Just a few years before he became London mayor, Boris Johnson was sacked as a Conservative frontbench spokesman for lying about his private life. In 2004, it emerged that Johnson had conducted a four-year affair with Petronella Wyatt, which resulted in the daughter of the late Lord Wyatt having an abortion. Their extra-marital relations was publicly announced by Petronella’s mother, Lady Verushka Wyatt; Johnson ? a married father of four ? had previously been dismissed claims of the affair as ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’.
Petronella Wyatt affair
In 2004, British newspapers reported that Boris Johnson had had a four-year affair with Petronella Wyatt. 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. Although Johnson had promised to leave his wife, after a break-up, they had rekindled their relationship during which Wyatt had become pregnant and then had an abortion; resulting in her mother discovering the affair and reporting it to the press. Johnson was sacked from his shadow cabinet post by Michael Howard, not because of the affair but because he had lied about it
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (born 19 June 1964) is a British Conservative politician and journalist. Mayor of London since 2008, he previously served as the Member of Parliament for Henley and as editor of The Spectator magazine.
Johnson was educated at the Primrose Hill Primary School, Camden, European School of Brussels, Ashdown House School, Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Literae Humaniores. He began his career in journalism with The Times, and later moved on to The Daily Telegraph where he became assistant editor. He was appointed editor of The Spectator in 1999. In the 2001 general electionhe was elected to the House of Commons and became one of the most high profile politicians in the country. He has also written several books.
Under Michael Howard, Johnson briefly served on the Conservative front bench as the Shadow Minister for the Arts from April 2004 until November 2004. When David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, Johnson was re-appointed to the front bench as Shadow Minister for Higher Education and resigned as editor of The Spectator. In September 2007 he was selected as the Conservative candidate for the 2008 Mayor of London election. Johnson defeated Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone and was elected Mayor, after which he resigned his seat in parliament. With over a million votes, he received the largest personal mandate of any politician in British history.
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 of his first wife, the painter Charlotte Fawcett (later Wahl), the daughter of Sir James Fawcett, a barrister and president of the European Commission of Human Rights. He is the elder brother of Rachel Johnson, a writer and journalist, Jo Johnson, a columnist and Associate Editor of the Financial Times and Conservative MP for Orpington since the General Election of 2010, and Leo Johnson, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers specialising in Sustainability.Parental origins, education and marriages
Johnson’s maternal great-grandparents were palaeographer Elias Avery Lowe and translator H. T. Lowe-Porter. On his father’s side, Johnson is a great-grandson of Ali Kemal Bey, a liberal Turkish journalist and the interior minister in the government of Damat Ferid Pasha,Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, who was murdered during the Turkish War of Independence. During World War I, Boris’s grandfather and great aunt were recognised as British subjects and took their grandmother’s maiden name of Johnson. In reference to his cosmopolitan ancestry, Johnson has described himself as a “one-man melting pot” — with a combination of Muslims, Jews and Christians comprising his great-grandparentage. His father’s maternal grandmother, Marie Louise de Pfeffel, was a descendant of Prince Paul of Württemberg through his relationship with a German actress. Through Prince Paul, Johnson is a descendant of King George II, and through George’s great-great-great grandfather James I/VI, a descendant of all of the previous British royal houses. Johnson is an 8th cousin of David Cameron.
Johnson was born in New York City, but his family returned to Britain soon afterward, as his mother had yet to take her Oxford University final exams. Johnson’s sister Rachel was born a year later. As a child, Boris Johnson suffered from severe deafness and had to undergo several operations to have grommets inserted in his ears and was reported to have been rather quiet as a child. He was educated at the European School in Brussels, at Ashdown House School and at Eton College, where he was a King’s Scholar. He read Classics atBalliol College, Oxford, as a Brackenbury scholar and was elected President of the Oxford Union at his second attempt. Frank Luntz and Radosław Sikorski have claimed Johnson touted himself as a supporter of the Social Democratic Party, then a dominant faction in the university, as a strategy to win the Union presidency, although Johnson denies that he was more than the SDP’s preferred candidate. Along with David Cameron and George Osborne he was a member of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club, a student dining society known for its raucous feasts.
