Boris Johnson: ‘Angel, Ulysses, warthog’

This weekend Britain was abuzz with talk about one of its most extraordinary politicians. To join in the fun we list twenty things you probably never knew about 'BoJo.'

Boris Johnson is one of the strangest figures in British politics. He is a true-blue Tory who appeals to Labour voters; a gaffe-prone maverick who gets more popular with each supposed blunder; a man who was described by an ex-colleague as ‘part Ulysses, part angel and part warthog’ – but whose bumbling exterior conceals the steely ambition needed to become Mayor of London.

Now, as his first term comes to an end, and London votes to choose a leader for the next four years, The Day counts down the top twenty things you didn’t know about Boris Johnson.

1. Named after a Russian exile in Mexico, and born in New York, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is descended from Ali Kemal, who served as Interior Minister for the empire of the Ottoman Turks.

2. His family still call him Al.

3. Among his first (of many) written works was a piece of graffiti, scrawled on the wall of his childhood nursery: ‘boo to grown-ups’.

4. He is a keen classicist, having studied Latin and Greek at Balliol College, Oxford.

5. One of his children has the middle name ‘Apollo’, after the Greek god of art and song.

6. Like David Cameron, Boris was a member of the notorious Bullingdon Club. Club members are famous for destroying restaurants during drunken dinners, then writing huge cheques to pay the bill.

7. He was once offered cocaine at a party, but sneezed. He suspects it may have been icing sugar.

8. He was married for the first time aged only 23, and turned up at the wedding wearing the wrong trousers.

9. His first job was at a management consultancy firm, but he kept falling asleep during presentations.

10. Later, in journalism, he was known as a powerful but somewhat ditzy writer. ‘Who is Bill Clinton,’ he asked at one meeting. Clinton was President of the USA at the time.

11. According to one colleague, he spent most editorial meetings drawing caricatures of the rest of the staff.

12. Boris is often accused of being cavalier with the truth. He was sacked from a job at The Times for making up a quote in an article. The person he misquoted was his own godfather – who failed to see the funny side.

13. He famously responded to allegations that he was having an affair by calling the story ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle.’ The allegations were true.

14. Boris once answered his mobile phone in the middle of hosting an episode of Have I Got News for You? ‘I can’t speak now,’ he told the caller. ‘I’m on the television.’

15. Boris was once asked whether he had ever had sex with a man. His reply was ‘not yet’.

16. The first word of his book of collected essays is ‘Crumbs!’

17. He campaigned for his first political position with the slogan: ‘Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW.’

18. As well as his salary as mayor, Boris earns £250,000 per year as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. He describes this sum as ‘chickenfeed’.

19. Johnson is popular in London, but is famous for offending inhabitants of other cities. He once said Portsmouth was ‘full of drugs and obesity’, and was forced to perform what he called a ‘Scouse grovel,’ after accusing Liverpool of ‘wallowing in victim status’.

20. He says there is ‘not a snowball’s chance in Hades’ of him doing another big political job after mayor of London. Almost no one believes him.

Fit to lead?

Even Boris’ worst enemies concede he is intelligent and ambitious. But most people also agree that the little details are revealing.

What do they reveal? Some see a man too unreliable, unserious and immoral to be fit for public office. Others disagree. His flaws and foibles, they say, make him feel less like a manicured politician and more like a proper human being.

You Decide

  1. Does Boris’ life story make you like or dislike him?
  2. Why do you think Boris’ gaffes and mistakes have not ruined his career?


  1. Based on the information here, try to come up with a catchy slogan Boris might use in his next election campaign. Working in pairs might help.
  2. What do you think are the five most important qualities in a politician. Make a ranked list, and compare it with others in your class.

Some People Say...

“Politicians should be morally beyond reproach.”

What do you think?

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