Last week, the United Kingdom saw a new leader as the Queen, in the British ceremonial tradition, welcomed Boris Johnson as the nation’s new prime minister.
Now remember that in the land of my birth the prime minister is not directly elected by the people. Instead the members of Parliament (MPs) decide among themselves who should lead the party and therefore become prime minister.
Because Teresa May, the previous prime minister, “blew it” and could not get parliament to support her proposed Brexit agreement, she resigned. That led to a leadership contest which Boris Johnson won, paving the way for what promises to be an interesting and colorful period of U.K. government.
Yes, the new 55-year-old leader of the Conservative party really does fall within the definition of “colourful” (as the British spell it), in both his private and his political life. With two divorces, four children, several scandals surrounding infidelity, and now a high-profile relationship with his much younger (age 31) girlfriend, British Conservative politicians are clearly more concerned with his ability to lead the country and capture the public imagination - and win the next general election than his personal morality.
Back in 2004, Johnson was the Conservative party’s vice chairman and arts spokesperson who denied lurid facts about his relationship with an alleged mistress. When more facts came out about the affair, he was fired from his senior position in Parliament.
Even just a few weeks ago, during Boris Johnson’s campaign to become the Conservative Party’s next leader and prime minister, his private life was once again in the news as a big argument with his young girlfriend ended up on the front pages of U.K. newspapers.
So aside from his interesting personal life, what else do we know about the U.K.’s new leader?
Boris is a British citizen but was born in New York and named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. For a Eurosceptic committed to leading the U.K. through Brexit by Oct. 31, it is a little ironic that he was educated at the European School of Brussels as well as England’s elite Ashdown House School, Eton College and Oxford University.
He began his career as a journalist with The Times of London and found considerable success in this profession, taking the editorship of The Spectator magazine from 1999 to 2005.
He was elected as a member of Parliament from 2001 to 2008, then mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, and most recently as an MP and finally foreign secretary 2016-2018.
Boris has a great deal of public recognition in the U.K. – recognizable by his unruly mop of blond hair and his funny and interesting comments.
When he was mayor of London, he introduced a community bike scheme informally known as “Boris Bikes,” he banned alcohol consumption on public transportation and initiated Route master buses, the modern version of the London double-decker bus.
Boris has always been associated with both economically and socially liberal policies, and he is on record as saying “I’ll get Brexit done by the 31st of October so we can bring the change that people voted for in the referendum.”
This will not be an easy achievement as the European Union is adamant that they will not compromise any further than the deal negotiated by Teresa May. This could lead to a “hard Brexit” with no guarantees or roadmap to how the U.K. will operate within Europe. In addition, Boris has committed to:
• Investing in the National Health Service and schools
• Giving young people the chance to buy their own home
• Gripping rising crime with an extra 20,000 police officers
• Getting on with the job of leading his party to success in the next general election expected in 2022, by beating the far-left socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn There is a lot more information at www.bbc.com So, I say goodbye this week with a quote from the new British Prime Minister himself: “It is easy to make promises – it is hard work to keep them.” I hope you can Boris, I really do.
God bless America, and the U.K.!