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The Fall of Boris Johnson: The Full Story

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A firm friend of Johnson, who in public would be considered one of his most prominent allies, reached a bleaker conclusion: ‘He’s a columnist, right? Columnists are used to writing their column, forgetting it and moving on to the next one. And you can’t as a national leader operate in that way. You have to follow through… He never made a transition from being someone who could entertain and attract attention and emotionally connect to the hard work of being Prime Minister. He was ill-disciplined.’ Stephen Coleman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Partners

Well-written, with a discerning eye for detail, Andrew Gimson’s biography sets out to understand the electoral appeal of a man so frequently dismissed as a charlatan and a clown.'. His government was always reactive, rather than proactive. His only two successes were reactions to issues as they came up. Where was the proactive policymaking to deliver on the 2019 manifesto? Instead time was spent trying to privatise C4 and dealing, every day, with the scandals that the government failed to control.

But to put his downfall down solely to an ‘ouster’, or rebels who played a part during the slide, would be remiss. For that narrative ignores the critical wider reality. The reason Johnson lost his premiership was not Sunak; it was not Sunak who had allowed a culture of Covid law-breaking to develop in Downing Street, with some 126 fines being issued to 83 people over at least eight events. It was not Sunak who rolled out blanket public denials that would be proved palpably false. Yet it was Sunak, with Javid, who triggered the end. Imagine another world in which neither of these two books could have been written. Jeremy Hunt becomes prime minister in 2019. He takes a moderated version of Brexit through the House of Commons without the need to seek another mandate. There is no general election in 2019 and therefore no acceleration of the Labour recovery. In May 2022 Hunt beats Jeremy Corbyn comfortably in a general election and, six months later, he looks on as his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, delivers the Autumn Statement. Across the dispatch box the fledgling leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, contemplates the years ahead.

His latest (but not necessarily final) tome is almost as elegantly written as its predecessors, even if his hero’s forced resignation must have messed with the publishing schedule. If Johnson had been a historical figure, a cavalier whose antics did no harm to the people around him, I would have enjoyed reading this homage almost as much as Gimson seems to have enjoyed writing it.This might have been award winning but it is certainly not, as the blurb claims, "explosive" nor is it, by any means "the full story." In the early evening of Tuesday, July 5 this year I was walking to a beachside restaurant in Porto Soller, Mallorca when my daughter texted me — “Javid and Sunak have resigned!” I hate predictions, but this one was easy. I tweeted out that Boris Johnson would be gone tomorrow or the next day. It was obvious to me and many others that he couldn’t stay. Extraordinarily, though, it wasn’t obvious to him. For the next day and a half we sat under the shade of a huge fig tree listening to Times Radio as minister after minister resigned until eventually there weren’t enough left to staff a government. On Thursday he eventually went.

His long-term adviser and later lead Brexit negotiator, David Frost, has his own take: ‘I think his big problem as PM was that he wasn’t clear enough on what he thought himself about problems. Sometimes no decision was really final. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were not always rivals. Quite the reverse. For much of his premiership Johnson saw their relationship as one of ‘mentor’ and ‘mentee’, according to one Boris aide. Another said he grew to view Sunak as his natural successor. In meetings with senior journalists the Prime Minister would gush over his Chancellor’s brilliance. A reasonable account of Johnson's fall, as told by a journalist/think tanker/hopeful MP. As a 'first draft of history', it works well as a blow-by-blow account of the events leading up to Johnson's resignation (the postscript, on the leadership election that followed, is weaker).The Fall of Boris Johnson is the explosive inside account of how a prime minister lost his hold on power. From Sebastian Payne, former Whitehall Editor for the Financial Times and author of Broken Heartlands. The downside of concentrating on the last few months of Johnson in office is that it minimises those qualities that propelled him into national politics and pulled off Brexit when the elite declared it impossible, making those who remained loyal to him to the bitter end look like fools. Yet Payne recently published another, very well received book on the Red Wall that adds vital context. Johnson was more than a man; he embodied a movement. Euroscepticism confounded its opponents because it managed to ally southern Thatcherites and northern socialists, and even if this confederacy seems bizarre on paper, it cohered through the personality of a witty patriot whose abiding concern was to make Britain feel better about itself. When I voted Conservative in 2019, it was more for Boris than for the Conservatives – and with his brand of populism out of the picture, I’m not sure I’ll do the same again.

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