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Boris Johnson Image Credit: AFP


  • Boris Johnson, the next British premier, has described himself as a "one-man melting pot" 
  • His ancestry is a combination of Muslims, Jews, and Christians
  • Johnson was given the middle name "Boris" after a Russian émigré his parents had once met

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson became the newly-crowned prime minister of the UK, after he won the race to be leader of the Conservative Party, beating his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

On Wednesday, July 24, Johnson will become Britain's new prime minister.

Here's all you need to know about the next British premier:

Who is he?

Boris Johnson's full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He is a British politician, journalist and historian. Johnson was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015, and the MP for Henley from 2001 to 2008. He served as Mayor of London for eight years — from 2008 to 2016. From 2016 to 2018, he served as British Foreign Secretary.

How old is he?

He was born on June 19, 1964 (age 55 years), in the US. Johnson was born to British parents in Manhattan's Upper East Side in New York City.

My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.

- Boris Johnson

Does that qualify Johnson to become a US citizen?


He was a US citizen for over 50 years (he is 55 now). His parents registered his brith both the US authorities and the British Consulate in New York, thereby granting him both American and British citizenship.

His father, Stanley Johnson, was an economics student at Columbia University at the time Boris was born. The younger Johnson was a US citizen for decades, until the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reportedly caught up with him, according to a Newsweek report.

How many children does he have?

Johnson has four children — Lara Lettice, Theodore Apollo, Cassia Peaches, Milo Arthur. Spouses: Marina Wheeler (married: 1993), Allegra Owen (married: 1987–1993)

Is it true that Borish Johson has both Muslim and Jewish ancestry?


According to the BBC, citing official birth records, Boris Johnson's paternal grandfather is Osman Wilfred Kemal. Johnson's paternal great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, was a Turkish journalist and politician in the early 1900s.

Moreover, his father's other ancestry includes English and French, including descent from King George II of Great Britain. Johnson's mother was Charlotte Fawcett, an artist, who had married Stanley in 1963, prior to their move to the US.

Charlotte is the granddaughter of Elias Avery Lowe, a palaeographe and a Russian Jewish immigrant to the US, and Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter, a translator of Thomas Mann. Johnson's maternal great-grandfather was a Lithuanian Jew and Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

Johnson's maternal grandfather was the lawyer Sir James Fawcett.

Given his varied ancestry, with a combination of Muslims, Jews, and Christians as great-grandparents, Johnson once described himself as a "one-man melting pot".

How did he get his name?

Johnson was given the middle name "Boris" after a Russian émigré his parents had once met.

Where did he study?

Johnson was educated at the European School of Brussels, Ashdown House and Eton College. He read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was elected President of the Oxford Union in 1986.

What about his journalistic career?

Johnson began his career as a journalist at The Times. He was reportedly sacked for falsifying a quote. He later work as the Brussels correspondent for the The Daily Telegraph. Some of this biographers say his articles exerted a strong influence on the growing Eurosceptic sentiment among the British right-wing.

He was eventually made assistant editor of the Telegraph in 1994. In 1999, he left the Telegraph to become editor of The Spectator, a post he held until 2005.

What’s his background in politics?

He was elected MP for Henley in 2001. During the first part of his stint as MP, he largely adhered to the Conservatives' party line.

He has a more socially liberal stance on issues like gay rights. He was eventually picked to be the Conservative candidate for the 2008 London mayoral election. After defeating Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone in the vote, Johnson resigned his seat in the House of Commons.

During his first term as Mayor of London, he banned alcohol consumption on the city's public transport, and introduced the New Routemaster buses, bicycle-for-hire scheme and Thames cable car.

In 2012, he was re-elected Mayor, again defeating Livingstone. During his second term, he oversaw the 2012 Olympics.

In 2015, he returned to Parliament as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, stepping down as Mayor the following year.

In 2016, Johnson became a prominent figure in the referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, and a leading figure in the successful Vote Leave campaign.

Immediately following the referendum, he declined to run in the party leadership election, despite speculation that he would.

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Conservative MP and leadership contender Boris Johnson addresses the final Conservative Party leadership election hustings in London, on July 17, 2019. Britain's leadership contest is taking the two contenders on a month-long nationwide tour where they will each attempt to reach out to grassroots Conservatives in their bid to become prime minister. / AFP / Tolga AKMEN Image Credit: AFP

Theresa May appointed Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Johnson served in this position for two years, before resigning in protest at May's approach to Brexit.

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What makes him so controversial?

In both politics and journalism, Johnson is a controversial figure. Supporters laud him as an entertaining, humorous, and popular figure, with an appeal stretching beyond traditional Conservative voters.

But critics from both the Left and the Right, accus him of elitism, cronyism, dishonesty, laziness, and using racist and homophobic language.

Known for his mix of bonhomie and bumbling, Johnson has a unique persona that made him a hit as mayor of London. Despite his charm, many of his colleagues, as well as political analysts, question his competence.

For example in 2009, as the new London mayor, Johnson set out to build an airport on an artificial island where the River Thames empties into the North Sea.

