World Politics

Is Boris Johnson really Britain's answer to Donald Trump? It's not that simple

Key Points
  • The two have formed closer bonds.
  • Trump endorsed Johnson in his leadership contest, saying he would do a "great job" as prime minister.
Boris Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump meet at the UN headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017
Brendan Smialowski  | AFP | Getty Images

This political leader has an instantly recognizable mop of blond hair, doesn't shy away from the limelight, has been embroiled in several scandals and is known for his off-the-cuff, unfiltered and often highly charged comments.

President Donald Trump? No, we're talking about the U.K.'s next prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Trump himself has suggested that Johnson was a kindred spirit. The president offered praise Tuesday after Johnson's victory in his leadership race, saying "he's tough and he's smart."

"They call him 'Britain Trump,' and people are saying that's a good thing. They like me over there. That's what they wanted. That's what they need," Trump told an audience in Washington.

The two leaders have recently formed closer bonds. Trump endorsed Johnson in his leadership contest, saying he would do a "great job" as prime minister. But just how similar are Trump and Johnson? Here's a variety of topics that they might agree on or downright clash over, judging from their past comments and behavior:


Immigration is a hot topic in both countries, but Trump and Johnson's attitude to immigration is different. Trump has sought to toughen U.S. immigration laws and has made harsh comments about immigrants, for example, saying on his campaign trail that Mexicans were "bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."

Johnson used immigration, and the fear of more immigration from potential future European Union member Turkey, as a reason to avoid remaining in the EU before the 2016 referendum. But he has been much more nuanced than Trump on the subject and has previously shown enthusiasm about an amnesty on illegal immigrants. Like Trump, Johnson has been accused of racism after he wrote an article about a prime ministerial trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 in which he used offensive terms.

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Both men were born in New York and both have colorful family histories, including tales of emigration and adventure — Trump traces his family history to Germany and Britain — his mother came from the Isle of Lewis (off the west coast of Scotland). Johnson's family has links to British and European aristocracy and he is a distant relative of King George II. He should tell that to Trump, who appeared bowled over by his recent state visit to the U.K. and was particularly impressed by the queen.


One area that Trump and Johnson have openly clashed is on Muslims. Johnson, whose great-grandfather was a Turkish Muslim, sorely criticized Trump's 2015 call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., saying it showed "stupefying ignorance." Then when Trump said in 2015 that some parts of London had become so radicalized that police fear for their lives, Johnson — who is known for quick-witted (if perhaps eccentric) responses — retorted that "the only reason I wouldn't visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump."

Nonetheless, Johnson himself has made strident comments about Muslim women, likening those wearing burkas to letterboxes. He also refused to apologize after the remarks, just as Trump has refused after telling four newly elected women of color to "go home" to their countries.

Boris Johnson just won the race for United Kingdom's prime minister


Something that unites 73-year-old president and the 55-year-old prime minister-designate is women, no matter how much trouble that has resulted. Both Trump and Johnson have been embroiled in scandals about their private lives and numerous allegations of extra-marital relations. Furthermore, Trump has been accused of varying degrees of inappropriate behavior including sexual harassment and rape (including by his ex-wife Ivana) but no allegations have led to charges.

Much attention has been put on Johnson's new relationship with Carrie Symonds who is 24 years his junior. Media attention focused on a recent row between the couple that was recorded by neighbors; Symonds was reportedly heard shouting at Johnson to "get off me." Whether Symonds will move into 10 Downing Street with Johnson is the subject of much British media speculation.


Johnson and Trump have had careers outside politics, allowing them to claim certain anti-establishment credentials (although Johnson has been involved in politics for two decades and his family is certainly part of the "establishment"). Both men have been accused of unscrupulous practices in their former careers. Johnson was a journalist before entering politics but got into hot water for fabricating a quote (that he attributed to his own godfather, historian Colin Lucas). He then worked in Brussels where he was infamous for his euroskeptic reporting; critics also accused him of fake news (before it was "a thing") and peddling anti-EU myths.