Boris Johnson is to be the U.K.’s next prime minister but the charismatic and controversial figure already divides the party and British public alike.
Johnson was announced as the winner of the ruling Conservative Party’s leadership race on Tuesday, winning 92,153 of the party membership’s vote, making him both leader of the party, and the U.K.
Who is ‘Boris’?
Johnson — full name Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (and widely known just as “Boris” in the British media and public) — rose to prominence in British public life when he was mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, although he had been a member of parliament (MP) for the Conservative Party since 2001 after a checkered career in journalism.
Johnson himself was born in New York and had both American and British citizenship before renouncing the former in 2017. It’s widely reported that Johnson said as a child that his ambition was to be “world king.”
He has a colorful family history with links to European and British aristocracy and is descended from King George II.
Johnson studied at the prestigious Eton College private school and then Oxford University and was a journalist before entering politics.
His career in the media was mired in controversy when he was sacked for fabricating a quote.
He later went to work as a journalist in Brussels where he became infamous for his euroskeptic reporting on the European Commission.
Later becoming a politician and London mayor, he then took a pro-Brexit stance ahead of the 2016 U.K. referendum on EU membership.
It is widely speculated that Johnson was undecided about which side to support before declaring that he was supporting the ’Leave ” campaign.
Following former Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation after the referendum result in June 2016, Johnson was appointed as foreign minister in Theresa May’s government.
He resigned from that position in 2018, however, in protest at May’s approach to Brexit. Some ministers have already said they would resign if Johnson became prime minister, including Finance Minister Philip Hammond.
Johnson is likely to replace the current top team of ministers.
Controversies and gaffes
Johnson is no stranger to a public gaffe, in fact, his rise to prominence (and popularity among right-leaning Conservatives) might in no small part be attributed to his attention-grabbing, unfiltered comments on a wide variety of topics that have often got him into trouble.
When working back in London as a journalist in 2002, Johnson prompted controversy writing an article about a prime ministerial trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in which he used racist terms.
Critics say Johnson is unsuitable for high office because of his previous comments; he was accused of Islamophobia after saying Muslim women wearing burkas looked “like letter boxes.”
He once said Hillary Clinton looked like a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital” and dismissed Donald Trump before he became president in 2016.
When Trump said in 2015 that some parts of London had become so radicalized that police fear for their lives, Johnson retorted that “the only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
But Johnson has since become closer to Trump, and the U.S. president said he would do a “great job” as prime minister.