiled by Johnson's predecessor Livingstone in 2008, is commonly known as 'Boris Bike' scheme as Johnson was Mayor at the time of their introduction and has subsequently expanded the scheme while in office. In September 2013 on LBC Radio, Johnson vowed to change his name by deed poll to "Barclays Johnson" if sponsoring bank Barclays were to give a further £100 million towards the scheme.[97][98]

24-hour Tube

On 21 November 2013, Johnson announced major changes to the operation of London Underground, including the extension of Tube operating hours to run through the night at weekends. The announcement also revealed that all staffed Underground ticket offices would be closed with the aim of saving over £40 million a year, with automated ticketing systems provided instead.[99][100]

2014 U.S. personal income tax issue

In the December 6th and 7th 2014 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal (Weekend Investor Section B, Page B7, "An Expat who Fights Back") it was reported that Boris Johnson has "a new claim to fame: as a poster boy for millions of U.S. "tax cheats" living abroad." Mr Johnson has sold his London home and under the USA tax system would be liable for taxes on a certain portion of the gain. Home sales are taxed differently in Britain and the USA. As he was born in the U.S.A., Mayor Johnson is an American citizen subject since birth to the USA's global tax system (unless during his birth his parents were in the U.S.A. as a special class of "foreign civil servants posted as ex pats" in which case he is not a USA citizen). Under that tax system when he generates income above a certain level, he must file a tax return annually in the USA even if he is fully tax compliant in his country of residence (whether he is a citizen of that country as a dual citizen or not). Since the British and USA tax systems are not identical, items that are non-taxable in Britain may be taxable in the USA and tax deductions available in one jurisdiction may not be available in the other. Therefore even if he pays his British taxes in full he may owe an incremental tax to the USA. Mr Johnson has called his U.S. tax bill "absolutely outrageous" and it has been pointed out that he has not lived in the USA since he was five. He is now classed among at least 7.6 million citizens living abroad subject to the USA's so called global taxing authority, a condition the Wall Street Journal has described as "a sticky wicket indeed."

Personal life

Johnson on a demonstration against hospital closures with Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming (left) and Conservative MP Graham Stuart (centre) on 28 March 2006.

Johnson is one of the most recognisable figures in British politics[101] – partly attributable to his trademark unruly hairstyle (one exception to this trademark was during the 2008 Olympics). He is one of few British politicians identifiable by his first name alone. Reportedly, fearing that this familiarity made him more likeable and was helping his chances during the London Mayoral Campaign, Labour MP Tessa Jowell set up a 'swearbox' where any campaign member referring to him as 'Boris' would pay a fine.[102] Jowell herself denied these claims. Johnson has since attracted a variety of irreverent names, including "BoJo" (a portmanteau of his forename and surname).[103]

Johnson has dual citizenship, Great Britain and U.S. citizenship which he acquired due to his birth in New York. In 2014 Johnson acknowledged he was disputing a demand for capital gains tax from the U.S. tax authorities.[104][105]

Johnson has been a frequent target for satirists. The magazine Private Eye pictured him on the front cover of issues 1120 (26 November 2004), 1156 (14 April 2006), and 1214 (11 July 2008). He has featured frequently in its cartoon strip (currently called Dave Snooty and his Pals) as "Boris the Menace" (cf. Dennis the Menace).[106]

He has shown himself to be outspoken on issues which are treated by some as belonging to the realms of political correctness. In Friends, Voters, Countrymen (2001), Johnson wrote that "if gay marriage were OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog."[107] In recent years Johnson has played down his previous support for the anti-gay law known as Section 28.[108] and has expressed more moderate views on the issue. In 2006 and 2008 he took part in the London Gay Pride celebrations.[109] Three weeks before the London mayoral election, 2012, he prevented London buses from carrying advertising for a Christian campaign which aimed to preach that homosexuality could be "cured." The campaign was to advertise the phrase, "Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!" Johnson told The Guardian that he regarded London as "one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance". He said, "It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses".[110]

Shortly after the 7 July bombings in 2005, Johnson made the following comments:

To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia – fear of Islam – seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture – to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques – it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers. ...
The trouble with this disgusting arrogance and condescension [of Theo Van Gogh's killer] is that it is widely supported in Koranic texts, and we look in vain for the enlightened Islamic teachers and preachers who will begin the process of reform. What is going on in these mosques and madrasas? When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam's mediaeval arse?
... We – non-Muslims – cannot solve the problem; we cannot brainwash them (the suicide bombers) out of their fundamentalist beliefs. The Islamicists last week horribly and irrefutably asserted the supreme importance of that faith, overriding all worldly considerations. It will take a huge effort of courage and skill to win round the many thousands of British Muslims who are in a similar state of alienation, and to make them see that their faith must be compatible with British values and with loyalty to Britain. That means disposing of the first taboo, and accepting that the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem.[111]

