Rachel Johnson

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Rachel Johnson
Born Rachel Sabiha Johnson
(1965-09-03) 3 September 1965 (age 56)
Westminster, London, England
Nationality British
Alma mater
Occupation Author, presenter
Political party Change UK (2019–present)
Liberal Democrats (2017–2019)
Conservative (2008–2011)
Spouse(s) Ivo Dawnay (m. 1992)
Children 3

Rachel Sabiha Johnson (born 3 September 1965) is a British editor, journalist, television presenter, and author based in London. Johnson has appeared frequently on political discussion panels, including Question Time and The Pledge.[1] In January 2018, she participated in the twenty-first series of Celebrity Big Brother[2] and was evicted second. She was the lead candidate for Change UK for the South West England constituency in the 2019 European Parliament election.

Early life and education

Johnson is the daughter of former Conservative MEP Stanley Johnson and artist Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett). She is the younger sister of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip[3][4]; and the elder sister of Jo Johnson, Conservative MP for Orpington.[5]

On her father's side, Johnson is a great-granddaughter of Ali Kemal, a liberal Circassian-Turkish journalist and the interior minister in the government of Damat Ferid Pasha, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, who was murdered during the Turkish War of Independence in 1922. During the First World War, her grandfather and great-aunt were recognised as British subjects and took their grandmother's maiden name of Johnson.[6] On her mother's side she is a granddaughter of Sir James Fawcett, a prominent barrister and president of the European Commission of Human Rights.

Johnson's middle name, Sabiha, means "morning" in Arabic and is often used as a given name in Turkey. It was the name of the second wife of her great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, who was a daughter of Zeki Pasha.[7] Stanley Johnson befriended his paternal half-uncle Zeki Kuneralp, Sabiha's son, when Kuneralp was Turkish ambassador to the Court of St James's in the 1960s.

She was educated at Winsford First School on Exmoor, Primrose Hill Primary in Camden, north London, the European School of Brussels, the independent Ashdown House School in East Sussex, Bryanston School in Dorset and St Paul's Girls' School.[8] In 1984 she went to New College, Oxford, to read Classics (Literae Humaniores);[9] there she edited the student paper Isis[10] and graduated with a 2:1.[11]

Journalism career

In 1989 she joined the staff of the Financial Times, becoming the first female graduate trainee at the paper, where she wrote about the economy. She spent a year on secondment to the Foreign Office Policy Planning Staff in 1992–93. She moved to the BBC in 1994, but left to move to Washington D.C. as a columnist and freelancer in 1997. She has written weekly columns for The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard and other regular columns for Easy Living and She magazines, as well as the Financial Times. She is a contributing editor of The Spectator and until 2009 was a weekly columnist on The Sunday Times and the Evening Standard, among other publications. She now writes a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday, and a column for The Big Issue.[12][13]

In April 2014 she was a judge in the BBC Woman's Hour power list 2014.[14] She sits on the boards of Bright Blue, the modernising Tory think-tank, and Intelligence Squared, the international debate forum. In March 2014 she appeared in Famous, Rich and Hungry on BBC1. She is a panellist on Sky News' weekly debate show, The Pledge.

The Lady

In September 2009, Johnson became the ninth editor of The Lady, a weekly magazine established in 1885. Her first few months were the subject of a Channel 4 documentary entitled The Lady and the Revamp; this was nominated for a Grierson Award. After taking up the post she rebranded the magazine, introducing well-known contributors (including Justin Webb and Sir Tim Rice) and regular contributors such as Mary Killen and Alexander Chancellor, as well as overseeing a redesign by creative director Stefano Arata, to better compete with the mainstream women's magazines.[15] She was replaced as editor by Matt Warren in January 2012. In March 2013 she presented an hour-long documentary for BBC Four entitled How to Be a Lady: An Elegant History.[16]

Literary career

As a novelist, her works include Notting Hell (Penguin 2006), a novel about couples living in the Notting Hill area of London, Shire Hell (a follow up to Notting Hell), and The Mummy Diaries (Penguin 2004), a diary of her year living in London and Exmoor. She also commissioned and edited The Oxford Myth (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988) while still an undergraduate at Oxford. She is also the author of A Diary of The Lady, My First Year as Editor (Penguin, 2010) and A Diary of The Lady, My first Year and a Half (2011). A new novel, Winter Games, was published in 2012. Her final novel in the Notting Hell trilogy, Fresh Hell, was published in 2015.[17][18][19] She was a judge of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013.[20]

