Following William Hague's resignation as Conservative leader, Johnson backed Kenneth Clarke, regarding Clarke as the only candidate capable of winning a general election. Iain Duncan Smith was elected. Johnson had a strained relationship with Duncan Smith, and The Spectator became critical of the latter's party leadership. Duncan Smith was removed from his position in November 2003 and replaced by Michael Howard; Howard deemed Johnson to be the most popular Conservative politician with the electorate and appointed him vice-chairman of the party, responsible for overseeing its electoral campaign. In his Shadow Cabinet reshuffle of May 2004, Howard appointed Johnson to the position of shadow arts minister. In October, Howard ordered Johnson to publicly apologise in Liverpool for publishing a Spectator article – anonymously written by Simon Heffer – which said that the crowds at the Hillsborough disaster had contributed towards the incident and that Liverpudlians had a predilection for reliance on the welfare state.
Back in London, Hastings turned down Johnson's request to become a war reporter, instead promoting him to the position of assistant editor and chief political columnist. Johnson's column received praise for being ideologically eclectic and distinctively written, and earned him a Commentator of the Year Award at the What the Papers Say awards. His writing style was condemned by some critics as bigotry; in various columns he used the words "piccannies" and "watermelon smiles" when referring to Africans, championed European colonialism in Uganda and referred to gay men as "tank-topped bumboys".More Info
In Parliament, Johnson was appointed to a standing committee assessing the Proceeds of Crime Bill, but missed many of its meetings. Despite his credentials as a public speaker, his speeches in the House of Commons were widely deemed lacklustre; Johnson later called them "crap". In his first four years as MP, he attended just over half of the Commons votes; in his second term, this declined to 45%. He usually supported the Conservative party line but rebelled against it five times in this period. In free votes, he demonstrated a more socially liberal attitude than many colleagues, supporting the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the repeal of Section 28. After initially stating he would not, he voted in support of the government's plans to join the US in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in April 2003 visited occupied Baghdad. In August 2004, he backed unsuccessful impeachment procedures against Prime Minister Tony Blair for "high crimes and misdemeanours" regarding the war, and in December 2006 described the invasion as "a colossal mistake and misadventure".More Info
Johnson was popular and well known at Oxford. Alongside Guppy, he co-edited the university's satirical magazine Tributary. In 1984, Johnson was elected secretary of the Oxford Union, and campaigned unsuccessfully for the career-enhancing and important position of Union President. In 1986, Johnson ran successfully for president, but his term was not particularly distinguished or memorable and questions were raised regarding his competence and seriousness. Finally, Johnson was awarded an upper second-class degree, and was deeply unhappy that he did not receive a first.More Info
Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson believed that these articles made Johnson "one of [Euroscepticism's] most famous exponents". According to later biographer Sonia Purnell – who was Johnson's Brussels deputy – he helped make Euroscepticism "an attractive and emotionally resonant cause for the Right", whereas previously it had been associated with the British Left. Johnson's articles established him as the favourite journalist of the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but her successor, the Europhile John Major, was annoyed by Johnson and spent much time attempting to refute what he said. Johnson's articles exacerbated tensions between the Conservative Party's Eurosceptic and Europhile factions, tensions which were widely viewed as contributing to the party's defeat in the 1997 general election. As a result, Johnson earned the mistrust of many party members. His writings were also a key influence on the emergence of the EU-opposing UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the early 1990s. The proprietor of the Telegraph at the time, Conrad Black, said Johnson "was such an effective correspondent for us in Brussels that he greatly influenced British opinion on this country’s relations with Europe."More Info
Johnson gained a King's Scholarship to study at Eton College, the elite independent boarding school near Windsor in Berkshire. Arriving in the autumn term of 1977, he began using as his given name Boris rather than Alex, and developed "the eccentric English persona" for which he became famous. He abandoned his mother's Catholicism and became an Anglican, joining the Church of England. School reports complained about his idleness, complacency, and lateness, but he was popular and well known at Eton. His friends were largely from the wealthy upper-middle and upper classes, his best friends then being Darius Guppy and Charles Spencer, both of whom later accompanied him to the University of Oxford and remained friends into adulthood. Johnson excelled in English and Classics, winning prizes in both, and became secretary of the school debating society, and editor of the school newspaper, The Eton College Chronicle. In late 1981, he was elected a member of Pop, the small, self-selecting elite and glamorous group of prefects. It was later in Johnson's career a point of rivalry with David Cameron, who had failed to enter Pop. On leaving Eton, Johnson went on a gap year to Australia, where he taught English and Latin at Timbertop, an Outward Bound-inspired campus of Geelong Grammar, an elite independent boarding school.More Info
We don't show ads. Help us keep it that way.