Monday 24 January 2022

Boris the Gambler and Veronica Wadley to whom he owes everything

I would not have bought and started Tom Bower's biography of Boris Johnson 'The Gambler' had I read the bad reviews. 

It's much too long. Sometimes I noticed it was inaccurate (Viktor Orban is described as an antisemite - he should sue - Ken Livingstone too). It is not well written, it's bitchy in a boring way (bitching is an art), it's not objective but it is informative. I was forced to skim and skip. 

My feeling reading his story to 2015 was that this man was outrageously incapable of being Prime Minister. 

Then beginning with 2015 I started to like him much more. As Tom Bower intends.

Boris's decision to back Brexit is seen as a fairly principled one. 

I imagine it was, though mostly informed by his desire to win party members' support in order one day to succeed David Cameron. 

David Cameron seems to imagine only opportunism could be Boris’s reason and this is how many Remainers think. National independence is what swivel-eyed loons, nutcases and racists care about.

When Theresa May (Bower accurately calls her 'an overpromoted junior officer') makes him Foreign Secretary 'in order to destroy him' Boris becomes the hero and the villains are the appalling Mrs May, the Woke Sir Simon Macdonald the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office (interested more in gender equality than extending British influence) and the Europhiles in the Foreign Office. 

They, including Mrs May, were consciously and constantly trying to sabotage their own Secretary of State. 

So was his Minister of State, Alan Duncan, who leaked information to the Labour frontbencher to enable him to ask Boris hard questions.

On the other hand, to Boris's great discredit, he wanted to intervene in Syria. 

This is one reason why I think he is Hillary in drag.

Had David Davis, the man who negotiated so incompetently with Michel Barnier, not resigned from the cabinet we would have been saddled with Brexit in name only and been an EU vassal. Davis's resignation precipitated Boris's. 

The Times, which hated Boris, described him when he resigned, not unfairly, as a figure of fun.

My instinct is that Boris feared Davis would become Prime Minister if he did not.

I have got to the moment where Boris become Prime Minister. How much was packed into the four years leading to that point and as much - possibly even more - in the two and a half years that followed.

If Marina had not terminated their marriage his fling with Carrie would have abruptly ended. 

Mr Bower says his relatives thought he missed his second wife and would have preferred to leave Carrie and bring Marina to No 10, had she let him back. She did not. I think this has been a disaster for him.

I quote from Stephen Bush's review in the New Statesman.

There is so much that is not good about The Gambler that it is difficult to know where to start, but it is perhaps best to begin where Bower does not: with his own relationship with Boris Johnson. As Bower reveals, in a typically pompous manner, “readers should be aware that Boris Johnson is not a stranger in my home”. He is certainly right, which makes one wonder why this disclosure takes place on the 527th page of a 528-page biography. To make matters worse, the disclosure is incomplete. Bower continues: “Veronica Wadley, my wife, has known him as a journalist since he joined the Daily Telegraph in 1988. She became the newspaper’s deputy editor before serving for seven years as the editor of the London Evening Standard. Their long relationship is one of colleagues rather than friends. She played no part in researching or writing this book.” He neglects to mention that those seven years in question covered the entirety of Ken Livingstone’s second term as mayor, during which Wadley’s Standard was the loudest and most reliable part of Johnson’s supporters’ club; that from 2012 to 2016 she worked for Johnson while he was mayor of London; and that in the summer of this year Johnson appointed Wadley to the House of Lords.

This partial and belated disclosure leaves the reader with a choice. Either we take Bower at face value, and conclude that he embarked on this life of Johnson without once asking the woman with whom he lives for help in explaining a man she has known and worked with for more than three decades, which means we can’t trust his judgement. Or we can conclude that Bower’s disclosure note is not just tardy and incomplete but wholly false, which means that we can’t trust him.

This explains why the book (rather unusually for Mr Bower) is not a hatchet job. It might even in a curious way be PR for Boris.

In fact Veronica Wadley or Mrs Bauer, now Lady Fleet, is the key figure in Boris's career - she was the one who persuaded him to stand for Mayor of London, persuaded David Cameron he could win and whose paper helped him win. 

Without her Boris might be a funny turn on television and an eccentric backbencher. 

Boris, who like Mr Gladstone reads Homer for relaxation (Churchill said it served Gladstone right), understands the argument which decided Lord Melbourne to become Prime Minister: 
It is a damned fine thing to have been, even if it only lasts for two months. It is a thing no Greek or Roman ever was.

It has lasted two and a half years so far even if it ends this week. 

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