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The Review - BOOKS
Published: 17 July 2008
Boris Johnson on his graduation day from Oxford with first wife Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987
Boris Johnson on his graduation day from Oxford with first wife Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987
New Mayor Boris Johnson opens next chapter

Illtyd Harrington finds an insight into the not so muddled mind of a potential prime minister in the updated biography of Boris Johnson

Boris: The Rise of Boris Johnson
By Andrew Gimson.
Pocket Books £7.99 order this book

THIS is Boris biography brought up to date when on May 1 this year he toppled Red Ken.
King Newt lost narrowly to the Tories’ newfound Paddington Bear but this close examination by one of his former colleagues on the Daily Telegraph digs a little deeper than the confused, shambling, shuffled persona that Boris cultivates under that mop of custard-yellow hair.
Beneath it could be engraved 666, the mark of the Beast. Labour portrayed him as a clown, but the clown prince is the crown prince. His eyes are on Number 10 as this book subtly reveals.
At 45, he has some latitude and, after all, his old school Eton has produced 18 prime ministers.
He was born in 1964. His father Stanley’s first wife says they moved 32 times during their marriage. He was conceived under a wandering star, lacking some stability but never self-confidence. A big youth with deadly ambition, a scholarship to Eton was followed by three years at Balliol College, Oxford. He was elected to membership of the infamous and belligerent Bullingdon dining club. They loved trashing the rooms of newly elected members. David Cameron led the pack of this upper-­middle-class gang of hooligans.
Johnson’s idiosyncratic but lively journalism propelled him into the editor’s chair of The Spectator and he was brilliant. Lord Conrad Black, his boss, described him as “ineffably duplicitous”. Promising not to stand for Parliament, Boris went away and was elected for Henley.
Black, who is now languishing in a US penitentiary on a five-year stretch for fraud, repeated to writer Andrew Gimson: “Jesus Christ, it all comes back to me what a duplicitous scoundrel he is.”
A friend of his mistress Petronella Wyatt cat­egorised him as having “incredible, cunning charm”. Charles Moore, the snobbish editor of the Daily Telegraph, quoted an actor of the romantic screen, Errol Flynn, in drawing a comparison with Boris: “You know where you are with Flynn, he always lets you down.”
True indeed of his complicated extra-marital love life. Yet like his fertile father, he loves his four children and showed firm loyalty to his friend, Darius Guppy, who almost pulled off a major fraud in 1993. This misplaced loyalty nurtured by boyhood friendship almost had Boris involved in a serious assault on Guppy’s betrayer.
After his wild performance on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You, his fame spread like a prairie fire, and a prestigious profile in Vanity Fair saw him cast in the role of Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, actors who took the public over.
Curiously enough, Sir Eric Anderson, who was Blair’s housemaster at Fettes, and Boris’s at Eton, sees a common band in both boys: “Boris had some similarity with Blair as a boy, both of them opted to live on their wits rather than preparation. They both enjoyed performing.”
Then there is Boris the chameleon. Christened a Roman Catholic, he says: “my family background is Muslim, Jewish and Christian – in fact my children are a quarter Indian.” Gosh, what a pick and mix.
This is Boris like Joseph and the coat of many colours.
He was accused by Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail of suffering from satyrism or unusually strong sexual desires – not a fault in leading politicians, although his biographer came to the conclusion that he “suffers from a sense of insecurity and a worry that he is about to be rumbled” – harsh judgment from a stable-mate on the Daily Telegraph where Boris is reported to earn £250,000 a year for a weekly column.
This is the man who has more individual political power than anyone outside the Prime Minister’s office – a star still in the ascendant in two years’ time if David Cameron fails to win.
Let us have the last word from the unfortunate Ray Lewis, who quit under a cloud as deputy mayor after two months
He said: “Boris is inspirational – a complete nutter. I want London to look like Boris does.”
And so we say farewell to Ray Lewis as he sinks back to obscurity.
lltyd Harrington is former deputy
chairman of the Greater London Council
• Boris: The Rise of Boris Johnson.
By Andrew Gimson.
Pocket Books £7.99

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