Boris Johnson

How did Boris Johnson become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom? What will his legacy be and what was his role in Brexit? In this article, we will answer these questions through an exploration of the man himself. He is a figure you will no doubt encounter in your political studies of UK prime ministers. 

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    Johnson is possibly best known for his role as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between July 2019 to September 2022. During that period, Johnson served as the leader of the Conservative party, which lies on the centre-right of the political spectrum and is the oldest political party in the United Kingdom.

    Boris Johnson’s biography

    Boris Johnson portrait of Boris Johnson StudySmarterFig. 1 Boris Johnson portrait

    Alexander Boris Johnson is a British citizen, but he was born in New York in 1964. He was educated at Eton College before moving on to study at Oxford University. After graduating from Oxford, Johnson pursued a career in journalism where he worked for popular British publications such as The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Spectator. He served as the editor for the latter until 2005.

    Though impressive, this early part of his life is arguably the least interesting part of Boris Johnson's biography, so next, we will discuss his political career.

    Eton College is a prestigious school known to produce Prime Ministers. In fact, 20 UK Prime Ministers have been educated at Eton.

    Interesting fact. Boris Johnson’s great grandfather was Ali Kemal. Ali Kemal was Turkish and served as the Minister of the Interior in the Ottoman government. Like Johnson, he was a journalist. Ali Kemal was assassinated during the Turkish War of Independence.

    Boris Johnson’s political career

    Whilst pursuing his career in journalism, Boris Johnson's political career also began taking off when in 1997, he was selected as the conservative candidate for Member of Parliament of the Clwyd South constituency. He was unsuccessful in this campaign and lost to the Labour Party candidate. However, in 2001 he was selected again as a Conservative party candidate for member of parliament for the Henley-on-Thames constituency, where he won.

    Boris Johnson Mayor of London Boris Johnson giving a speech StudySmarterFig. 2 Boris Johnson giving a speech as Mayor of London

    At this time Johnson was already a well-known political figure due to his frequent television appearances, his bumbling personality, and numerous public scandals. In 2008, Johnson was elected Mayor of London and stepped down from his role as MP. In 2012, he won a second term as London’s mayor. In 2015, whilst still serving as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson returned to the House of Commons, but this time as the MP of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

    How Brexit came about

    Though Brexit and Boris Johnson's political career may not seem closely intertwined, in fact how Brexit came about and its aftermath were instrumental in ensuring Johnson's rise to Prime Minister.

    During this period, in 2015, David Cameron was serving as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as the Conservative Party leader. In compliance with his campaign promises, and despite the fact that he wanted to remain, Cameron set a referendum to decide whether the UK should leave the European Union. And with it began one of the most politically charged periods in British politics’ recent history.

    Johnson was very vocal in his support for the ‘Leave’ campaign. After Cameron’s resignation as a result of the Leave campaigners’ win in the Brexit referendum, the path was clear for Johnson’s ascent to Prime Minister.

    However, this did not come to fruition and the leadership went to Theresa May, who became the leader of the conservatives and the prime minister of the UK. May, however, was unable to strike up an adequate Brexit deal with Brussels, which made Johnson’s second attempt at a candidacy successful.

    Boris Johnson and Brexit

    Boris Johnson’s main focus at the beginning of his premiership was Brexit. He had been elected as the leader of the conservative party on the promise he would ‘get Brexit done’. Therefore, his first 100 days as prime minister were watched closely to see how he would handle the Brexit negotiations.

    Johnson proposed a no-deal Brexit which would mean that the UK would leave the EU regardless of whether they were able to negotiate a deal with them. However, he didn’t have to resort to a no-deal, as the EU and Johsonon were able to agree on a finalised deal. Johnson was able to successfully finalise a Brexit deal and the UK formally withdrew from the European Union on 31 January 2020.

    Key points from the Brexit agreement

    While the Brexit agreement is very complex, there were a few key points. These are:

    • The establishment and formal ratification of the Brexit agreement first and foremostly brings about the end to a five-year-long period that has been riddled with uncertainty.

    • UK nationals lost the freedom to work and live in the EU and will now require a visa if they want to stay in an EU country for more than 90 days. This is also the same for EU nationals wanting to work or live in the UK.

    • Despite being a part of the UK, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU regulations.

