LONDON – Members of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party have chosen one of the country’s most recognizable politicians to replace Theresa May as the new leader.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, more commonly referred to as Boris or even BoJo, would normally have been considered an outsider as a Downing Street hopeful, coming from the party’s backbenches rather than a ministerial position.
But on Tuesday he beat his leadership contest rival, current foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, with 66 percent of voters choosing the charismatic, yet divisive, figure.
Of the nearly 160,000 eligible voters, 87.4 percent took part in the process of choosing the UK’s next prime minister.
A former foreign secretary and London mayor, Johnson splits opinion up and down the UK with his apparently bumbling and seemingly ad hoc character.
But it is precisely this image that may have seen this outspoken politician rise to the heady heights of prime minister.
Born in New York in 1964 to a wealthy British family, he went on to be educated at Eton College alongside former PM David Cameron, and later Balliol College Oxford, again with Cameron.
After university, he started a career in the world of journalism.
He kicked off with a short-lived post at The Times before he was sacked for inventing quotes attributed to his historian godfather Colin Lucas.
The Telegraph soon picked him up and posted him to report from Brussels, where he gained a name for his euroskeptic articles, some of which had questionable credibility, such as a story that the EU wanted to regulate condom sizes.
He also took on an editorial position at The Spectator, a conservative political publication.
As a journalist, he became well-acquainted with controversy and has been accused of racism on several occasions.
In a Telegraph article in 2012, he used the word “picaninnies” to describe people living in the Commonwealth, borrowing a racist trope used to refer to black children.
He also described people in the Congo as having “watermelon smiles.”
In the 1990s Johnson became a household name in the UK, appearing on popular TV panel shows regularly, where he was known for his clumsy image and use of old-fashioned and intricate word choice.
He became an MP in 2001 and then went on to serve as Mayor of London between 2008-12.
During his time in office, his gaffe-prone persona gained further international recognition.
In the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics, he became stuck half-way across a zip-line wearing a suit and waving two British flags.
A divisive character, some of his political critics accuse him of playing an act to further his career.
In recent years Johnson has become synonymous with the Leave campaign, although it was revealed that he had also penned an unpublished article in favor of remaining in the EU just before he announced he would back withdrawing from the bloc.
Following Cameron’s resignation in the aftermath of the Brexit result, which passed 52-48, Johnson put his name down for the Tory leadership contest although later withdrew, paving the way for May to take to the helm.
In what was widely regarded as a way to appease the more staunchly pro-Brexit contingents of the party, May appointed Johnson as foreign secretary.
He resigned in June 2018, citing disagreements with the PM’s Brexit policy.
May tried and failed to pass her Brexit withdrawal bill, the product of two years of arduous negotiations with Brussels, no less than three times.
Faced with a fragile minority government and internal party divides over Brexit, May resigned, staying on as acting PM until a replacement was found.
Johnson was one of 10 MPs who ran for leadership.
Once in office, he must tackle the major challenge of getting the stagnant Brexit negotiations back on track.
He has vowed to pull the UK out of the EU on Oct. 31, the latest Brexit date offered to allow for more discussion time after the initial date, March 29, came and went without a deal in place.
Johnson has refused to take the option of no-deal of the table.
Last week, he survived another apparent gaffe during the final Tory hustings when he held up a pair of kippers and a refrigerated pillow packaging required for their transit as an example of EU bureaucracy only for it to be later revealed that the tough rules on fish transport were drawn up by the UK.
Spending so much time in the public eye, his relationship history has come under scrutiny too, amid rumors of flings and affairs.
Last year he left his second wife Marina Wheeler and took up with 31-year-old Carrie Symonds, a Conservative Party worker.
That relationship was recently in the spotlight, too, when police were called to her house following reports of a disturbance.
Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson, was a member of the European Parliament, his brother Jo Johnson is a member of the UK parliament and his sister Rachel Johnson is a journalist and TV presenter.