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5 things you may not know about Boris Johnson, the UK’s often disheveled, occasionally inappropriate new PM

Boris Johnson took part in a tug of war with Armed Forces personnel at the launch of London Poppy Day during his tenure as Mayor of London.
Boris Johnson took part in a tug of war with Armed Forces personnel at the launch of London Poppy Day during his tenure as Mayor of London. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP, File)

LONDON (AP) — Here are five things you may not know about Boris Johnson, who is set to become Britain’s next prime minister:

HE HASN’T ALWAYS BEEN SUCH A CONFIDENT CHARACTER: While Johnson is known for his booming voice, boisterous behavior and creative use of language (including Latin and Greek), he was much more subdued as a child. In fact, until the age of eight, Johnson was severely deaf because of glue ear, a condition where the ear canal fills with fluid that can cause temporary hearing loss. Although he now jokes that he exaggerated his condition as a youngster to avoid boring conversations, he did have to wear a grommet, a small tube surgically implanted in the eardrum to drain liquid.

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HE’S NOT LIKELY TO TEACH JOURNALISTIC ETHICS WHEN HE LEAVES 10 DOWNING STREET: Boris Johnson started his career as a reporter, not a politician, earning more from his writing than from his public service positions. He quickly made a name for himself and quickly got into trouble — being fired from The Times of London for making up a quote to embellish a story. The ethical breakdown slowed his career rise, but he was able to get it back on track and earned a national profile as a caustic, amusing anti-Europe crusading journalist. He made a few enemies along the way, once offending the entire populace of a major city (that would be Liverpool) with his seemingly off-the-cuff comments. He had to apologize in 2004, while serving as both Conservative Party legislator and a journalist, for accusing Liverpudlians of wallowing in ‘‘victim status’’ after the Hillsborough stadium disaster that claimed 96 lives in 1989.

HE HAS A HISTORY OF SPORTING ACCIDENTS: Johnson is a firm advocate of the health benefits of exercise and is often seen jogging and biking around London. But his true passion is rugby, that very English contact sport where players try to score points by carrying an oval ball over the opponents’ goal line. Yet Johnson is known for letting his competitive spirit get the better of him. During his stint as foreign secretary, Johnson inadvertently knocked a 10-year-old boy to the floor in a rugby match during a diplomatic trip to Japan. That was not the first time he got a little carried away on a sports field. Johnson instantly became a public favorite in 2006 during a re-creation of the 1966 soccer game when England won its only FIFA World Cup title by beating Germany. When it turned out that the Germans weren’t following the script and started to win, Boris jumped to the rescue, literally, by launching himself at German professional footballer Maurizio Gaudino. Sadly for England, soccer is a no-contact sport, so Johnson’s moves failed to save the day.

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London Mayor Boris Johnson played rugby with Japanese elementary school children in Tokyo during a promotional event for the 2019 Rugby World Cup which will be held in Japan.
London Mayor Boris Johnson played rugby with Japanese elementary school children in Tokyo during a promotional event for the 2019 Rugby World Cup which will be held in Japan. (AFP/Getty Images)

HIS HAIR IS NOT AT ALL LIKE DONALD TRUMP’S: It’s true that the U.S. president and Britain’s next prime minister both have very prominent blonde hair that has become part of their public personas, but there the similarity ends. President Donald Trump’s hair is very carefully styled before he appears in public, with each strand put in its proper place to give him the look that he wants. Boris Johnson is precisely the opposite. From the start of his political career, and in the journalistic scramble that preceded it, Johnson has sported what could be called the ‘‘slept-on’’ look, declining to comb or style his locks in any way so that it has a natural, spontaneous and even unpredictable quality. It’s not a $300 Hollywood concoction by a celebrity stylist, it’s an accident-in-progress. The forward plunge of his hair takes something from the ‘‘moptop’’ look of the early Beatles, but the Beatles’ locks were always washed and carefully combed, while Johnson seems a stranger to such conventions.

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Conservative MP and leadership contender Boris Johnson tasted an ice cream as he campaigned in Barry Island.
Conservative MP and leadership contender Boris Johnson tasted an ice cream as he campaigned in Barry Island.(AFP/Getty Images)

HE HAS A VERY UNUSUAL WAY OF RELAXING: After a long day on the political stage, you will not find Johnson unwinding in front of the latest reality TV show. Instead, he chooses to make models of buses to relax. He rustles up his creations using old wine boxes, choosing to paint smiling passengers instead of grumpy Londoners. His passion for miniature vehicles is likely linked to nostalgia for his ‘‘Boris bus’’ scheme, when, as London Mayor, he introduced double-decker hybrid diesel-electric Routemaster buses that were scrapped by his successor.

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