Three years after the bombing, Johnson told The Guardian the following:

I urge people, particularly during Ramadan, to find out more about Islam, increase your understanding and learning, even fast for a day with your Muslim neighbour and break your fast at the local mosque. I would be very surprised if you didn't find that you share more in common than you thought.[112]

He has made appearances on television explaining his article on the 7/7 attacks, saying he now believes, after having researched the Qu'ran more in depth, that it is a "religion of peace".[113]

Johnson is known for his love of cycling and regularly cycles to work. He has been the victim of several bike thefts and has expressed his desire to plant "decoy bicycles throughout Islington and send Navy SEALs in through the windows of thieves".[114] He unveiled a bicycle sharing system modelled on Velib in London in July 2010, though the concept was due to his predecessor.[115]

Johnson has stated that he is in favour of legalising medical marijuana.[116] He has also stated that in the past he has "often smoked cannabis".[117]

Johnson is a lover of Latin.[118]


Stuart Collier

Johnson was criticised in 1995, when a recording of a telephone conversation made in 1990 was made public, in which he is heard agreeing under pressure to supply to a former schoolmate, Darius Guppy, the private address and telephone number of the News of the World journalist Stuart Collier. There is no evidence that Johnson supplied the requested information, even though he promised under duress that he would. Guppy wished to have Collier beaten up for attempting to smear members of his family.[119][120] Collier was not attacked, but Johnson did not alert the police and the incident became public knowledge only when a transcript of the conversation was published in the Mail on Sunday.[121] Johnson retained his job at the Telegraph but was reprimanded by its editor Max Hastings.[1]

Alleged theft of cigar case

Johnson has been investigated by the police for the theft, in 2003, of a cigar case belonging to Tariq Aziz, an associate of Saddam Hussein, which Johnson had found in the rubble of Aziz's house in Baghdad. Aziz is currently in prison in Iraq, having been convicted of ordering the summary execution of 42 merchants. He faces other charges in relation to the brutal suppression of the Shia Muslim uprising after the first 1991 Gulf War. At the time, Johnson wrote an article in The Daily Telegraph, stating he had taken the cigar case and would return it to its owner upon request.[122] Despite this admission in 2003, Johnson received no indication from the police that he was being investigated for theft until 2008, leading supporters of Johnson to express suspicion that the investigation coincided with his candidacy for the position of London Mayor. "This is a monumental waste of time", said Johnson.[123] On 24 June 2008, Johnson was forced to hand the cigar case over to police while they carried out enquiries into whether the Iraq (UN Sanctions) Order 2003 had been breached.[124]

People of Liverpool

On 16 October 2004, The Spectator carried an unsigned editorial[125] comment criticising a perceived trend to mawkish sentimentality by the public. Using British hostage Kenneth Bigley as an example, the editorial claimed the inhabitants of Bigley's home city of Liverpool were wallowing in a "vicarious victimhood"; that many Liverpudlians had a "deeply unattractive psyche"; and that they refused to accept responsibility for "drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground" during the Hillsborough disaster, a contention at odds with the findings of the Taylor Report. The editorial closed with: "In our maturity as a civilisation, we should accept that we can cut out the cancer of ignorant sentimentality without diminishing, as in this case, our utter disgust at a foul and barbaric act of murder."

Although Johnson had not written the piece (journalist Simon Heffer later said he "had a hand" in it), he accepted responsibility for its publication.[126] The Conservative leader at the time, Michael Howard (a supporter of Liverpool F.C.), condemned the editorial, saying "I think what was said in The Spectator was nonsense from beginning to end", and sent Johnson on a tour of contrition to the city.[127] There, in numerous interviews and public appearances, Johnson defended the editorial's thesis (that the deaths of figures such as Bigley and Diana, Princess of Wales, were over-sentimentalised); but he apologised for the article's wording and for using Liverpool and Bigley's death as examples, saying "I think the article was too trenchantly expressed but we were trying to make a point about sentimentality". Michael Howard resisted calls to dismiss Johnson over the Bigley affair, but dismissed him the next month over the Wyatt revelations.