To study the idea, Johnson tried to enlist a leading scientist, Prof. David King, who balked at the plan while offering to look into other uses for the waterway. Then, out of the blue, Johnson publicly named Prof. King chairman of a team investigating a Thames estuary airport.

The mayor assured him, “Ah David, it’ll be all right,” Prof. King recalled. But it was not all right, according to a New York Times report.

The estuary airport, like several of Johnson’s pet projects as mayor, burnt millions of pounds in planning fees — but never took off due to the nearly unanimous opposition and practical hurdles.

What happened on Tuesday (July 23)?

Johnson won the race to become Britain's next prime minister. Under Britain’s uncodified Constitution, a prime minister has to command the support of the House of Commons to assume the role.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson Image Credit: Reuters

The ruling Conservative Party announced the results of its internal contest on Tuesday, which Johnson won over his main opponent, current Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

When will Boris Johnson take over from PM Theresa May?

Johnson will take over as prime minister from Theresa May on Wednesday (July 24) afternoon. He is expected to be confirmed as prime minister when his May formally tenders her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.

The dreadful truth is that when people come to see their MP, they have run out of better ideas.

- Boris Johnson

What are the top issues demanding Johnson’s immediate attention?

There are many pressing issues: Brexit, Iran, 5G, relations with the US, party management, MPs facing sex charges.

Boris Johnson

Brexit: It’s biggest issue Johnson is facing — getting Britain out of the European Union. Johnson, leader of the leavers campaign prior to the Brexit vote, commits to doing this by October 31, with or without a deal.

Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.

- Boris Johnson, on the EU and the Nazis. Johnson claimed that the past 2,000 years had seen failed attempts to recreate the "golden age" of the Roman Empire.

Iran: There is an escalating crisis with Iran, too. Hunt, in his role as foreign secretary, on Monday set out a European plan to assemble a naval mission to provide safe passage for ships through the Arabian Gulf. That came after Iran seized a British oil tanker, the Stena Impero, in the region last week, an act that Hunt described as "state piracy." Managing that crisis will mean dealing not just with EU leaders, but also with President Donald Trump. At present, the UK is trying to keep its own efforts distinct from America's. Unlike the U.S., Britain still supports the Iranian nuclear deal that it helped to negotiate.

A British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero
A British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized by the Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Friday is photographed in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, Saturday, July 20, 2019. Image Credit: AP

5G: A decision on whether to use equipment from Huawei Technologies Co. is overdue, and was put off on Monday evening. To use it risks upsetting the Trump administration, which has imposed a ban on the company. But not to could delay the roll-out of 5G mobile broadband in Britain by up to two years, hitting the economy. The issue was so contentious within May's government that a leak about it led her to fire Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in May.

My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.

- Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister

Partymates: Foreign Minister Alan Duncan, is an outspoken critic of his former boss, Theresa May, over Brexit. Duncan will join other former ministers — Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke, and perhaps even May herself — who have little love for Johnson.

The part-Kenyan president [has an] ancestral dislike of the British empire — of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.

- Boris Johnson, on Barack Obama, The Sun, April 2006.

These partymates have pledged to all they could to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal. 

How does the on-going sex assault case of a Conservative partymate affect Johnson?

On Monday, July 22, prosecutors announced they had charged Tory MP Charlie Elphicke with three counts of sexual assault, which he denies. Elphicke was suspended from the Conservative Party, technically reducing the government's majority in Parliament to just two — though in reality Elphicke is likely to continue to voting with the Conservatives.

For Johnson, going forward, the Conservative Party management will be difficult. Within the Conservatives, there are MPs who want a no-deal Brexit, and support Johnson.

And if Johnson compromises too much with the EU, he could well face a party rebellion.

Why did Johnson renounce his US citizenship?

In 2014, Johnson became a target of a crackdown by the IRS, as US tax authorities went after the earnings of dual citizens.

Newsweek reports: "More than half a century later, Boris Johnson renounced his American citizenship — for tax reasons. As a dual citizen, the IRS required Johnson to file tax returns on his earnings, even though he lived outside of the US, and to pay the relevant taxes."

As London mayor (from 2008 to 2016), Johnson lambasted the US embassy over millions of dollars in an unpaid city road tax or "congestion charge".

It was revealed in 2014 that Johnson might owe more than $50,000 on the income from the sale of his north London home to the IRS.

In 2015, the IRS had demanded from Johnson capital gains tax on profit he made from the sale of his Islington home.

No is the answer. I think it's absolutely outrageous. Why should I? I haven't lived in the United States since I was five years old.

- Boris Johnson told the BBC News, when asked whether he would pay capital gains tax owed the US Internal Revenue Service in 2015

Asked whether he would pay up, Johnson said then: "No is the answer. I think it's absolutely outrageous. Why should I? I haven't lived in the United States since I was five years old," according to a BBC News report.

But the matter was dealt with later, according to a spokesperson. Prior to his US tour as London mayor, Johnson had paid the amount to the IRS, the The Financial Times reported then.

The following year, in 2016, Johnson renounced his US citizenship, according to the Guardian. Based on a US Treasury department list, Johnson was one of 5,411 individuals to have renounced American citizenship that year.