In Pictures: Boris Johnson’s two years as PM marked by unprecedented challenges

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Colchester Hospital in Essex in May 2021 (PA) (PA Wire)
8:08am, Fri 23 Jul 2021
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When Boris Johnson accepted the Queen’s invitation to form a government in 2019, it was on the basis that the UK needed to “get Brexit done” with political trench warfare over the manner of departure from the EU dominating his predecessor Theresa May’s time at No 10.

The incoming premier duly won a resounding Christmas election on a clear promise to sever ties with the bloc in line with the 2016 referendum result but, as he celebrated victory, he cannot have imagined how his life both political and personal would take a dramatic turn as 2020 dawned.

Mr Johnson was elected leader of the Conservative party on July 23 2019 (PA) (PA Archive)

Three months later he would be imposing the most draconian restrictions in history on the UK in a bid to get to grips with the coronavirus crisis, although in the eyes of some of his critics his action was too slow and not strict enough.

His admission to hospital and then intensive care in what he later admitted was a close-run brush with death was swiftly followed by the birth of his son Wilfred.

He would, in 2021, tie the knot in Westminster Cathedral with Wilfred’s mother Carrie Symonds after presiding over a huge vaccine drive he saw as key to a return to normality for Britons.

Dominic Cummings (right) applauding as the newly appointed Prime Minister shakes hands with then-cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill on his arrival at 10 Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Sharing a joke with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after meeting US president Donald Trump during the annual Nato heads of government summit in Watford, Hertfordshire in December 2019 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)

Brexit had been a divisive issue for the Conservative Party and divisions remained deep even after the 2016 referendum but the Prime Minister left no doubt to voters that he was committed to his “oven-ready” deal to leave as he prepared for the verdict during the 2019 general election campaign.

Mr Johnson holds a freshly-baked pie in Derby as he pushed his ‘oven-ready Brexit plan’ to the voters in late 2019 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)
Love Actually was another campaign theme (Conservative Party/PA) (PA Media)
He rammed home the message with another election call to the JCB plant (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)

With some of the opposition parties supporting Remain, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour itself experiencing divisions on the issue, Mr Johnson presented a stark and clear message to the voters that the UK would exit the bloc if he was elected.

With partner Carrie Symonds and dog Dilyn at the count for his Uxbridge & Ruislip South constituency (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)
Victory achieved, Mr Johnson gives his speech in front of a fellow Uxbridge & Ruislip South candidate who was dressed as children’s TV character Elmo (PA) (PA Archive)

With victory in the bag and Mr Corbyn defeated, Mr Johnson might have been forgiven for expecting a political honeymoon but slowly emerging news of a novel form of virus in China would change his own life dramatically and also that of the nation.

Just three months after his election, Mr Johnson would be laying down prohibitions unprecedented in living memory for any Briton as the virus now known as Covid-19 spread around the world.

Addressing British soldiers after serving Christmas lunch to British troops stationed in Estonia during a one-day visit to the Baltic country at the end of 2019, but the Prime Minister was about to face his biggest battle (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)
Mr Johnson chairing the morning Covid-19 meeting in 10 Downing Street from a video link to his flat above No 11, after self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms but before his health took a dramatic turn for the worse (Andrew Parsons/Crowm Copyright/PA) (PA Media)

On a personal level, with his partner Ms Symonds pregnant, Mr Johnson tested positive himself, was admitted to hospital and then intensive care as his health deteriorated.

The round-the-clock care worked although others in the Cabinet had to take over the daily business of government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets a worker with an elbow bump during a visit to a construction site in Cheshire (Phil Noble/PA) (PA Archive)

The daily Downing Street conferences became a feature of UK life with the Prime Minister, when he led the briefing, often flanked by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Constant changes were announced with tier systems and then a return to full lockdown announced as the virus continued unabated.

However, the fast-moving development of vaccines meant that the Government at last had a means of confronting the virus even if it not a winning one yet.

The soon-to-be familiar sight of the Prime Minister leading the Downing Street press conference flanked by chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty (left) and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (TV Pool/PA) (PA Archive)
Mr Johnson receives his second jab of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from James Black, at the Francis Crick Institute in London (Matt Dunham/PA) (PA Wire)

With a road map setting out what the Prime Minister hoped would be a return to “normality”, postponed elections took place with Mr Johnson again an enthusiastic campaigner while the upcoming G7 summit would give Mr Johnson a chance for in-person meetings with world leaders with much diplomacy having taken place remotely as the pandemic surged.

While he had been denied a political honeymoon, he had also been able to seal his union with his third wife, Carrie, the mother of Wilfred.

Boris Johnson wed for the third time in 2021, with his union with Carrie Symonds sealed in Westminster Cathedral on May 29 (Rebecca Fulton/PA) (PA Media)
The Prime Minister returned to the campaign trail in Llandudno ahead of Senedd elections in May (Phil Noble/PA) (PA Wire)
Speaking to members of staff during a visit to a coronavirus vaccination centre in Batley, West Yorkshire (Jon Super/PA) (PA Wire)

By June, Mr Johnson was able to hold a face-to-face meeting with the Queen who herself had been in self-isolation in the so-called HMS Bubble, made up of a small group of courtiers.

There was another return to normality when Mr Johnson hosted world leaders in Cornwall that month for the G7 summit.

Fifteen months after lockdown was first declared, it was finally time for the Prime Minister and Queen to hold an in-person meeting again (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Social distancing was in evidence as the PM played host to the G7 gathering in Cornwall (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)

As his anniversary as Tory leader approached, the fallout from his explosive split with former chief aide Dominic Cummings continued to have an impact.

In an explosive interview with the BBC Mr Cummings – who left No 10 in the autumn after a power struggle – accused Mr Johnson of not having a plan and alleged that he “doesn’t know how to be Prime Minister”.

With former chief aide Dominic Cummings outside Downing Street before their working relationship became strained (PA) (PA Wire)
Another period of self-isolation soon beckoned for Boris Johnson as he approached two years in power (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

Meanwhile, the celebrations to mark his two-year anniversary as PM were likely to be muted this weekend after Mr Johnson was alerted to self-isolate after being a close contact of the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who himself came down with Covid-19 a week earlier.

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