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Boris Johnson Profile: Stage Is Set For The Showman New UK Prime Minister

Boris Johnson has won the race to be Conservative leader and will soon be prime minister. He is one of the UK’s most recognisable politicians.

But that high profile – built up as an MP, London mayor and foreign secretary – has often seen his achievements accompanied by controversy.

Becoming an MP

As editor of the Spectator magazine and a Have I Got News For You contestant, Boris Johnson was already well known for his shambolic persona.

In 2001, he became an MP, replacing Michael Heseltine in the safe Conservative seat of Henley-on-Thames.

Gay rights

He was considered more liberal than many Tories. As a journalist, he had questioned the repeal of laws banning the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. But as an MP, he changed tack and said the state should not interfere in people’s lives. He also voted in favour of civil partnerships.

Mr Johnson continued to attract controversy.

In October 2004, then Conservative leader Michael Howard ordered him to visit Liverpool to apologise for a Spectator article accusing its residents of wallowing in “disproportionate” grief after Ken Bigley – an engineer from the city – was kidnapped and killed in Iraq.

And the following month, he was sacked as shadow arts minister, amid claims he had misled Mr Howard about reports of an affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt.

Nevertheless, a year later, he was on the rise again – resigning from his Spectator post when new Tory leader David Cameron made him shadow higher education minister.

However, he continued to write for the Telegraph and had to make another apology – to a whole country – after he linked Papua New Guinea to “cannibalism and chief-killing” in a column.

By 2007, the Henley MP had his sights set on one of the biggest jobs in UK politics.

Mayor of London

Taking over from Labour’s Ken Livingstone in 2008, Boris Johnson remained London mayor until 2016. It is the longest continuous period of public office that he has held.

He’s often spoken of what he considers to be his biggest achievements during that period: on crime, housing and transport.


The homicide rate in London – which includes murder and manslaughter – fell from 22 per million to 12 per million people during his time as mayor. However, it was also falling during his predecessor’s second term.

And in the first few years after Mr Johnson took over, knife crime rose by over 15% – although from 2012-13 onwards it started to fall.

Mr Johnson had backed the police use of stop-and-search powers to tackle violent crime. And he said he would ensure police numbers would go up despite central government cuts.

Home Office figures show police numbers in London rose slightly, from 31,460 to 32,125, between March 2008 and March 2016. Across England and Wales in that period the number of officers fell by 17,603.

Foreign secretary

Mr Johnson decided he wanted to return to Parliament before his term as mayor ended, in 2016. He won the seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015.

After resuming life as an MP, he declared his opposition to expanding nearby Heathrow airport, saying he would lie in front of the bulldozers.

As London mayor, he had promoted an alternative scheme, for an island airport in the Thames estuary, an idea rejected on cost and environmental grounds.

But Mr Johnson was noticeably absent when MPs subsequently voted on Heathrow expansion in June 2018, as he was on an official trip to Afghanistan.

Mr Johnson had been appointed foreign secretary by the new prime minister, Theresa May, in 2016.

He had also run in the Tory leadership campaign that year but dramatically pulled out after Michael Gove’s surprise decision to enter the race.

The job as foreign secretary was seen as an acknowledgement of his role as a leading figure in the campaign to leave the EU.

However, there was also some surprise at the choice, with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron saying he would “spend more time apologising to nations he’s offended” than working as foreign secretary.

And there were the disparaging comments about other countries and their leaders – some of which were made before he got the job.

They included a Limerick – which won a £1,000 award in 2016 – about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a goat. And he said the Libyan city of Sirte could be the new Dubai if “they… clear the dead bodies away”.

Russian expulsions

As foreign secretary, Mr Johnson supported a tough line against Russia, with the expulsion of its diplomats after the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal.

Twenty-nine countries, including the US, Canada, Australia and EU states, joined the UK, expelling more than 140 Russian diplomats in a co-ordinated move.


But in the case of British Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran, Mr Johnson had to apologise in Parliament.

He had said she had been teaching journalists in Iran when she had been detained, contradicting her statement that she had been on holiday at the time.

He later clarified that she had in fact been on holiday but has also said he does not believe his remarks made a difference to her plight – a claim rejected by her family.

A few days after Mr Johnson made his remarks, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned before an Iranian judge, to face charges of engaging in propaganda against the regime.

Saudi Arabia

As foreign secretary, he also earned a rebuke from Downing Street, after comments emerged in which he had criticised close ally Saudi Arabia for engaging in proxy wars in the Middle East.

Nevertheless, he continued to allow sales of UK arms to Saudi Arabia, which is involved in a controversial military campaign in Yemen.

In 2018, Mr Johnson also faced criticism after writing in the Daily Telegraph that Muslim women wearing the burka “looked like letterboxes”.

By this stage, though, he had left the government, resigning in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

Brexit campaigner

Boris Johnson was a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum.

He became well known for his attacks on the EU and for advocating the benefits of Brexit. He declared that he was “pro-having cake and pro-eating it”.


One thought on “Boris Johnson Profile: Stage Is Set For The Showman New UK Prime Minister

  1. Babu sodha owe bombo

    This Boris Johnson has perhaps decided to nominate Miss Priti Patel a Ugandan born lady to a post of “Home Secretary” if so I am proud to be a Ugandan having a fellow sister to such s high post:weraba nze sodha owe bombo

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