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The man who led the Brexit campaign is now Britain's chief diplomat

Former mayor of London Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has a reputation for gaffes and controversy, and had just been kicked out of the race to lead the Tories.
Conservative MP and former London mayor Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street after being summoned by new British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on July 13. Photo by Will Oliver/EPA

Along with a new prime minister, the UK has a new foreign minister: Boris Johnson, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

The last time Johnson, whose full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, made headlines was just a few weeks ago. He'd just gotten majorly screwed by his old friend Michael Gove, who thwarted his plans for Conservative Party leadership at the final hour. A despondent-looking Johnson – former mayor of London, and leading campaigner for Brexit – appeared at a luxury hotel in London to tell his crestfallen supporters that he wasn't the right person to guide Britain through its divorce from Europe.


Now he's back, with a big new job under the equally new Prime Minister Theresa May.

Yes, Johnson does speak fluent French and Italian, and as one person on Twitter pointed out "has a good grasp of German and Spanish." He was, after all, a correspondent from multilingual Brussels in his previous career as a journalist. Regardless, his reputation for controversy and gaffes makes putting him in charge of diplomatic relations a strange choice.

For example, Johnson recently wrote a poem where he called Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a "wankerer" (the extra syllable was added to rhyme with "Ankara").

He has had to issue a formal apology for referring to black people as "piccaninnies" and talking about their "watermelon smiles."

Earlier this year, after hearing that US President Barack Obama had removed a bust of Winston Churchill from his office, Johnson, writing in a column for The Sun, suggested the move had something to do with his "part-Kenyan heritage" and an "ancestral dislike of the British empire."

A few days ago, Theresa May said this about Boris. And you wonder why people are cynical about politics. — David Byers (@davidbyers26)July 13, 2016

In astonishing times flabbergasted that Boris who did more than anyone to mislead British people should be rewarded with the Foreign Office

— Raymond Snoddy (@RaymondSnoddy)July 13, 2016

Obama is not the only US figure he has offended. He once compared presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to "a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital" and likened the former secretary of state to Lady Macbeth.

Last year, a planned visit by Johnson to the occupied Palestinian territories was "severely curtailed by his hosts" after he made a string of extremely pro-Israel remarks. In 2008, when China passed the flag to the UK in the Olympic ceremony, Johnson offended Beijing: "I say this respectfully to our Chinese hosts, who have excelled magnificently at ping-pong," Johnson said. "Ping-pong was invented on the dining tables of England in the 19th century and it was called Wiff-waff."

Actually, Boris To FCO not so mad. Brexit dept will do heavy lifting, no 10 takes over foreign policy in a crisis. What's left is showbiz

— Gaby Hinsliff (@gabyhinsliff)July 13, 2016

He also likened the EU to Hitler, said "voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts," and has frequently expressed his burning desire to reintroduce the red squirrel to the British ecosystem.

So far, May has also replaced George Osborne as chancellor of the exchequer — equivalent to a Treasury minister — with Philip Hammond, who famously compared gay marriage to incest. Euroskeptic conservative lawmaker David Davis has been named minister in charge of EU exit. Another pro-Brexiter, Liam Fox, will be in charge of international trade. Former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd will be the new home secretary.