In 1987 he married Allegra Mostyn-Owen; the marriage was dissolved in 1993. Later that year, he married Marina Wheeler, a barrister, the daughter of journalist and broadcaster Sir Charles Wheeler and his Sikh Indian wife, Dip Singh. The Wheeler and Johnson families have known each other for decades, and Marina Wheeler was at the European School in Brussels at the same time as her future husband. They have two sons—Milo Arthur (born 1995) and Theodore Apollo (born 1999)—and two daughters—Lara Lettice (born 1993) and Cassia Peaches (born 1997). Boris Johnson and his family currently live in Holloway, North London. Johnson’s stepmother, Jenny, the second wife of his father Stanley, is also the stepdaughter of Edward Sieff, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer.
Journalism and history
Upon graduating from Oxford, he only spent a week as a management consultant at L.E.K. Consulting:
||Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious.
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. After a short time as a writer for the Wolverhampton Express & Star, he joined The Daily Telegraph in 1987 as leader and feature writer, and from 1989 to 1994 was the paper’s European Community correspondent. He served as assistant editor from 1994 to 1999. 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 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 from 1994 to 1995. In 1999 he became editor of The Spectator, 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, and his next book will be The New British Revolution, though he has put publication on hold until after the London Mayoral election. 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, 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 a £250,000 annual salary for doing so. The report added that he will donate £25,000 each towards two scholarships: one for students of journalism, and the other for the teaching of classics.
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.
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.
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 afterward. On 2 April 2006 it was alleged in the News of the World that Johnson had had another extramarital affair, this time with Times Higher Education Supplement journalist Anna Fazackerley. The video shows him emerging from her flat and waving to her in a taxi. Subsequently, in a speech at the University of Exeter concerning student finance, he allegedly made comical remarks about his gratitude to the audience for not “raising other issues” during the talk, which may have been a reference to the allegations. 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.
Johnson stood for the February 2006 election of Rector of the University of Edinburgh, after receiving seven times more nominations than needed to stand. His presence as candidate caused an unprecedented turn-out and sparked an “Anyone but Boris” campaign. Protests included having drinks thrown over him at his first of two visits to the student body.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. 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”.
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.
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. Reported as saying
||The opportunity is too great, and the prize too wonderful to miss … the chance to represent London and speak for Londoners
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-wideprimary.
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. Crosby also made Johnson tell fewer jokes and have a simpler haircut to help make him appear more serious. The campaign targeted Conservative-leaning suburbs in outer London to capitalise on a sense of detachment with the Livingstone administration which had focused on inner London areas.
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.”
His manifesto was published in sections; they were, together with quotes or general content:
2008 manifesto: “Making London’s Mayor Accountable”…
||I believe Londoners should have a greater say on how their city is run, more information on how decisions are made and details on how City Hall money is spent.Ken Livingstone presides over a budget of more than £10billion and demands £311 per year from the average taxpaying household in London. Yet Londoners have little confidence in the Mayor spending their money with care and prudence.
||…it is essential that the Mayor takes a positive lead and ensures the best possible conditions for London businesses – large and small.
2008 manifesto: “Backing London Business”…
2008 manifesto: “Protecting Our Local Environment”…
||…I will work to make London a pleasant and safe place to live, by nurturing and protecting the public spaces that bind us all together.
2008 manifesto: “Making London Safer”‘…
||I will: Provide strong leadership,… Make buses, trains and stations safer,… Tackle knife and gun crimes,… Help the ignored victims of sexual violence,… Demand a police service accountable to you.
He included a pledge to remove red tape in the Metropolitan Police Service.
2008 manifesto: “Building A Better London”…
||I will: Help More Londoners Afford Their Own Home,… Design Developments To Combat Crime,… Protect Green Spaces and Historic Views.
