Stanley Johnson: Boris' dad age, what he's said about coronavirus - and why he's applying for French citizenship

Stanley Johnson is a celebrity in his own right, and has courted controversy over everything from Covid-19 to his views on Europe

Friday, 8th January 2021, 10:45 am

The Prime Minister’s father Stanley Johnson is due to have his second coronavirus jab today (8 January).

Mr Johnson told Good Morning Britain that he would soon be “fancy free” and that he would behave “perfectly properly” after receiving the second vaccine.

“Do we have a get out of jail free card… I think probably not. I think the rules will still have to be locked down,” he said.

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Stanley Johnson in March 2020 (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

He added: “I’m very reassured by the fact that we have got a grip on the vaccination programme. Someone has said, ‘give us the tools and we’ll finish the jab’… so I’m confident that we’ll get there, and we’ll get there by Easter.”

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But who is Stanley Johnson? Many of us know him as Boris Johnson’s father, but what else does he do?

Here is everything you need to know

Stanley Johnson speaking to journalists outside of the Vote Leave campaign offices in June 2016 (Photo: Mary Turner/Getty Images)

Who is Stanley Johnson?

Born in 1940 in Cornwall, the 80-year old Johnson enjoys a surprising heritage: his paternal grandfather was Ali Kemal, a journalist for the Ottoman Empire who worked mainly in the region that is now Turkey.

Kemal didn’t just lead a life of journalism, and made moves into politics – perhaps foreshadowing his descendants’ similar career paths – acquiring strong ‘liberal’ views early in his life, which triggered his exile from the Ottoman Empire.

One of the last interior ministers of the Ottoman government, Kemal was assassinated in 1922 during the Turkish War of Independence, but not before he’d father a son by the name of Osman Kemal – Stanley’s Johnson’s father.

Stanley’s ancestors seem to be the reasoning behind his recent application for French citizenship, which he described as a “sentimental and symbolic” gesture.

“I think [Boris Johnson[ should be jolly pleased,” he told Good Morning Britain. “His middle name… is after my French grandmother. As a matter of fact I think he’s lived most of his life as an American.”

What does he do?

These days, Stanley Johnson is known primarily as the father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

But aside from his political leadership offspring, Stanley was a politician in his own right, and continues to author books on environmentalism and population issues, as he has done throughout his career.

A former Conservative Party politician, Stanley Johnson previously served as an MEP for Wight and Hampshire East from 1979 to 1984.

But he is also a prolific writer and environmentalist. He was the Head of Prevention of Pollution Division at the European Commission from 1973 to 1979, is a trustee of the Gorilla Organisation and a board member of Plantlife International.

In 1983 he received the RSPCA Richard Martin Award for Outstanding Services to animal welfare, and in 1984 he received the Greenpeace Award for Outstanding Services to the Environment.

He has written many books on the subject, and has also published novels, including The Commissioner, which made into a 1998 film starring John Hurt – in 1962 he won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry.

He also makes regular appearances on television as something of a celebrity personality: he was the fifth person to be eliminated from I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in 2017, and has been seen as a guest panellist on Have I Got News For You in the past.

Why is he controversial?

Like his son, Stanley Johnson has weathered plenty of controversy.

His most recent transgressions came during the Covid-19 pandemic, when he posted pictures to Instagram showing him travelling to Athens at a time when the British public were being warned against non-essential international travel.

Greece had also banned travel from the UK at the time, but Johnson got around these rules by travelling via Bulgaria.

Johnson was also forced to apologise in September 2020, when he was pictured in The Daily Mirror shopping without wearing a face covering. Asked about his social distancing practices, Mr Johnson told Good Morning Britain: “Sometimes the mask slips, as you know… I have a prominent nose and it’s not always easy to keep it all covered.”

In late 2020, biographer Tom Bower’s book, Boris Johnson: The Gambler, claimed Stanley “punched his first wife so hard in the face he broke her nose”, and in December it was revealed he was applying for French citizenship as Brexit loomed (Stanley had campaigned to remain in the EU despite his son’s insistence on leaving).

Johnson said that his son should be “jolly pleased” with the decision.

“I’m rather pleased with the notion, I like the idea. My thought is that at this moment we certainly don’t need to be anti-European,” he told Good Morning Britain. “This is a little, tiny gesture by me to build the bridge, faire le pont, I think you might say.”