As Stan­ley John­son gets ready to en­ter the jun­gle for the lat­est se­ries of I’m A Celebrity... we look at the ad­ven­ture-seek­ing fa­ther of the For­eign Sec­re­tary who was once a trainee spy

Daily Express - - LETTERS - By Do­minic Ut­ton

T Bris­bane air­port this week a ruddy-cheeked man with a shock of blond hair and the name John­son on his pass­port made his way to a wait­ing limou­sine, the very im­age of the af­fa­ble if slightly buf­foon­ish English­man abroad. You might be for­given for as­sum­ing that this per­son was our For­eign Sec­re­tary on of­fi­cial busi­ness… but think again.

This John­son is Stan­ley, Boris’s fa­ther. And he’s in Aus­tralia to join the Celebrity Jun­gle where he will spend the next few weeks eat­ing kan­ga­roo tes­ti­cles and be­ing buried un­der cock­roaches with the likes of Satur­days’ singer Vanessa White, boxer Amir Khan and Corona­tion Street star Jen­nie McAlpine. And he is al­ready among the book­ies’ favourites to win.

Those un­fa­mil­iar with the head of the John­son clan – as well as Boris, 53, he is fa­ther to five other chil­dren, in­clud­ing jour­nal­ist Rachel, 52, and uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter Jo, 45 – are in for some­thing of an eye-opener. At 77 Stan­ley not only looks strik­ingly sim­i­lar to his el­dest son but has lived a life ev­ery bit as colour­ful and out­spo­ken as any­thing Boris has man­aged.

Brought up in rel­a­tively hum­ble cir­cum­stances on a sheep farm in Ex­moor he has en­joyed ca­reers as a trainee spy (he quit af­ter six months, ad­mit­ting he was wor­ried his “in­com­pe­tence might have cost peo­ple their lives”), at the World Bank, as Con­ser­va­tive MEP for Wight and Hamp­shire East and lat­terly as a pas­sion­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist trav­el­ling the world to re­search the plight of orang­utans, tigers, ele­phants, whales and tur­tles.

He has also writ­ten 25 books, scaled Kil­i­man­jaro twice and even rode a mo­tor­bike from Ox­ford to Afghanistan as part of ad­ven­turer Tim Sev­erin’s Marco Polo Ex­pe­di­tion.

How­ever it is as Boris’s fa­ther that he is still best known, some­times even be­ing mis­taken for the For­eign Sec­re­tary him­self. “Bloody hell,” Boris is said to have ex­ploded at a party af­ter his fa­ther – also a guest – kept get­ting con­fused for him. “What is it with every­one? I’m 20 years younger than my fa­ther for God’s sake – can’t you tell?”

But the par­al­lels don’t end there. And those who know them say that far from be­ing an im­i­ta­tion of Boris it is Stan­ley who has set the stan­dard which his son is now fol­low­ing.

A source close to the John­sons said: “Stan­ley has that chronic, bot­tom­less need for at­ten­tion so him go­ing on I’m A Celebrity makes per­fect sense. He’ll do all sorts of silly things and will be ab­so­lutely game for a laugh or a silly photo op.

“But un­der­neath it all is an iron am­bi­tion. Boris got his whole shtick from him, do­ing the en­dear­ing, bum­bling thing. Stan­ley made Boris the pub­lic per­sona he is.”

THERE have been some re­mark­ably Boris-like episodes in Stan­ley’s life. He claims to have got through no less than eight Kin­dle e-read­ers due to for­get­ting where he left them and he re­cently ad­mit­ted to buy­ing six leather jack­ets on a whim from a man at a mo­tor­way ser­vice sta­tion, only to dis­cover later that they were fake.

“I was driv­ing down to Som­er­set on the M4 and pulled into a ser­vice sta­tion and a man saw me and asked if I’d like to buy a leather jacket,” he said. “I not only bought one I bought six. I handed over HAPPY CAMPER: In I’m A Celebrity mode and on Mount Kil­i­man­jaro in 2011, above £750 for the jack­ets and I’m not even sure they were leather. He must have been stand­ing there wait­ing for some­one like me.”

The air of slightly sur­real buf­foon­ery ex­tends to his pro­fes­sional life. Af­ter Stan­ley lost out stand­ing as a Con­ser­va­tive MP for Teign­bridge in 2005 (de­feated by Lib­eral Demo­crat Richard Younger-Ross) it emerged that he had not only mis­spelled the con­stituency’s name on his cam­paign leaflets but also de­clared on them: “The Con­ser­va­tives be­lieve in more talk and less ac­tion.”

His 2014 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is packed with tales that fur­ther this im­age of ec­cen­tric chaos. There is the time he at­tempts to pol­lard a tree with a chain­saw: “I de­cided to at­tack a large, solid branch some 20ft off the ground. Un­for­tu­nately it hap­pened to be the one I was sit­ting on.”

There’s the episode in which help­ing him­self to a mid­night snack at a friend’s house ends with the whole fridge de­stroyed. And there is the in­ci­dent in which he for­gets the names of his own chil­dren when be­ing in­ter­viewed on live TV.

But as with Boris many close to Stan­ley take the bum­bling act with a size­able pinch of salt. Ac­cord­ing to Oliver Daw­nay, the 21-year-old son of Rachel John­son and a UT THERE is one more par­al­lel be­tween fa­ther and son that is per­haps not so pro­fes­sion­ally im­pres­sive – or so amus­ing. Boris’s fond­ness for the fairer sex is well-doc­u­mented. He has been mar­ried twice and in 2013 it was re­vealed he had fa­thered a daugh­ter through an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair. His wife Ma­rina Wheeler threw him out of the fam­ily home for a while – just as she did when he had an af­fair nine years ear­lier with jour­nal­ist Petronella Wy­att.

It would seem that it is an­other trait he has in­her­ited from his fa­ther. Stan­ley has also mar­ried twice, firstly to artist Char­lotte John­son Wahl with whom he had four chil­dren: Boris, Rachel, Jo and Leo. She was later ad­mit­ted to the Maud­s­ley psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal.

Sub­se­quently af­ter their di­vorce Stan­ley went on to marry Jennifer Kidd, who is a decade younger than him and with whom he had two more chil­dren: Ju­lia and Max­i­m­il­ian.

And ac­cord­ing to one friend of the fam­ily Stan­ley hasn’t com­pletely lost his eye for the ladies, say­ing: “Al­though he is hap­pily mar­ried I think Stan­ley will en­joy any one-on-ones with women on I’m A Celebrity. He cer­tainly en­joys fe­male com­pany. I get the feel­ing that all of the women in the lives of both fa­ther and son are pretty long-suf­fer­ing.”

As for Stan­ley him­self, his own take on mar­riage seems to sum up both the charm and drive that char­ac­terises the John­sons.

“I’m ter­ri­bly happy with Jenny,” he says. “But then you’re a long time dead.”

JOHN­SON AND JOHN­SON: Stan­ley’s an ec­cen­tric pres­ence in son Boris’s life

Pic­tures: ITV, REX

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