This Article is From Jun 10, 2023

Brexit To 'Partygate': The Rise And Fall Of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson led the Tories to a thumping 80-seat majority in the December 2019 general election on a promise to "get Brexit done".

Brexit To 'Partygate': The Rise And Fall Of Boris Johnson

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson had a conventional rise to power.


Boris Johnson was once likened by a member of his party to a "greased piglet" for his ability to bounce back from a succession of setbacks and scandals that would have sunk other less popular politicians.

However, his luck has continued to fade as Covid-era party scandals forced him to quit as a member of parliament less than a year after they helped push him out of office as prime minister.

The 58-year-old populist angrily quit as MP in the midst of an investigation into whether he repeatedly lied to parliament over lockdown-breaking parties when he was in office, which he slammed as a "kangaroo court."

His resignation pre-empted a finding which could force a humiliating fight to retain his MP seat, which he held by a slim majority.

"It is very sad to be leaving Parliament -- at least for now -- but above all I am bewildered and appalled that I can be forced out, anti-democratically... with such egregious bias," he said.

Johnson led the Tories to a thumping 80-seat majority in the December 2019 general election on a promise to "get Brexit done".

That allowed him to railroad through parliament his divorce deal with the European Union, unblocking years of political paralysis.

But he was undone by his handling of the Covid pandemic, "Partygate" and a succession of other scandals that led to a ministerial rebellion in July last year.

Even though he quit as prime minister, rumours have persisted that Johnson -- a thrice-married father of at least eight children -- had not given up hope of another shot at the top job.


Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson had a conventional rise to power for a Conservative politician: first the elite Eton College, then Oxford University.

At Eton, his teachers bemoaned his "cavalier attitude" to his studies and the sense he gave that he should be treated as "an exception".

Johnson's apparent attitude that rules were for other people was amply demonstrated in 2006 when he inexplicably rugby tackled a football opponent in a charity game.

His elastic relationship with the truth was forged at Oxford, where he was president of the Oxford Union, a debating society founded on rhetoric and repartee rather than mastery of cold, hard facts.

His privileged cohort in the backstabbing den of student politics provided many leading Brexiteers.

Soon after Oxford, he married his first wife -- fellow student Allegra Mostyn-Owen -- despite her mother's misgivings.

"I didn't like the fact he was on the right," Gaia Servadio, who died in 2021, was quoted as saying by Johnson's biographer Tom Bower.

"But above all, I didn't like his character. For him, the truth doesn't exist."

After university, he was sacked from The Times newspaper after making up a quote, then joined The Telegraph as its Brussels correspondent.

From there, he fed the growing Conservative Euroscepticism of the 1990s with regular "euromyths" about supposed EU plans for a federal mega-state threatening British sovereignty.

Exasperated rivals charged with matching his questionable exclusives described some of his tales as "complete bollocks".


Johnson capitalised on his increasingly high profile with satirical television quiz show appearances and newspaper and magazine columns.

Much of his journalism has since been requoted at length, particularly his unreconstructed views on issues from single mothers and homosexuality to British colonialism.

He became an MP in 2004, with the Tory leader at the time, Michael Howard, sacking him from his shadow cabinet for lying about an extra-marital affair.

From 2008 to 2016 he served two terms as mayor of London, promoting himself as a pro-EU liberal, a stance which he abandoned as soon as the Brexit referendum came about.

He became "leave" campaign's figurehead, capitalising on his popular image as an unconventional but likeable rogue as the quickest route to power.

His former editor at The Telegraph, Max Hastings, described it as cynical -- but not unexpected. Johnson, he said, "cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification".

Hastings wrote in The Times ahead of Johnson's resignation as prime minister that he had "broken every rule of decency, and made no attempt to pursue a coherent policy agenda beyond Brexit".

But he was "the same moral bankrupt as when the Conservative party chose him, as shambolic in his conduct of office as in his management of his life".

After he quit as MP, the Labour party's deputy leader Angela Rayner said the public -- battling a cost-of-living crisis -- have had enough of the "never-ending Tory soap opera".

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)