Boris Johnson

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Boris Johnson on the cover of his 2002 book

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (born June 19, 1964), better known as Boris Johnson, is a British Conservative politician and journalist. He is Member of Parliament for Henley, edits The Spectator and writes a weekly column for The Daily Telegraph newspaper.


Early Life

He was born in New York to Stanley Patrick Johnson and Charlotte Johnson. He is the great grandson of the last interior minister of the Imperial Turkish government, who signed the arrest warrant for Ataturk, now regarded as the founder of modern Turkey. Boris' grandfather sought asylum after his father was beaten to death and stuck in a tree. Boris was educated at Eton College, where he was a King's Scholar, and read Greats at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was a Brackenbury Scholar, and President of the Oxford Union.

At 19, he was married briefly to Allegra Mostyn-Owen. In 1993, he married Marina Wheeler, a barrister (and the daughter of journalist and broadcaster Charles Wheeler), who is the mother of his two sons and two daughters.


After leaving university he lasted a week as a management consultant ("Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious"), before becoming a trainee reporter for The Times, but within a year he had been sacked for falsifying a quotation from his godfather, Colin Lucas, later Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Following a short period as a writer for the Wolverhampton Express and 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 1994-1999. His association with The Spectator began with a stint as political columnist from 1994 to 1995. In 1999 he become editor of The Spectator but continues to write a weekly column for The Daily Telegraph.

Johnson has appeared on the British television programme Have I Got News For You three times, and twice as guest presenter, and has also appeared on the similar Radio 4 programme The News Quiz. He has written an autobiographical account of his experience of the 2001 election campaign entitled Friends, Voters, Countrymen: Jottings on the Stump. He is also the author of two collections of journalism, Johnson's Column and Lend Me Your Ears. His first novel Seventy-Two Virgins was published in 2004, and he is currently working on a book about what it means to be British, due for publication in 2005. He was nominated in 2004 for a BAFTA television award, and has attracted several unofficial fan clubs and sites.

His official Boris Johnson web site and blog ( started up in September 2004.


In 2001, Johnson became MP for Henley-on-Thames, succeeding the outgoing Michael Heseltine. He had previously been unsuccessful in winning Clwyd South in 1997. In 2004 he was appointed to the frontbench as Shadow Minister for the Arts, part of the Shadow Department of Home Affairs and of the Labour government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This was part of a small reshuffle resulting from the resignation of the shadow home affairs spokesman, Nick Hawkins. He was also a Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, with emphasis on campaigning.

Johnson was dismissed from these high-profile posts in November 2004 over accusations that he lied about having 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 stated that he sacked Johnson because he believed press reports showed that Johnson had lied in this denial of the affair, rather than for the affair itself.

Bigley editorial

On October 16 2004, The Spectator carried an editorial 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 into the causes of the disaster. 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." Reaction to the leader was swift, particularly in Liverpool.

Although Johnson had not written the leader (journalist Simon Heffer later said he "had a hand" in it), he accepted responsibility for it. Conservative leader Michael Howard 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 by the media and general public); but he apologised for the article's wording (saying "I think the article was too trenchantly expressed but we were trying to make a point about sentimentality") and for using Liverpool and Ken Bigley's death as examples. Johnson appeared on a BBC Radio Merseyside phone-in show, in which Paul Bigley (brother of the slain hostage) flatly told Johnson: "You are a self-centred pompous twit - get out of public life". Michael Howard resisted calls to dismiss Johnson over the Bigley affair, but dismissed him the following month for other reasons.

Against all odds the contrition tour has left its mark on the city of Liverpool, albeit one whose longevity has yet to be determined. City tour guides are reported to include pointing out locations where Johnson made his apologies alongside the more traditional objects of tourist interest such as the Liver bird statues and the inevitable Beatles.


Johnson is famously disorganised and once explained the lateness of his work by claiming that "Dark forces dragged me away from the keyboard, swirling forces of irresistible intensity and power", as well as getting his own name wrong on Have I Got News For You, and successfully getting locked out of his own home in front of reporters (having just told them his family would definitely forgive his affair). Twice his mobile telephone has gone off while he was on the BBC - once on Have I Got News For You, the other while being interviewed on BBC Radio 2.


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