Boris Johnson: London calling

EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Boris Johnson: London calling


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One could hardly invent a more complex and exotic ancestry, and a more flamboyant character. Boris Johnson is the man everybody loves to hate, a clown even for his followers.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP, born 19 June 1964 in New York (he has both American and British citizenship), educated in Brussels, at the Eton public school and the Oxford University, started writing in The Times, then he became the Daily Telegraph‍ ‘s Brussels correspondent, with his articles exerting a strong influence on growing Eurosceptic sentiment among the British right-wing. He also took the editorship of The Spectator from 1999 to 2005.

Keeping everybody in awe, he has become Mayor of London in 2008, but he was also previously Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, and then for Higher Education.

As Mayor of London, he had an unerring ability to sabotage his own career with his sense of fun – and apparent refusal to take things too seriously – proving his undoing on more than one occasion. Supporters have praised him as an entertaining, humorous, and popular figure with appeal beyond traditional Conservative voters.

Among other things, he banned alcohol consumption on public transport, introduced the New Routemaster buses and ‘Boris Bikes’, and championed London’s financial sector.

Critics have accused him of laziness and dishonesty, racism, homophobia, and being out of touch with working people. The author of many books, he is also the subject of several biographies and a number of fictionalised portrayals.

Married with four children, Boris Johnson is descended from a minister in the Ottoman Empire and his children are, as he put it, a quarter Indian. His great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, a Turkish journalist, was briefly interior minister in the government of Tevfik Pasha, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. He was killed for his anti-Nationalist sympathies during the Turkish War of Independence.

His grandfather Osman Ali settled in the UK in the 1920s and changed his name to Wilfred Johnson.

Boris Johnsons’s grandmother, Irène Johnson (née Williams) was half-English and half-French, having been the illegitimate granddaughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg and through him a descendant of King George II of Great Britain. Via this royal connection, Boris is related to most of the royal families of Europe, and is an eighth cousin of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Johnson’s mother, Charlotte, was the granddaughter of palaeographer Elias Avery Lowe (who was of Russian Jewish extraction). In reference to his cosmopolitan ancestry, Johnson has described himself as a “one-man melting pot”—with a combination of Muslims, Jews, and Christians as great-grandparents. The journalist Toby Young has described Johnson’s background as being “lower-upper-middle class”.

Boris made many enemies among his fellow Conservatives, by writing, for instance, in The Telegraph, that the size of the House of Lords is now ‘out of control’ and calling for radical axing of half of the chamber. In September this year, he called for a “Dignitas-style euthanasia” plan to reduce the number of legislators from the current 790 who are eligible to take part in the work of the House of Lords.

“Something radical needs to happen there in the sense of pruning{, he wrote. “We had a voluntary euthanasia plan in which you were told that you could step down. There are a great many of these geezers who don’t do much at all. We probably only need about 400 legislators.”

After the 13 November Paris attacks, he also wrote in the Telegraph: “We need to catch the bastards before they strike; and I am afraid that I have less and less sympathy with those who oppose the new surveillance powers that the government would like to give the security services.”

Replacing flamboyant Boris Johnson as mayor of London in the 2016 May local elections will be a tall order. The two candidates are the Tory Zac Goldsmith, the multimillionaire son of the late tycoon James Goldsmith, whose sister, Jemima, married Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer, and converted to Islam, and Sadiq Khan, candidate of the fiendish Labour, son of a Muslim bus driver who grew up in a tower block, on a council flat.

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