2008 manifesto: “Appreciating Our Seniors”…
||Under my Mayoralty I am certain that London will be judged as a civilised place; a city that cares for and acknowledges its older citizens.
2008 manifesto: “Getting Londoners Moving”…
||The Mayor’s biggest area of responsibility is transport, and I intend to put the commuter first by introducing policies that will first and foremost make journeys faster and more reliable…. Our challenge… is to make our transport system better to improve our quality of life.
- better orbital public transport: “One of the limitations of the public transport network in outer London is the lack of direct and convenient orbital routes.”
- cutting crime by increasing police presence on public transport
- to scrap controversial articulated “bendy” buses and replace them with modern designs of the iconic Routemaster bus.
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, Worsthorne noting that the “harder he tried [to be serious], the more insincere, incoherent, evasive and even puerile he looked and sounded”. Ken Livingstone described Johnson as “a joke”. 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, a situation exacerbated when the British National Party urged its supporters to give their second preference votes to Johnson. 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”, without however giving a source for this; the BBC has quoted the same statement by him from his 2004 campaign trail.
Though most pollsters—with the exception of YouGov which accurately forecast the final result—predicted either a close result or narrow win for Livingstone, 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. 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. 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”. He also announced that, as a result of his victory, he would resign as Member of Parliament for Henley.
He celebrated his election victory at Altitude 360 located in Millbank Tower. It was here that David Cameron and all his supporters gathered to congratulate him on becoming Mayor of London.
Mayor of London
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 andRay Lewis as Deputy Mayor for Young People.
The Mayor also appointed Munira Mirza as his cultural adviser and Nick Boles, the founder of Policy Exchange, as Chief of Staff. Sir Simon Milton has become Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning, as well as Chief of Staff. 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 judgment 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. 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.” Kit Malthouse however, 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”. Johnson himself said that he was “misled” by Lewis. On 22 June 2009, Ian Clement resigned after breaking rules by paying for personal items using a corporate credit card.
Alcohol use ban 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, 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. 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 a number of staff and police were assaulted. Police made 17 arrests as several trains were damaged and withdrawn from service.
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. 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”. Wheatcroft is married to a Conservative councilor 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. 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”.
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 in order 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’.
U.S. 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. He later wrote an editorial in The Telegraph explaining his decision.
Resignation of Sir Ian Blair
In October 2008, Boris Johnson forced the resignation of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis 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.
In June 2009, it was revealed that Mayoral expenditure on taxi fares had risen by 540% under Boris Johnson’s administration, from £729 in 2007/08 to £4,698 in 2008/09.
Several expense claims for very short taxi journeys were submitted by the Mayor, many 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 – which cost £99.50).
There are questions about whether some of this expenditure was allowed under GLA rules, which state taxis should only be used when there is no feasible public transport alternative and which ban paying taxis to wait more than 20 minutes.
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, who rides a bicycle to work, 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 Boris as her ‘knight on a shining bicycle’. The Mayor’s office has, however, declined to comment on the incident.
Have I Got News for You
Johnson has appeared on the British television programme Have I Got News for You four times as a guest presenter and three times as a panellist. The tabloid press, before he became an MP, tagged him as the show’s star, even though he had then appeared only twice on a programme that had run for ten years. He has also taken part in the similar Radio 4programme, The News Quiz.
On his first HIGNFY appearance, in 1998, Ian Hislop chided Johnson over his previous association with fraudster Darius Guppy (see below). Johnson later claimed the show was “fixed”, though he retracted the comment when invited back a year later. When asked why he had come back, Johnson replied to the delight of the audience that it was “basically for the money.”
By his third appearance, Johnson had been elected to Parliament. He was subjected to a surprise Mastermind parody round, where he began by getting his own name “wrong”, saying “my name is Boris Johnson” and then being corrected by the host, Angus Deayton, who proceeded to quote his full birth name, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He was then given questions about his party’s leader, Iain Duncan Smith. Despite claiming to be an admirer and supporter of his leader, Johnson proceeded to get no questions correct, whilst constantly questioning the need for such a round. He also admitted during this show he had forgotten the title of his own book as he was writing it.