Petronella Wyatt affair

In 2004, British newspapers reported that Johnson had had a four-year affair with Petronella Wyatt.[128] The affair, which had been well hinted at in UK newspaper gossip columns, included passionate London taxi cab rides around St John's Wood during which they would ask the cab driver to insert cassette tapes of Wyatt singing Puccini.[129] Although Johnson had promised to leave his wife,[130] after a break-up, they had rekindled their relationship during which Wyatt had become pregnant and then had an abortion. This resulted in her mother discovering the affair and reporting it to the press.[128] Johnson was sacked from his shadow cabinet post by Michael Howard, not because of the affair but because he had lied about it.[128]

Damian Green arrest

Johnson was informed in advance of the arrest of Conservative MP Damian Green and told acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson that he did not regard the arrest as 'common sense policing'.[131] A spokesman for Johnson says he told Stephenson he would need to see "convincing evidence that this action was necessary and proportionate," and that it would be better for police to spend their time preventing gun and knife crimes.[132] As chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Johnson's position means he is not permitted to be involved in operational matters. Additionally Johnson is prohibited by Section 3, Paragraph 2(d) of the London Assembly Code of Conduct from doing anything that compromises the impartiality of a police officer. Andy Hayman, former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, commented that Johnson "was informed of the Green arrest in his position as chairman of the police authority but chose to react in the role of prominent Tory politician" and called Johnson's actions "political interference in operational policing."[133]

A formal complaint against Johnson was filed on 6 December by Len Duvall, alleging that Johnson "is guilty of four 'clear and serious' code of conduct breaches by speaking to Green, an arrested suspect in an ongoing criminal investigation, and publicly prejudging the outcome of the police inquiry following a private briefing by senior officers" and that Johnson has brought the office of Mayor "into disrepute".[134] Johnson admitted to telephoning Green after he had been bailed, an action which Duvall, a former Metropolitan Police Authority chairman, described as "absolutely astonishing and inappropriate," while Stephenson said it would be "entirely inappropriate" to prejudge an inquiry. Johnson had stated that he "had a 'hunch'" that Green would not be charged.[135] The formal complaint gave investigators ten days to decide whether to submit Johnson to formal inquiry by the Standards Board for England, where a guilty verdict could have seen him suspended or removed as Mayor of London, or banned from public office for up to five years.[134]

On 7 January 2009, several sources reported that the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority had decided to pursue a formal investigation of Johnson in-house.[136][137] The GLA could have imposed a maximum penalty of three months' suspension from office if it had found Johnson guilty.[136] However, on 24 February 2009 the GLA announced that Johnson had been found not guilty on all counts.[138] However, despite clearing Johnson of any charges, investigator Jonathan Goolden said Johnson had been "extraordinary and unwise" in his actions and should be more careful in the future.[139]

On 16 April 2009, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it was not going to bring a case against either Damian Green or Galley, the Home Office civil servant who passed data to Mr Green, as there was "insufficient evidence" for either to face charges. This followed the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee criticising Home Office civil servants for prompting the investigation by using "exaggerated" claims about the implications for national security that the leaks held.

"Chicken feed" remark

In a July 2009 interview with Stephen Sackur on the BBC programme HARDtalk, Johnson referred to the £250,000 per annum income he receives from his side job as a columnist for The Daily Telegraph as "chicken feed," suggesting that he wrote the columns "as a way of relaxation ... on a Sunday morning," and that he wrote "very fast" so the columns did not take time away from his duties as Mayor.[140] These comments were widely criticised, since the UK was at the time in economic recession and £250,000 is roughly 10 times the current average yearly wage for a worker in the UK.[141]

Responding to these comments, and in reaction to an upcoming restructuring exercise in which more than 100 jobs were expected to be eliminated at City Hall, the trade union UNISON, which represents 350 GLA staff, staged a protest featuring a "penned-up chicken man" being pelted with chicken feed by a Johnson lookalike in a pig mask.[142]

Veronica Wadley

In October 2009, it was alleged that Johnson had selected former David Durie, being favoured only by Johnson's Cultural Advisor Munira Mirza. Johnson wrote to Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw that he felt Wadley's "fundraising skills and views on music education made her the obvious candidate."[144]

Helen Macintyre

Johnson committed a "minor technical breach of the code of conduct" in failing "to formally disclose his relationship with unpaid City Hall adviser Helen Macintyre", the standards panel of the Greater London Authority found on 15 December 2010.[145]

The mayor's office insisted that Macintyre's appointment was part of a "thorough, transparent process",[146] and the standards panel deemed it an "oversight" not so serious as to require censure.[145] Johnson fathered a child with Macintyre in 2009.[147] It emerged on 21 May 2013 that Macintyre had lost an appeal against a July 2012 High Court ruling rejecting an application for a privacy injunction.[148] The Court of Appeal reaffirmed that it was in the "public interest" for the paternity of their daughter to be openly known.[147]

