The flaws of Boris Johnson, Britain’s jokey PM, have been highlighted through the Brexit saga, and he has many haters. Fine material you might think for Tom Bower, the UK’s pre-eminent investigative muckraker, notorious for coruscating biographies of Richard Branson, Robert Maxwell and Jeremy Corbyn.
But funnily enough he hasn’t made that much of a splash with Boris Johnson The Gambler published in the midst of the UK’s Covid epidemic at the end of last year.
It’s not that Bower shuns the negative. He scrupulously documents the driving ambition, rhetorical evasion, monumental self-centeredness, serial infidelity and inability to buy a round.
But these traits are not entirely absent from many leading politicians. And Johnson managed to emerge through the pages as a ferociously intelligent and curiously likeable character, who pulls off these stunts more colourfully and successfully than most.
Indeed, Boris’s enemies tend to suffer in the comparison. Former PM, Theresa May is portrayed as an over-promoted machiavel; while the head of the Foreign Office, Simon Macdonald, comes across as unctuous and incompetent. The next-door neighbours who snitched to the press on Boris’s domestic rows appear as uptight ideologues, determined to expose “the ugly edifice of capitalist heteropatriachy’”.