Johnson later became one of the first guest hosts for the show, his opening remarks being:
||When I first appeared on this show I complained that the whole thing was scripted and fully rehearsed. I’d now like to complain in the strongest possible terms, that it isn’t.
He initially promised Paul Merton a coconut instead of a point; Johnson then retracted the offer but Merton insisted on a coconut. At the end, a stage hand brought in a bag of them, giving Johnson a chance to say, “Coconuts, from the party that keeps its promises!” Johnson kept a chaotic show, frequently forgetting panellists’ names, positions and losing answers, which caused the usually deadpan Merton to laugh out of pure disbelief. He also opined his becoming leader of the Conservative Party was as likely as his “…being locked in a disused fridge.” Merton cheerfully told him “These things do happen!”
In 2004, Johnson was nominated for a BAFTA Television Award in the entertainment category for his performance on the show in 2003. Johnson returned to front Have I Got News for You in November 2005. He admitted on the show that he once tried to snort cocaine, but sneezed and failed. He also hosted Have I Got News for You’s Christmas special on 15 December 2006, his fourth appearance as host.
On the DVD commentary (recorded before Johnson’s appearances as guest host) of The Very Best of Have I Got News for You, Merton and Hislop affectionately refer to Johnson as “aWodehousian character”, and stated that “he gets better every time”.
Johnson has appeared on television motoring show Top Gear as a “star in a reasonably priced car” (one of the show’s features). He set a time of 1m 56s in the Suzuki Liana, finishing nine places from the bottom before they changed car. While nearing the end of his timed lap, he failed to realise that he had accidentally pressed the horn with his arm. After hearing the noise he looked around puzzled and said, “Who hooted at me?” He returned to the show on 7 December 2008, spinning out on every corner during test runs, before setting a lap time of 1m 57.4s in the Chevrolet Lacetti. His potentially “disastrous” time was due to the “very wet” conditions.
Appearing in 2003, Johnson nominated boiled eggs, Lynda Lee Potter, smoking bans, Richard Clayderman and people who shout things like “you Tory tosser” at him whilst he’s cyclingas his selections to put into Room 101, with only the last of the five being rejected. He claimed that his refusal to eat eggs from the age of 6 months was his “first major policy decision”.
The Dream of Rome
Johnson presented a BBC TV series titled The Dream of Rome, which described how ancient Rome united Europe in a way which the modern European Union has failed to do. A book published by HarperCollins followed the series.
The Dame Edna Treatment
Originally broadcast on ITV1 on 28 April 2007, Johnson was a guest on The Dame Edna Treatment. He rode a bicycle onto the stage and sat alongside Shane Warne, Alan Alda andSophie Ellis-Bextor.
Who Do You Think You Are?
On 20 August 2008 Johnson was the subject of the BBC family history programme Who Do You Think You Are?. He was revealed to be a direct, if illegitimate, descendant of George II of Great Britain through his eight times grandmother Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, granddaughter of George II and wife of Friedrich I of Württemberg, and thence through their sonPrince Paul of Württemberg and Paul’s illegitimate daughter, Adelheid von Rothenburg. Adelheid (known as Caroline) married Baron de Pfeffel, from whom Boris takes one of his middle names. By his descent from George II of Great Britain he is also descendant of all the other major European royal houses. His Turkish great grandfather, Ali Kemal Bey, who was also, like Johnson, a politician and journalist, was assassinated in the 1920s, following political conflict in Turkey.
In December 2008 BBC2 aired a two-part documentary written and presented by Johnson, called After Rome, in which he looked at the influence Muslims have had on the world, especially in Europe during the peak of the Islamic Empire (specifically drawn from the Islamic Golden Age). In this he investigated the current crisis of the “clash of civilisations” between Christianity and Islam, searching for reasons why Islam is hated in the West, and vice versa.
