ProjectsLibraryNotice BoardAbout UsContact Us
  Economic & Social Research Council Website
Boris Johnson

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a British politician serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since July 2019. He has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015 and was MP for Henley from 2001 to 2008. He also served as Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and Foreign Secretary from 2016 to 2018. Johnson identifies as a one-nation conservative.

Johnson is a controversial figure in British politics and journalism. Supporters have praised him as an entertaining, humorous, and popular figure, with an appeal stretching beyond traditional conservative voters. He has been accused of using racist, sexist and homophobic language, and accused of elitism and cronyism. Johnson is the subject of several biographies and a number of fictionalised portrayals.

In late 1969, the family relocated to Maida Vale, West London, where Stanley began post-doctoral research at the London School of Economics. In 1970, Charlotte and the children briefly returned to Nethercote, where Johnson was schooled at the Winsford Village School, before returning to London to settle in Primrose Hill, there being educated at Primrose Hill Primary School. In late 1971, another son, Joseph, was born to the family.

Johnson was popular and well known at Oxford. Alongside Guppy he co-edited the university's satirical magazine Tributary. In 1984, Johnson was elected secretary of the Oxford Union, before campaigning for the position of Union president, losing the election to Neil Sherlock. In 1986, Johnson ran for president again, aided by undergraduate Frank Luntz; his campaign focused on reaching out from his established upper-class support base by emphasising his persona and playing down his Conservative connections. Hoping to court their vote, Johnson associated with university groups affiliated with the centrist Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Liberal Party. Luntz later alleged that Johnson portrayed himself as an SDP supporter during the campaign, although Johnson says he has no recollection of this. Johnson won the election and was appointed president, although his presidency was not seen as particularly distinguished or memorable, and questions were raised regarding his competence and seriousness. Having specialised in the study of ancient literature and classical philosophy, Johnson graduated from Balliol College with an upper second-class degree, but was deeply unhappy that he did not receive a first.

Contemplating a political career, in 1993 Johnson outlined his desire to stand as a Conservative candidate to be a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in the 1994 European Parliament elections. Although Andrew Mitchell convinced Major not to veto Johnson's candidacy, Johnson found it impossible to find a constituency. He subsequently turned his attention to obtaining a seat in the UK House of Commons. After being rejected as Conservative candidate for Holborn and St. Pancras, he was selected as the party's candidate for Clwyd South in North Wales, a Labour Party safe seat. Spending six weeks campaigning, he attained 9,091 votes (23%) in the 1997 general election, losing to the Labour candidate.

In April 2006, the News of the World alleged that Johnson was having an affair with the journalist Anna Fazackerley; the pair refused to comment and shortly after Johnson began employing Fazackerley. That month, he attracted further public attention for rugby-tackling former footballer Maurizio Gaudino in a charity football match. In September 2006, Papua New Guinea's high commission protested after he compared the Conservatives' frequently changing leadership to cannibalism in Papua New Guinea.

The May 2008 election saw a turnout of approximately 45%, with Johnson receiving 43% and Livingstone 37% of first-preference votes; when second-preference votes were added, Johnson proved victorious with 53% to Livingstone's 47%. Johnson benefited from a large voter turnout in Conservative strongholds like Bexley and Bromley. Having secured the largest personal electoral mandate in the UK, 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". He announced his resignation as MP for Henley, generating some anger from Henley party members and constituents who felt abandoned.

Johnson championed London's financial sector and denounced what he saw as "banker bashing" following the financial crisis of 200708, condemning the anti-capitalist Occupy London movement that appeared in 2011. He spent much time with those involved in the financial services, and criticised the government's 50p tax rate for higher earners. He collected donations from the city's wealthy for a charitable enterprise, the Mayor's Fund, which he had established to aid disadvantaged youths; although initially announcing that it would raise 100 million, by 2010 it had only spent 1.5 million. He also retained extensive personal contacts throughout the British media, which resulted in widespread favourable press coverage of his administration. In turn he remained largely supportive of his friends in the media among them Rupert Murdoch during the News International phone hacking scandal.

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".

On 19 July, Reuters reported that Johnson, as well as his political allies, had been actively supported by the former Russian oil tycoon Alexander Temerko, who became a major donor to the Conservative Party after he fled Russia in 2004 to evade criminal charges. Temerko said he was on friendly first-name terms with Johnson. Temerko reportedly had close ties to the Russian government but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Temerko "has no connection to the Kremlin or the Russian authorities".