Boris Johnson guide: Conservative leader's early life, career and controversies explained

Everything you need to know about Boris Johnson (Picture: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)
Everything you need to know about Boris Johnson (Picture: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)

One of the most colourful characters in UK politics, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has weathered more political storms than most and this year finally achieved his dream of becoming Prime Minister.

Johnson had vowed to deliver Brexit “do or die” by October 31 but didn’t manage to after MPs forced him to seek an extension from Brussels.

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The PM is now hoping that a general election will boost the number of Conservative seats in parliament and give him the majority he needs to get his Brexit deal through.

However, if it doesn’t work his decision to call an early general election could render him one of the shortest-serving Prime Minister’s in British history.

When he was a boy, Boris Johnson (pictured here with sister Rachel) apparently wanted to be 'world king' (Picture: PA)
When he was a boy, Boris Johnson (pictured here with sister Rachel) apparently wanted to be 'world king' (Picture: PA)

Boris Johnson’s early years

Now 55, Boris Johnson was born in New York to upper-middle class British parents.

He was educated at various schools as his father Stanley moved for work, before attending Eton College and then Oxford University.

Known as ‘Al’ by his family, he was apparently deaf in one ear until he was eight, but that didn’t stop him from having ambitions to be “world king”.

According to one profile, it was when he and sister Rachel were sent away to prep school in England that he started to develop his eccentric persona to combat bullies who targeted his Turkish background and the fact he lived in Brussels.

That continued to grow at Eton and was the start of the Boris we know today.

He read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford and was President of the Oxford Union. Perhaps better known is the fact that he was also a member of the notorious dining society the Bullingdon Club.

Boris Johnson's career started in journalism (Picture: PA)
Boris Johnson's career started in journalism (Picture: PA)

Boris Johnson’s career

After Oxford, Johnson got a job as a graduate trainee at The Times but was sacked for making up a quote.

He became Brussels correspondent for The Daily Telegraph and went on to become assistant editor of The Telegraph from 1994 to 1999.

He became a columnist on The Spectator and went on to become its editor from 1999 to 2005.

Boris Johnson’s political career

Johnson was elected MP for Henley in 2001, and went on to serve as a Junior Shadow Minister under Conservative leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron.

He resigned as an MP in 2008 and was elected Mayor of London - a post to which he was re-elected in 2012.

During his time as London Mayor Boris Johnson was left hanging mid-air after getting stuck on a zipwire at an Olympic event (Picture: Ben Kendall/PA Images via Getty Images)
During his time as London Mayor Boris Johnson was left hanging mid-air after getting stuck on a zipwire at an Olympic event (Picture: Ben Kendall/PA Images via Getty Images)

During his tenure, he introduced ‘Boris Bikes’ and the Thames cable car, banned alcohol consumption on public transport, and oversaw the 2012 London Olympics.

It was also during that time that he famously got stuck on a zipwire in front of the world’s media.

When it came to the EU referendum, Johnson positioned himself on the Leave side and his campaigning put him back in the heart of Westminster.

After the referendum it appeared that he may become Prime Minister but that job went instead to Theresa May, who made Johnson her Foreign Secretary.

He resigned in 2018 in protest at Mrs May’s Brexit deal and following her resignation earlier this year, finally got his dream role as PM.

Boris’ personal life

Some might say that Johnson’s personal life has been as tempestuous as his political one.

He met his first wife Allegra Mostyn-Owen while they were students at Oxford. They married in 1987 but the marriage was annulled in 1993.

His second marriage to Marina Wheeler ended last year after 25 years together, during which time they had four children.

Boris Johnson's 25-year marriage to Marina Wheeler ended last year (Picture: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)
Boris Johnson's 25-year marriage to Marina Wheeler ended last year (Picture: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

But their marriage wasn’t without controversy. In 2004, Mr Johnson was sacked from the Tory frontbench after allegations that he was 'less than frank' with leader Michael Howard over details of a reported affair with journalist Petronella Wyatt.

In 2013 it also emerged that he had fathered a daughter through an affair after the Court of Appeal ruled that the public had a right to know.

Johnson is now in a relationship with girlfriend Carrie Symonds, 31, who lives with him at 10 Downing Street - the first unmarried partner of a prime minister to live at the prestigious address.

Mr Johnson is now with Carrie Symonds (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/POOL/AFP)
Mr Johnson is now with Carrie Symonds (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/POOL/AFP)

The couple haven’t been without their own drama - during the Tory leadership race police were called to their home after neighbours said they could hear them arguing.

More recently, Johnson has faced allegations about his relationship with American entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri.

Controversy

Johnson is certainly no stranger to controversy.

From causing offence through his writing to blunders in the Foreign Office, the list is fairly extensive.

He has fallen under fire regularly for his use of language, including describing the Queen being greeted in Commonwealth countries by “flag-waving piccaninnies”- a racist term - and then-prime minister Tony Blair being met by “tribal warriors” with “watermelon smiles” while on a trip to the Congo.

In a 2018 column for the Daily Telegraph, he described veiled Muslim women as “looking like letter boxes”.

Boris Johnson has come under fire from Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of detained British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Picture: Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has come under fire from Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of detained British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Picture: Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Johnson has also faced criticism over the case of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe while he was Foreign Secretary. He mistakenly said she had been training journalists – comments which were seized on by the authorities in Tehran.

Despite insisting that his comments made no difference, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe has been scathing in his criticism of Johnson.

In what many would describe as another error, Johnson’s attempt to prorogue Parliament backfired when the Supreme Court ruled it was unlawful - a move he had also dragged the Queen into.

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