On 17 July 2009, Johnson filmed a short scene in the British soap opera EastEnders, appearing as himself in a scene with Peggy Mitchell (played by Barbara Windsor). The episode was broadcast on 1 October. Ken Livingstone accused the BBC of political bias for allowing Johnson to appear in the programme.
Johnson’s period in the Bullingdon Club alongside David Cameron, and his campaign to become President of the Oxford Union, were examined in the Channel 4 docu-drama, When Boris Met Dave, which was broadcast on 7 October 2009.
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 — 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. Jowell herself denied these claims. Johnson has since attracted a variety of irreverent names, including “BoJo” (aportmanteau of his Christian- and surnames).
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 regularly in its cartoon strip (currently calledDave Snooty and his Pals) as “Boris the Menace” (cf. Dennis the Menace).
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 was 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.” In recent years Johnson has played down his previous support for the anti-gay law known as Section 28. and has expressed more moderate views on the issue.
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
? When is someone going to get 18th century
on Islam’s mediaeval
….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.
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”. He introduced a bicycle sharing system modelled on Velib in London in July 2010. However, since becoming Mayor of London he has cut £10m off the budget for new cycle lanes in London. A spokesman for Johnson said that the overall investment in cycling in London had been increased to a record £55m in 2008, up from £36m the year prior.
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 Boris actually 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. Collier was not attacked, but Johnson did not alert the police and the incident only became public knowledge when a transcript of the conversation was published in the Mail on Sunday. Johnson retained his job at the Telegraph but was reprimanded by its editor Max Hastings.
‘Theft’ of cigar case
Boris 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. 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. 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.
People of Liverpool
On 16 October 2004, The Spectator carried an unsigned editorial 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. The Conservative leader at the time,Michael Howard (a supporter of Liverpool FC), 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. 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 Boris Johnson had had a four-year affair with Petronella Wyatt. 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. Although Johnson had promised to leave his wife, after a break-up, they had rekindled their relationship during which Wyatt had become pregnant and then had an abortion; resulting in her mother discovering the affair and reporting it to the press. Johnson was sacked from his shadow cabinet post by Michael Howard, not because of the affair but because he had lied about it.
Papua New Guinea
In a 2006 column, Johnson likened Conservative leadership disputes to “Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing” and was criticised in Papua New Guinea. The nation’s High Commissioner invited him to visit the country and see for himself, while remarking that his comments might mean he was refused a visa. Johnson suggested he would add Papua New Guinea to his global apology itinerary, and said he was sure the people there “lived lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity like the rest of us”. In his defence, he stated “My remarks were inspired by a Time Life book I have which does indeed show relatively recent photos of Papua New Guinean tribes engaged in warfare, and I’m fairly certain that cannibalism was involved.”
In April 2007 Johnson was called upon to resign by the MPs for the city of Portsmouth after claiming in a column for GQ that the city was “one of the most depressed towns in Southern England, a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs”.
Allegations of racism
Two days after Boris Johnson’s candidacy for Mayor of London took a six point poll lead over Ken Livingstone in a YouGov survey published by the Daily Telegraph, Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, said that he would ‘destroy London’s unity’, adding that ‘once people read his views, there is no way he is going to get the support of any people in the black community’. She was referring especially to the occasion on which Johnson, as a journalist in 1999, accused the Macpherson Inquiry, which reported on police racismfollowing the Lawrence murder, of ‘hysteria’, adding that the “recommendation that the law might be changed so as to allow prosecution for racist language or behaviour ‘other than in a public place’” was akin to “Ceausescu’s Romania”.
The Conservative London Assembly candidate for Bexley and Bromley and former Conservative candidate for mayor of Lewisham, James Cleverly, another black Londoner, rejected Lawrence’s criticisms.