St Patrick's Day celebrations

In an interview for the New Statesman in February 2012 he criticised London's St Patrick's Day gala dinner celebrations. Linking them to Sinn Féin, he branded the event as 'Lefty crap'.[149] He subsequently apologised for the remarks.[150]

Remarks about women in Malaysian universities

Boris Johnson was present at the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum in London in July 2013, where he answered questions alongside Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other public figures.[151][152][153] Responding to a question about women in the Islamic world, Razak said, "Before coming here, my officials have told me that the latest university intake in Malaysia, a Muslim country, 68% will be women entering our universities."[151][152][153] Johnson then interrupted and said, "They've got to find men to marry." The remark elicited laughter and groans, and was later criticised by women who attended the event and others who were offended.[151][152][153] Pippa Crerar, political correspondent for the London Evening Standard, was at the event and wrote that it was "a stupid comment" but "clearly a joke and was met with the groans it deserved".[151]

After controversy erupted, Johnson issued a statement: "Some people seem to have misconstrued something I said at a press conference 5 days ago, about relative male underachievement in university entrance. It is utterly ludicrous and infuriating to suggest that I think women go to University to find a husband. I was merely pointing out something that I've said several times before — that with a graduate cohort 68 per cent female you intensify the phenomenon sociologists identify as assortative mating."[152] A source at City Hall described the comment as "off the cuff and completely light-hearted".[154]

Charitable activity

Johnson is a supporter of many causes, particularly the teaching of Classics in inner city schools, and is a patron of The Iris Project. He has promised to donate £25,000 of his income from his Daily Telegraph column to such activities.[155]

Johnson has also supported Book Aid International amongst other charities.

In 2006, he took part in a charity football match between England and Germany, consisting of celebrities and former players. He came on as a substitute for England in the 85th minute and infamously rugby-tackled former German international Maurizio Gaudino, in an attempt to win the ball.[156]




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  • Johnson's Column (Continuum International – Academi) ISBN 0-8264-6855-1
  • Friends, Voters, Countrymen (HarperCollins, 2001) ISBN 0-00-711913-5
  • Lend Me Your Ears (HarperCollins, 2003) ISBN 0-00-717224-9
  • Seventy-Two Virgins (HarperCollins, 2004) ISBN 0-00-719590-7
  • Aspire Ever Higher / University Policy for the 21st century (Politeia, 2006)
  • The Dream of Rome (HarperCollins, 2006) ISBN 0-00-722441-9
  • Have I Got Views For You (HarperPerennial, 2006) ISBN 0-00-724220-4
  • Life in the Fast Lane: The Johnson Guide to Cars (HarperPerennial, 2007) ISBN 0-00-726020-2
  • The Perils of the Pushy Parents: A Cautionary Tale (HarperPress 2007) ISBN 0-00-726339-2
  • Johnson's Life of London (HarperPress 2011) ISBN 0-00-741893-0

Further reading

  • Andrew Gimson. Boris: The Rise of Boris Johnson. (Simon & Schuster, 2006) ISBN 0-7432-7584-5
  • Iain Dale. The Little Book of Boris. (Harriman House Ltd., 2007) ISBN 978-1-905641-64-2
  • Giles Edwards. Boris v. Ken: How Boris Johnson won London. (Politico's Publishing Ltd., 2008) ISBN 978-1-84275-225-8
  • Sonia Purnell. Just Boris: Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity. (Aurum Press Ltd, 2011) ISBN 1-84513-665-9 ISBN 978-1-84513-665-9
  • A. Vasudevan. The Thinking Man's Idiot: The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson (New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd., 2008) ISBN 978-1-84773-359-7

External links

News articles
  • The Boris Johnson story, Brian Wheeler, BBC News, 4 May 2008
  • Boris Johnson address about the economic downturn at the Movers & Shakers Property Breakfast, Gleeds TV, March 2009 (video)
  • Students interview Boris Johnson at the Beyond Sport conference, Radiowaves, 9 July 2009
  • The NS Interview: Boris Johnson, Jon Bernstein, The New Statesman, 26 February 2010
  • 200 Achievements of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, ConservativeHome, 2 October 2010
  • The Boris dilemma, James Macintyre, Prospect magazine, 21 September 2011
Media offices
Preceded by
Frank Johnson
Editor of The Spectator
Succeeded by
Matthew d'Ancona
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Michael Heseltine
Member of Parliament for Henley
Succeeded by
John Howell
Political offices
Preceded by
Ken Livingstone
Mayor of London
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