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Boris Johnson: What's his track record?
Boris Johnson: What's his track record?

The frontrunner in the race to be Conservative leader and prime minister, Boris Johnson, is one of the UK's most recognisable politicians.

But that high profile - built up as an MP, London mayor and foreign secretary - has often seen his achievements accompanied by controversy.

Becoming an MP

As editor of the Spectator magazine and a Have I Got News For You contestant, Boris Johnson was already well known for his shambolic persona.

In 2001, he became an MP, in the safe Conservative seat of Henley-on-Thames.

Gay rights

He was considered more liberal than many Tories. As a journalist, he had questioned the repeal of laws banning the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities But as an MP, he changed tack and said the state should not interfere in people's lives. He also voted in favour of civil partnerships.

Mr Johnson continued to attract controversy.

In October 2004, then Conservative leader Michael Howard for a Spectator article accusing its residents of wallowing in "disproportionate" grief after Ken Bigley - an engineer from the city - was kidnapped and killed in Iraq.

And the following month, he was sacked as shadow arts minister, amid claims he had .

Getty Boris Johnson Political career 7 years MP for Henley (2001-2008) 8 years Mayor of London (2008-2016) 4 years MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (2015- 2 years Foreign Secretary (2016-2018) BBC News

Nevertheless, a year later, he was on the rise again - resigning from his Spectator post when new Tory leader .

However, he continued to write for the Telegraph and had to make another apology - to a whole country - after he in a column.

By 2007, the Henley MP had his sights set on one of the biggest jobs in UK politics.

Mayor of London

Taking over from Labour's Ken Livingstone in 2008, Boris Johnson remained London mayor until 2016. It is the longest continuous period of public office that he has held.

He's often spoken of what he considers to be his biggest achievements during that period: on crime, housing and transport.

Skip Twitter post by @BackBoris Report End of Twitter post by @BackBoris


The homicide rate in London - which includes murder and manslaughter - fell from 22 per million to 12 per million people during his time as mayor. However, it was also falling during his predecessor's second term.

And in the first few years after Mr Johnson took over, knife crime rose by over 15% - although from 2012-13 onwards it started to fall.

Knife offences after Boris Johnson became London mayor Metropolitan Police area Mr Johnson's term ended in 2016 Office of National Statistics

Mr Johnson had backed the police use of stop-and-search powers to tackle violent crime. And he said he would ensure police numbers would go up despite central government cuts.

Home Office figures show police numbers in London rose slightly, from 31,460 to 32,125, between March 2008 and March 2016. Across England and Wales in that period the number of officers fell by 17,603.

London homicide rate falls Labour up to 2008 then Conservative Source: Office for National Statistics


There was an increase in the number of affordable homes built - 101,525 by the end of March 2016, of which the Greater London Authority contributed to 94,001. This was a rise compared with the two terms of Mr Livingstone, although the definition of affordable housing had changed in 2011 so the figures are not directly comparable.


- which he said were too big for narrow streets and encouraged fare-dodgers.

In their place, he introduced a new version of the popular Routemaster London bus - a move that was criticised as a vanity project. There were complaints about non-opening windows and problems with the hybrid engines. They also cost considerably more than a normal bus.

One of his most famous transport initiatives was the so-called "Boris Bike" cycle scheme, introduced in July 2010.

Mr Johnson regularly promoted the hire bikes by riding them himself and the number of rentals reached more than 10.3 million during his last year as mayor.

However, critics pointed to the £11m-a-year cost of keeping the bikes on the road. Others pointed out that plans for a bike hire scheme had been announced while Mr Livingstone had been mayor.


As mayor, Mr Johnson became involved in overseeing arrangements for the 2012 Olympics, planning for which started after they were awarded to London in 2005.

One of the most memorable moments was when he got stuck on a zip wire, while celebrating the UK's first gold medal win. The Olympics were widely seen as a success and there were claims .

But there were also questions raised about the Olympics' legacy, including criticism of the conversion of the Olympic Stadium into a football ground. In 2017, an independent review said .

Garden Bridge

The latter part of his time as mayor saw .

The pedestrian-only bridge, with trees and plants, was to be funded by private and public money.

But it was cancelled in 2017, after a review recommended the project be scrapped - £53m had already been spent on the project; £43m of which came from the public purse.

Foreign secretary

Mr Johnson decided he wanted to return to Parliament before his term as mayor ended, in 2016. He won the seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015.

After resuming life as an MP, he declared his opposition to expanding nearby Heathrow airport, saying he would lie in front of the bulldozers.

As London mayor, he had promoted an alternative scheme, for an island airport in the Thames estuary,

But Mr Johnson was noticeably absent when MPs subsequently voted on Heathrow expansion in June 2018, as he was on an official trip to Afghanistan.

Mr Johnson had been appointed foreign secretary by the new prime minister, Theresa May, in 2016.

He had also run in the Tory leadership campaign that year after Michael Gove's surprise decision to enter the race.

The job as foreign secretary was seen as an acknowledgement of his role as a leading figure in the campaign to leave the EU.

However, there was also some surprise at the choice, with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron saying he would than working as foreign secretary.

And there were the disparaging comments about other countries and their leaders - some of which were made before he got the job.

They included a Limerick - which won a £1,000 award in 2016 - about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a goat. And he said the Libyan city of Sirte could be the new Dubai if .

Russian expulsions

As foreign secretary, Mr Johnson supported a tough line against Russia,

Twenty countries, including the US, Canada, Australia and EU states, joined the UK, expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats in a co-ordinated move.


But in the case of British Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran, Mr Johnson had to apologise in Parliament.

contradicting her statement that she had been on holiday at the time.

He later clarified that she had in fact been on holiday but has also said he does not believe his remarks made a difference to her plight - a claim rejected by her family.

A few days after Mr Johnson made his remarks, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned before an Iranian judge, to face charges of engaging in propaganda against the regime.

Saudi Arabia

As foreign secretary, , after comments emerged in which he had criticised close ally Saudi Arabia for engaging in proxy wars in the Middle East.

Nevertheless, he continued to allow sales of UK arms to Saudi Arabia, which is involved in a controversial military campaign in Yemen.

In 2018, Mr Johnson also faced criticism after writing in the Daily Telegraph that

By this stage, though, he had left the government, resigning in protest at Theresa May's Brexit plan.

Brexit campaigner

Boris Johnson was a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum.

He became well known for his attacks on the EU and for advocating the benefits of Brexit. He declared that he was "pro-having cake and pro-eating it".

But it hadn't always been clear which side he would support.

In fact, while mayor of London, he'd spoken of the benefits of being in the single market.

And in an article for the Daily Telegraph in 2013 weighing up the pros and cons of being in the EU, he had said that leaving would not solve the UK's problems.

However, he also made clear he supported plans to ask the British people to decide about EU membership.

During the Brexit campaign, he came under , for his claims about the benefits of leaving and what he called "taking back control".

£350m claim

Most controversial was a claim about how much money the UK sent to the EU. The £350m-a-week figure, which appeared on the side of a bus during the campaign, Critics pointed out at the time that the figure was wrong as it did not take into account the UK's rebate, or indeed money subsequently spent in the UK.

For his part, Mr Johnson dismissed warnings that leaving the EU could spark a recession,

And he has continued to advocate a harder form of Brexit, sharply criticising both the deal that Mrs May agreed and her whole approach to the negotiations with the EU.

He described it as , in his resignation letter, in July 2018.

Mr Johnson has continued to insist that the UK can and should leave the EU by 31 October, with or without a deal.

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