In a piece in the Evening Standard on 6 August 2007, the journalist Andrew Gilligan responded to the allegations saying how ‘outrageous – indeed Orwellian – it is to attack a man as a destroyer of racial harmony, one of the most serious charges you can lay, simply on the basis that he refuses to sign up for every dot and comma of a report of which she approves. While condemning the “grotesque failures” in the Lawrence case which “may well have originated in racism,” Boris was far from the only person to oppose that particular Macpherson recommendation. Labour MPs opposed it, too. So did the Government, clearly, because they didn’t implement it.’
These remarks were followed by criticism from two black Labour London MPs, Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler, who criticised a column written by Johnson in 2002, saying he had used “most offensive language of the colonial past”, showing “that the Tory party is riddled with racial prejudice”. In the article in question, written to satirise the Prime Minister’s visit to Congo, Johnson mocked “Supertone” (Tony Blair) for his brief visits to world trouble spots, bringing peace to the world while the UK deteriorated; Blair would arrive as “the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief”, just as “it is said the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies“. Although these remarks were intended as a satirical dig at the patronising attitude of Blair and the Queen towards foreigners, the choice of language left Johnson exposed to allegations of racism.
Johnson’s campaign team rejected suggestions that their candidate might be prejudiced, insisting that he “loathes racism in all its forms”. However, journalist Rod Liddle said that Johnson has used the word “piccaninnies” on another occasion to refer to black Africans. Greater London analyst and director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, Dr. Tony Travers, has written that “There is no way to dress up expressions such as “piccaninnies’” and “watermelon smiles” to take them within a million miles of acceptable.”
At an Evening Standard debate on 21 January 2008, Johnson apologised for these remarks, while insisting that, as parodies of the attitudes of others, they were taken out of context:
I do feel very sad that people have been so offended by these words and I’m sorry that I’ve caused this offence. But if you look at the article as written they really do not bear the construction that you’re putting on them. I feel very strongly that this is something which is simply not in my heart. I’m absolutely 100 per cent anti-racist, I despise and loathe racism”
Damian Green arrest
Boris Johnson was informed in advance of the arrest of fellow Conservative MP Damian Green and told acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson that he did not regard the arrest as ‘common sense policing’. 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. 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.”
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”. 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. 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.
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. The GLA can impose a maximum penalty of three months suspension from office if it finds Johnson guilty.
The GLA announced that Johnson had been found not guilty on all counts on 24 February 2009. 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.
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.
Walkout over snow inquiry
On 2 April 2009, Boris Johnson walked out of a House of Commons inquiry midway through giving an answer. He was asked by the Transport Select Committee if he had enquired as to whether there might be problems in the capital due to heavy snowfall. He refused to answer, stood up and left the room. The Greater London Authority transport committee chair Val Shawcross has said that he was not proactive and “entirely out of things”. When he moved to leave, the Chair accepted that Johnson had already used the 40 minutes of time he agreed to give the inquiry. Johnson resumed his seat to answer further questions, revealing that he had spoken to Peter (Hendy, head of Transport for London) before 7am on the morning of the heavy snowfall. He also told the inquiry there had been a “staggering quantity of snow” and that his further intervention “would not have made the slightest difference to the difficulties we encountered”.
“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. These comments were widely criticised due to the fact that 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.
Responding to these comments, and in reaction to an upcoming restructuring exercise in which more than 100 jobs are 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.
In October 2009, it was alleged that Johnson had selected former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley as head of the Arts Council For London because of her support for him during his 2008 mayoral campaign. Wadley was described by Liz Forgan, head of the Arts Council, as being “manifestly less qualified than three of her competitors,” adding that she had “almost no arts credibility” and that she had been rejected in the first round of interviews by both Forgan and 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.”
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.
He has also listed his activities in the Register of Interest at City Hall as:
- King’s Head Theatre in Education, Islington, (Patron);
- Downside Up, British-Russian Charity in support of children with Downs Syndrome, (Patron);
- Henley & District Agricultural Assn., (Member);
- Henley 100 Club, (Member).
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 a vain attempt to win the ball with his head.