    • The UK can now freely set its own trade policies and has the ability to negotiate deals with other nations.

    • 'Scexit' - As a result of Brexit, there is an increased fear of Scexit, which refers to the possibility of Scotland leaving the UK and rejoining the European Union.

    The reception of the Brexit deal was varied amongst the UK public. Some people criticised Johnson and his government for conceding too much, whilst others have praised the results of the agreements. Regardless of whether the agreement was bad or good, Johnson successfully did what he set out to do: deliver Brexit and defeat the leader of the opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn.

    Boris Johnson and the Coronavirus Pandemic

    Whilst Johnson’s ability to finalise the Brexit agreement will undoubtedly be a part of his legacy as prime minister, this will undoubtedly be overshadowed by his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic that first emerged in Britain in March of 2020. This resulted in an almost war-time relationship between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the British public through a series of regular public addresses regarding lockdown measures.

    Johnson’s approach to the coronavirus was initially praised due to his implementation of lockdown measures but has since come under scrutiny. Since March 2020, the British population has gone in and out of lockdowns and Britain has experienced the highest proportion of deaths as a result of the pandemic compared to any other nation.

    Not only have the lockdown measures served as a point of contention amongst Brits, but recently, it was revealed that at the height of the pandemic, whilst much of the country was under lockdown restrictions set forth by Boris Johnson, Johnson himself and his party members were breaking these restrictions by attending Christmas parties and various other social gatherings.

    Boris Johnson was forced to pay a fixed penalty notice for his attendance at lockdown parties and subsequently is the first UK Prime Minister to have (officially) ever broken the law while in office.

    These actions and Johnson's failure to provide a sustainable response to the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in growing tides of ‘no-confidence’ within the Conservative Party, which resulted in Johnson's resignation on 7th July 2022. Liz Truss replaced Johnson in the "top job", forming a new government on 6th September 2022.

    Boris Johnson Principles

    The Nolan Principles of Public Life are a set of 7 principles that apply to all who hold public office in the UK. Those who are in these positions are supposed to uphold these principles These principles are:

    1. Selflessness

    2. Integrity

    3. Objectivity

    4. Accountability

    5. Openness

    6. Honesty

    7. Leadership

    As Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to abide by the Nolan principles and the ministerial code. However, Johnson's behaviour, particularly throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, has called his critics to question whether he is indeed upholding the Nolan principles with many even from within his own party questioning his leadership during his time as Prime Minister.

    Boris Johnson - Key Takeaways

    • Boris Johnson is a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative party.
    • Boris Johnson served as the Mayor of London before becoming prime minister.
    • Johnson was elected on the promise that he would get Brexit done.
    • Johnson has served as prime minister of the UK throughout the global coronavirus pandemic.
    • Johnson took over leadership of the conservative party from former prime minister Theresa May.
    • Boris Johnson has received criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his future as party leader is currently in question.


    1. Fig. 1 The Prime Minister Boris Johnson Portrait ( by Ben Shread licensed by OGL v3.0 ( on Wikimedia Commons
    2. Fig. 2 Boris Johnson Mayor of London speaks (,_Mayor_of_London,_speaks_(3922658238).jpg) by Think London ( licensed by CC-BY-2.0 ( on Wikimedia Commons
    Frequently Asked Questions about Boris Johnson

    What is Boris Johnson's biography?

    Boris Johnson studied at Eton College and Oxford University and pursued a career in journalism before involving himself in politics. Johnson became an MP, the mayor of London and the foreign secretary before becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between July 2019- September 2022. 

    Why did Boris Johnson resign from the cabinet?

    Boris Johnson resigned from cabinet and his role as foreign secretary as he disagreed with then Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach to the Brexit deal. 

    What policies did Boris Johnson implement?

    Johnson implemented various policies such as the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and a points-based immigration system. 

    What is Boris Johnson's political career?

    Boris Johnson has served as an MP, Mayor of London and as Prime Minister, as well as foreign secretary under Theresa May. 

    What are Boris Johnson’s accomplishments?

    Boris Johnson's chief accomplishment is successfully pushing through a Brexit deal in his time as Prime Minister. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Where was Boris Johnson born?

    In which of these constituencies has Boris Johnson served as MP?

    What university did Boris Johnson attend?


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