Johnson's Shire Hell won the 2008 Bad Sex in Fiction Prize, which she described as being an "absolute honour".[21]

Her short story "Severely Gifted" appeared in The Sunday Times on 21 December 2008.[22]

Political career

Johnson was a member of the Conservative Party from 2008 to 2011, but later joined the Liberal Democrats in the run up to the 2017 general election because of the Conservative support for Brexit.[23] Johnson then considered becoming a Lib Dem candidate in a seat in the West Country, but was barred under the Party's rules, having been a member for less than a year.[23][24] Following the Grenfell Tower fire, Johnson expressed the view that Theresa May was also a victim of the fire "because she can do nothing right".[25] In April 2019, she joined the new anti-Brexit party Change UK and was the lead candidate on the party list in South West England at the 2019 European Parliament election.[26] She later lamented this decision, describing herself as the "rat that jumped onto a sinking ship" and criticised the party leadership's focus group attitude to decision making structure and added that Change UK was a "terrible" name.[27]

As of 24 July 2019 she remains listed on the board of directors of Bright Blue, even though she left the Tories in 2011.[28]

Personal life

Johnson is married to Ivo Dawnay, a descendant of William Dawnay, 7th Viscount Downe,[29] and of the earls of Glasgow. Dawnay is a director and consultant with the National Trust. Johnson lives in London and Exmoor, Somerset, with their three children.[30]


  1. "Here's the lowdown on CBB 2018 star and Boris's sister Rachel Johnson". The Sun. 8 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Rachel Johnson to take part in Celeb Big Brother". BBC News. 24 December 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2017. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Family of influence behind Boris Johnson". The Daily Telegraph. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP". The Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 24 July 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Family of influence behind Boris Johnson". The Daily Telegraph. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Spectator article by Norman Stone". Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Andrew Gimson, Boris: The Adventures of Boris Johnson (2012), p. 51
  8. Johnson, Rachel. (6 May 2011). "Rachel Johnson: Boarding school made me". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  9. "Rachel Johnson", Soho Literary Festival". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  10. Noble, Victoria. (20 May 2010). "Interview: Rachel Johnson". The Oxford Student. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  11. Johnson, Rachel. (11 May 2013). "Rachel Johnson: Finally, The Firm has given Camilla the top job she deserves (and I don't care what the bigots say – even if they do scrawl it in green ink)". MailOnline. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  12. "Rachel Johnson". MailOnline. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  13. "Rachel Johnson". The Big Issue. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  14. "Woman's Hour Power List 2014 – the panel". BBC Radio 4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Johnson, Angella (19 July 2009). "Now you can call me The Lady ship: Boris Johnson's sister is the new editor of The Lady magazine". Daily Mail. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Rachel Johnson to present How To Be A Lady – An Elegant History on BBC Four". (1 February 2013). BBC. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  17. Groskop, Viv. (10 October 2010). "A Diary of the Lady: My First Year As Editor by Rachel Johnson". The Observer. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  18. Johnson, Rachel. (2011). A Diary of The Lady, My first Year and a Half. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780718192327
  19. Day, Elizabeth. (24 March 2013). "Winter Games by Rachel Johnson". The Observer. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  20. "Rachel Johnson". Women's Prize for Fiction. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  21. Flood, Alison (25 November 2008). "Rachel Johnson 'honoured' to win Bad Sex award". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Short story: Severely Gifted". Archived from the original on 16 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. 23.0 23.1 Martinson, Jane (27 April 2017). "Rachel Johnson joins Lib Dems in protest against Tory backing for Brexit". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Boris Johnson's sister joins Lib Dems to try and stop Brexit". The Independent. 27 April 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. McFarlane, Jonathan (18 June 2017). "Boris Johnson's sister says PM is a "victim" of the Grenfell Tower fire". Daily Record. Retrieved 18 June 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Rachel Johnson and Gavin Esler to stand for Change UK". 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>/
  27. Bartlett, Nicola (20 May 2019). "Change UK might not exist by the next general election admits party leader". Daily Mirror.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Who are Bright Blue? Rachel Johnson: Non-executive director" Bright Blue website
  29. Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 2000, Kelly's Directories, pg 506
  30. "'Marrying into the Johnsons is like adopting a litter of very noisy puppies who jump up a lot". London Evening Standard. 9 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links