Extravagant Brexit doer

Boris Johnson, the new British PM, has a history of faults and gaffes

And finally the fate of Brexit is in the right hands. Or better to say in the right mouth and on the right mind. With the ascension of staunch Brexiteer Boris Johnson to the post of British PM, things seem to have come to their places - the one who has strongly advocated for the UK to leave the EU now is supposed to deliver it. With or without a deal. And no later than 31 October. The late-summer and early-autumn show will be interesting, as - with Johnson at the helm - the UK heads for a clash with the EU and a constitutional crisis at home.

What is sure so far is that Johnson, one of the faces of the 2016 Brexit referendum, was given the post of the PM with the votes of 92,000 members of the Conservative Party. He got almost twice as many votes as his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, but still a very tiny part of the British voters overall. “We are going to get Brexit done on 31 October, and we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring in a new spirit of 'can do'. We are once again going to believe in ourselves and like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity,” Johnson said after the result was announced.

Born in 1964 in New York to wealthy upper-middle class British parents, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson studied at Eton, Britain's most exclusive school, and graduated in ancient culture and literature at Balliol College, Oxford. His maternal grandparents were from Russian-Jewish origin, while the last minister of interior of the Ottoman Empire, Ali Kemal, was his great-grandfather.

After a very short career in a management consultancy in the City of London, he turned to journalism writing for The Times newspaper, but was sacked in a year after being accused of making up quotes. Because of his rich and flamboyant style and good origin, Johnson was later on hired by the Daily Telegraph and sent as a correspondent to Brussels. In his articles he was mostly lampooning the then European Economic Community and delighting British PM Margaret Thatcher, which later on helped him to enter the Conservative Party.

But climbing the ladder was never easy. Once he was dismissed from the Conservative Party's policy team for lying about having an extramarital affair. It was only in 2018 when Johnson and his wife divorced after 25 years in marriage, and he admitted being into a relationship with the party's 31-year-old ex-communications chief, Carrie Symonds. They will now be the first non-married couple to live at 10 Downing Street.

And this is far from being the whole story about Johnson's gaffes. In 2016, at the height of the Brexit campaign, he was accused of making untenable claims, most notably that Britain would be 350 million pounds (€390m) a week better off outside the EU. Yet his often chaotic behaviour and sense of humour have allowed him to survive all gaffes and scandals.

Despite his jester's appearance, Johnson has somehow proved he was able to do the job. He has served two terms as London mayor, from 2008 to 2016, successfully hosting Summer Olympics in 2012. A YouGov poll commissioned at the end of his term revealed that 52% of Londoners believed he did a “good job” as mayor, while only 29% thought the opposite. But still, critics say he lacks the charisma of a true leader and question whether he could successfully deal with the hard tasks of the premiership.

Johnson pledges the mantra of his campaign had been to “deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat (opposition Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn”. The last task seems easy, but not the other two. At the Brexit referendum in 2016 the UK proved to be divided, and the country is still the same, with divisions only deepening.

Delivering Brexit seems even harder. While Johnson persists he will “do the job”, stumbling blocks on the way to Brexit are unavoidable. Being polite, the EU leaders praised Johnson for succeeding Theresa May and confirmed they will talk to him as they have talked to his predecessor, but ruled out a new Brexit agreement. What was agreed with May is on the table and cannot be renegotiated and changed, Brussels says.

Johnson will start his term even with a hostile environment within his own party. Education Minister Anne Milton tweeted her resignation just half an hour before the leadership result was due to be revealed, insisting the UK “must leave the EU in a responsible manner”. International Development Secretary Rory Stewart confirmed he would be returning to the backbenches, Justice Minister David Gauke also resigned. They join the likes of Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan and Culture Minister Margot James who have all said they disagree too strongly with Johnson's Brexit strategy to work closely with him.

And the most interesting is yet to come.

More on this subject: Brexit

Similar articles