At that point life could have turned out very differently for Johnson and his 16-year-old sister, Linda. Social services wanted to separate the pair, putting them in different care institutions. But, as Johnson writes in 2013 memoir This Boy, Linda argued that she was capable of looking after them both, and their social worker – the Dickensian-named Mr Pepper – reluctantly agreed. They were given a council flat, Mr Pepper visited weekly, and they stayed together. “I’m convinced that if we had been split up it would have had a very detrimental effect,” says Johnson.
Johnson is a Labour MP, a former home secretary, health secretary and – after resigning as shadow chancellor in 2011 – the author of well-received political memoirs. Perhaps his career path would have been entirely different had it not been for Mr Pepper – “a kind of hero” to Johnson and his sister.