Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Johnson, (Alexander) Boris (de Pfeffel) (1964– )
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

British right-of-centre Conservative Party politician, mayor of London 2008–16. He was elected mayor of London in May 2008, narrowly defeating Ken Livingstone. He was re-elected in May 2012, again narrowly defeating Livingstone, and oversaw the 2012 London Olympics. With ambitions for the Conservative leadership, he returned to Parliament after the May 2015 general election as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and stepped down as London mayor at the end of his term in May 2016. He went on to lead the successful Vote Leave campaign in the June 2016 Brexit referendum on EU membership.

Elected MP for the Henley constituency in 2001, he became vice-chair of the Conservative Party in November 2003, but was sacked a year later after press allegations that he may have lied to the party's leader, Michael Howard, about an extra-marital affair. The party's new leader, David Cameron, appointed him shadow higher education minister in November 2005 and backed his selection, in September 2007, as the party's candidate for London's mayor. He stepped down as an MP to focus on his role as mayor. He launched some eye-catching initiatives, including introducing ‘Boris bikes’, the city's public bike-sharing service, and banning alcohol consumption on London's public transport.

Formerly a journalist, he became one of Britain's few politicians identifiable by first name only, through his appearances on popular television programmes, his wit and gaffes, and a distinctive hairstyle.

He was born in New York, where his parents were then based. His father worked with the World Bank and European Commission and became a member of the European Parliament, while his mother was a painter and his great-grandfather was a Turkish journalist and politician. He was educated at Eton College and Oxford University, where he studied classics and was president of the Oxford Union, before becoming a journalist. He was a feature writer for The Daily Telegraph and, from 1994, a political columnist for the Conservative-leaning The Spectator, where he was editor 1999–2005. He gained a wider profile through presenting historical documentaries on British television and appearances on the news quiz, Have I Got News for You.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.