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5 Facts about Boris Johnson

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson was elected the new Conservative leader in a ballot of party members and will become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Here are five facts you should know about this controversial world leader.

1. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born in New York City in 1964. Because his father was an Englishman studying economics at Columbia University, Boris was granted both American and British citizenship. He lived in the U.K. and the U.S. on and off until the age of 5 before moving back to England on a permanent basis. Because he was a dual citizen, in 2015 the IRS demanded Johnson pay capital gains tax on the hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit made in the sale of his home in North London. Johnson paid the tax before giving up his American citizenship in 2017. Had he retained his citizenship, Johnson could have run for election as president of the United States after serving out his term as prime minister of the U.K.

2. Johnson attended the elite boarding school Eton College and earned a degree in Classics (i.e., Latin and Ancient Greek) from the University of Oxford. After graduation he took as job as a journalist working for The Times but was fired for making up a quote he attributed to a historian who was also his godfather. Despite this deception, Johnson was able to secure jobs at The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator. He then went on to serve as a member of parliament from 2001 to 2008 and as a mayor of London from 2008 to 2016. He was appointed as Foreign Secretary from 2016–2018 after which he returned to his role as a journalist and member of parliament.

3. As a baby Johnson was baptized as a Catholic. But while attending Eton, he was confirmed as an Anglican. Despite his conversion to the Church of England, Johnson says it would be “pretentious” to suggest that he is a “serious practicing Christian” even though he "thinks about religion a lot." As he told a Christian media group in the U.K., “I suppose my own faith, you know, it’s like a bit like trying to get Virgin Radio when you're driving through the Chilterns. It sort of comes and goes. I mean sometimes the signal is strong, and then sometimes I'm afraid it just vanishes. And then it comes back again.”

4. Johnson is head of the Conservative party yet his views on many issues are—from the perspective of American politics—aligned with progressivism, and he describes himself as a "social liberal." Johnson is a longtime supporter and advocate of LGBT issues. In 2012 he wrote that he was in favor of same-sex marriage, saying, “I can’t see what the fuss is about.” He added that, “[Marriage] may well be beloved by God, but no religion has ever had a monopoly on marriage.” In his roles as the foreign secretary (equivalent to the U.S. secretary of state), Johnson lifted a ban on U.K. embassies and high commissions flying the rainbow flag during LGBT pride events. On the issue of abortion, his voting record shows that he has abstained from all votes that would limit abortion.

5. Johnson has frequently been criticized for his scandalous behavior (Conrad Black, his boss at The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, described him as being “ineffably duplicitous”). For example, Johnson was fired from a political position in 2004 for lying about an extramarital affair. At the time he was married to his second wife, with whom he has four children. Conservative party officials said he was sacked due to his lack of candidness following further allegations that Johnson had paid for his mistress's abortion. He has reportedly had several other affairs, and two of his former mistress claim to have had children by him. (Johnson refuses to say how many children he has.)

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