My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Journalist Simon Heffer once wrote “Mr. (Boris) Johnson is not a politician. He is an act. For some of us the joke has worn not thin, but out. Yet many less cynical than I am find it appealing. It conceals two things: a blinding lack of attention to detail and ruthless ambition. He is pushy, he is thoughtless, he is indiscreet about his private life; none of this matters much to anyone these days, which is why he has gone so far in spite of them, and tomorrow may go further still.” Heffer wrote that in 2008 when Johnson beat ken Livingstone to be the mayor of London, however his words have struck a chord with me while I was reading Sonia Purnell’s ‘Just Boris – a Tale of Blond Ambition,’ an unauthorised biography of Johnson with a variety of sources on and it seems off the record.
Johnson, the man who voted and campaigned for Brexit, the man who pulled out of the race to succeed David Cameron as the Tory leader and Prime Minister, and widely blamed for not having a plan post referendum coupled with half-baked lies during the campaign has Heffer’s analysis spot on. Johnson supported Brexit not for the national interest but more out of blind ambition. My perspective was Johnson supported Brexit, assuming remain would win by a small margin, yet Johnson would be in a strong position to succeed Cameron as PM when he would stand aside due to his euro-sceptic credentials which he would have amassed during the Brexit campaign. Yet, as we know that was not the case as the country voted to leave the European Union, and somewhat put Johnson’s blind ambition slightly on hold.
Written before the 2012 Mayoral election, Purnell’s biography managed to get into the psyche of Boris, even though she did not speak to the man or his family at all. The New Statesman called it a ’Thorough study…sharply narrated and diligently researched.’ Standpoint called it ‘Meticulous and quietly devastating,’ while Camila Long of the Sunday Times said the book was “Filled with gems … will make uncomfortable reading for Boris.”
Purnell uses the book as a forensic examination of Boris with facts, humour and analysis backed up by quotes and recollections. She demonstrates that the man who is seen as a bumbler, buffoon and butt of jokes on Have I Got News For You does not go through Eton and Oxford, gets elected as President of the Oxford Union, works for the Daily Telegraph in Brussels, becomes editor of the Spectator and then goes into politics as MP and Mayor of London yet maintain the popular charisma and charm and the odd affair. Boris comes across as a buffoon yet Purnell shows that behind the buffoonery is a man who knows what he really wants.
Purnell succeeds in speaking to people who love and loath Boris. Reading the book brought some interesting facts and stories about Boris made me admire him for his determination, yet made me also loath him for his contempt for public service by using it as celebrity, lack of facts and lack of attention to detail.
Purnell, if she wants to could write up volume II of ‘Blond Ambition,’ exposing and analysing the second term of as mayor of London, his quest as MP, plans to usurp and hopefully replace David Cameron. Reasons for supporting Brexit, the fallout of Brexit and what the future will hold for Boris and his naked ambition to climb the greasy pole of British politics.