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As divisive as he is beguiling, as misunderstood as he is scrutinised, Boris Johnson is a singular figure.
Many of us think we know his story well. His ruthless ambition was evident from his insistence, as a three-year-old, that he would one day be 'world king'. Eton and Oxford prepared him well for a frantic career straddling the dog-eat-dog worlds of journalism and politics. His transformation from bumbling stooge on Have I Got New for You to a triumphant Mayor of London was overshadowed only by his colourful personal life, brimming with affairs, scandals and transgressions. His ascent to Number 10 in the wake of the acrimonious, era-defining Brexit referendum would prove to be only the first act in an epic drama that saw him play both hero and villain - from proroguing parliament to his controversial leadership of the Covid-19 Crisis, all against the backdrop of divorce, marriage, the birth of his sixth child, revolts among Tory MPs and the countdown to Brexit.
Yet despite his celebrity, decades of media scrutiny, the endless vitriol of his critics and the enduring adoration of his supporters, there is so much we've never understood about Boris - until now. Previous biographies have either dismissed him as a lazy, deceitful opportunist or been transfixed by his charm, wit and drive. Both approaches fall short, and so many questions about Boris remain unanswered.
What seismic events of his childhood have evaded scrutiny? How has he so consistently defied the odds, proved his critics wrong, and got away with increasingly reckless gambles? What were his real achievements and failures as Mayor of London, what was really going on during his time as Foreign Secretary, and why did he write two articles for the Telegraph, one in favour of Leave and the other for Remain? How have the women in his life exerted more influence than any of us realise, and why is his story ultimately one overshadowed by family secrets?
Based on a wealth of new interviews and research, this is the deepest, most rounded and most comprehensive portrait to date of the man, the mind, the politics, the affairs, the family - of a loner, a lover, a leader.
Revelatory, unsettling and compulsively readable, it is the most timely and indispensable book yet from Britain's leading investigative biographer.
Bower comes up with some explanations why Johnson does not like confrontations
Tom Bower has written a comprehensive biography of our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
This book features most of Johnson’s life, up to the end of the summer last year, and finishes at a time before the A Level results were published.
In the early parts of the book, Bower describes how Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, used to hit his ex-wife Charlotte. The abuse was so hard, on one occasion, that he broke her nose.
Boris saw the abuse and Bower writes, “The lesson he did draw from witnessing the violence was to avoid confrontation.” This may give an insight into why he has found it so difficult to sack cabinet members when they have been under-fire.
Stanley and Charlotte’s marriage was to end in divorce in 1978.
The book describes the time Boris spent at Eton and Oxford. He was a member of the infamous Bullingdon Club at Oxford, as was George Osborne and David Cameron.
Bower believes Johnson enjoyed the club as it was “about an anarchic passion to break rules, undoubtedly inherited from his father.”
There is also analysis of the Prime Minister’s time as the Mayor of London. The book talks to some benefactors who helped Boris win the mayoralty, but did not receive tickets to the Olympics. One of them tells Bower, “It’s all about Boris. He never thinks about repaying debts or hospitality, or even appreciating help and generosity.”
The book also features Johnson’s many extra-marital affairs.
There is also reflection of Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament at the time Brexit was being discussed. Bower says of Johnson of this time, “throughout his life, excuses for his misconduct had been thin and it was no different in the constitutional crisis.”
Johnson was to win an 80 seat majority in the December 2019 General Election. Since then, Covid has been the biggest issue of his time as Prime Minister.
It was surprising to read that Bower appears to defend Dominic Cummings (Johnson ex chief adviser) journey to Durham at the time of the first lockdown.
The end of the book is more of an analysis of the government’s dealings with Covid, than a look at the life of Johnson.
Bower ends by calling Johnson “a loner and a lover” adding we “wait to see whether he is a leader.”