Boris and the Johnsons
Sir: Toby Young speaks of ‘the (Johnson) family’s roots as Turkish immigrants’ (‘Plan B’, 1 October). Though I’m always amused by what Toby writes, I have to point out that he is not always accurate. These are the facts. My paternal grandfather, Ali Kemal, was married to my grandmother, Winifred Blum. Winifred’s mother Margaret was English (née Johnson), while her father was Swiss. While Ali Kemal’s political and other commitments required him to remain behind in Constantinople, Winifred — already several months pregnant — came to England to visit her mother, and to have the baby in more tranquil surroundings. My father was born in Bournemouth on 4 September 1909. He was brought up in England by his grandmother, Margaret, since Winifred died of puerperal fever a few days after giving birth. He held a British passport (and no other) all his life. Ali Kemal stayed in Turkey. Since Turkey was on the other side during the Great War, Ali Kemal had little contact with his English family. He was assassinated in Turkey in 1922.
This story was very well documented in a BBC Who Do You Think You Are? programme about Boris. In addition to the Turkish dimension, the film ‘discovered’ the family’s Franco-German antecedents on my mother’s side and pointed out that Boris was a descendant of George II. If all this makes us Turkish immigrants, then I’m a Dutchman!
Sir: My prediction in the Independent on Sunday in 2002 that Boris Johnson might well one day make it to No. 10 — a full year before Toby Young made his wager on the subject — caused a bit of a stir. ‘Preposterous’ was a typical reaction, but few say that now. My biography, Just Boris, published this week, appears to have been met with hostility amongst those who feel that the Mayor of London should be spared the critical scrutiny applied to other senior politicians.