Sunday 25 August 2019

Meet the Johnsons - The who's who in new UK prime minister Boris's eccentric 'first family'

Meet the Johnsons - a reality TV star dad, an artist mother, brother Jo now appointed minister of state, a sister in Brexit revolt… and the forgotten sibling

Stanley Johnson with children Rachel Johnson and Jo Johnson as Boris Johnson is announced as Conservative leader.
Photo:Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Stanley Johnson with children Rachel Johnson and Jo Johnson as Boris Johnson is announced as Conservative leader. Photo:Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Boris Johnson is the biggest story in the world this week, but, most of Britain’s new 'first family' have already enjoyed their time in the limelight.

That the United Kingdom’s new prime minister does not shy away from attention is no surprise given the presence his family have in the public eye.

'Mummy' and 'Daddy'

Stanley Johnson and Charlotte Fawcett Wahl started their family young. Having met at Oxford, and following Ms Wahl’s engagement to another student, Wynford Hicks, at the age of 18, the couple married in 1963 while still in university.

Having had Boris and his three younger siblings, Rachel, Leo and Jo, their marriage broke down in 1979.  

Ms Wahl, a very successful artist, painting for celebrity clientele, remarried in 1988 to American academic Nick Wahl, but became a widow in 1996 when he died, following a long battle with cancer.

The 77-year-old suffers from Parkinson’s disease but has undergone a surgery which she reported to have helped with its symptoms.

The PM’s dad Stanley Johnson has paved his way in many respects. Mr Johnson shares with his son a love of media attention and appeared on ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get ME Out of Here’ in 2017 and on the most recent season of 'Celebrity Gogglebox'.

While he never reached the current lofty heights of his son’s political career, Mr Johnson blazed the trail for him, serving as a Tory MEP for Wight and Hampshire East from 1979 to 1984. He came under fire recently, however, for his comments on Brexit live on air.

Boris Johnson with his father Stanley after his appearance on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! Photo: Press Association

In an interview with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, he said that the former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, would have found the focus on the Irish border in the Brexit negotiations to be unacceptable.

When asked how Mrs Thatcher would have fixed the issue, he continued: "She would have said, 'Look, if the Irish want to shoot each other they will shoot each other whether there is a hard border or whether there is a soft border, that is something the Irish will do if they want to do it'.”

Mr Johnson remarried to Jennifer Kidd in 1981, and fathered Boris Johnson’s half-siblings Julia and Maximilian in 1982 and 1986 respectively, the prior of whose name he forgot when listing his children on TV programme Have I Got News For You.

Siblings: Brexit 'Remainer' Rachel Johnson 

The prime minister’s oldest sibling Rachel is no stranger to TV cameras either. Like her father, she appeared on reality television, where she was the second contestant to be booted off Celebrity Big Brother 2018.

While on the programme, Ms Johnson perplexed viewers, requesting to see fellow-contestant India Willoughby’s breasts twice and having her toes sucked by Andrew Brady.

She also hit headlines recently by appearing to be topless on Sky News to discuss Brexit.

The stunt was in response to 'Remainer' Victoria Bateman conducting interviews naked to get attention to her anti-Brexit message. Ms Johnson later denied doing this, claiming instead that the pixelated footage was shot in advance of the panel being present an that she was wearing a small top.

Despite all of this, the 53-year-old is potentially the prime minister’s most sensible family member.

Having worked in journalism for most of her career, Ms Johnson has written weekly columns for The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard and was the first female graduate at the Financial Times.

She has also edited titles like The Spectator and weekly magazine The Lady and has written a number of novels.

Like most of her family, Ms Johnson was a member of the Conservative Party from 2008 to 2011, but having decided to re-enter the world of politics, she joined the Liberal Democrats in the run up to the 2017 general election, because of her Remain stance on Brexit.

During the European Elections, she stood as an MEP for Change UK in South West and lost.

Boris Johnson's oldest sibling Rachel Photo: Ian West/PA

Joseph (Jo) Johnson: Boris’ appointment as minister of state

According to the US President himself, Boris Johnson is the 'UK Donald Trump'.  Mr Trump came under fire after assuming the office when he hired his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump as his senior advisers.

Mr Trump’s comparison gained some verity after the UK pm appointed his brother Jo as a minister of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Education in his government shake-up.

Unsurprisingly, the 47-year-old Conservative MP was one of the biggest supporters of his brother’s rise to the head of government of the United Kingdom.

The youngest of the family did disagree, along with his older brother, with Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and stepped down from the government last week.

Jo Johnson who, unlike his brother the prime minister, is anti-Brexit Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Leo Johnson: The apolitical ‘happiness hacker’

By far the most under-the-radar of the Johnson siblings, Leo Johnson followed in his brothers’ footsteps attending Oxford University but never entered the family trade; politics.

The 51-year-old instead began as an entrepreneur and eventually followed in the media pathway paved by his family, co-presenting the UK Radio 4 show FutureProofing.

The presenter has been open in the past about his disinterest in talking about his now-prime-minister brother, while he has spoken about his close relationship with his sister.

He is now on year-long journey, on his new radio show ‘Hacking Happiness’, to learn life lessons of happiness by engaging with modern-day practitioners of radically different philosophies.

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