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Johnson at 10: The Inside Story: The Bestselling Political Biography of the Year

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Survival by divide and rule and the blame game - even “her upstairs” got to carry the can from time to time! Weak and needy, hence the plethora of advisers, some more dysfunctional than others. Comparisons with other PMs, especially Lloyd George, though the authors see Johnson as a very poor second to the Welsh wizzard. The most ridiculous part of the whole book is how everyone in government has to work around Johnson, a bit like a difficult Special Needs pupil who is disruptive in class. He rarely read papers before meetings, and everything had to be shortened to suit his attention span. Ironically the people around him did get better at working around his "issues" and things did improve for a while during his time in office. No such problems here. The writing is taut and businesslike and there are almost no stylistic blemishes to make me wince.

Johnson at 10 rings with disapproval at Boris’s endless Johnson at 10 rings with disapproval at Boris’s endless

The authors of this book highlight Johnson’s plethora of flaws, and show he was driven by nothing except his own lust for power and attention, such that even when he had outstanding opportunities to remake the country, his deep personal failures prevented him from doing so. This series about recent prime ministers is one I’ve been meaning to catch up with . This one is a fair and balanced account of an era I don’t love . It’s nuanced about what Johnson is to blame for and what he isn’t , especially with Covid . Johnson got away with the big things where others bailed him out but it was the smaller decisions which were just down to him which really let him down, and ultimately lost him his dream job. Barnard Castle was the perfect opportunity to get rid of Cummings but he dithered. It was the same with Patterson, Partygate and Pincher - all things which could have been dealt with far better but blew up into much larger issues than they actually were.Partygate, the most important of the scandals that finished him, was an appropriate nemesis for such a lawless regime. Throughout, the authors keep returning to the phrase: “In his beginning, was his end” which sums up Johnson’s premiership – he was brought down by sleaze and scandal after proving himself entirely incapable of the role of Prime Minister, something that should surprise nobody.

Anthony Seldon on Boris Johnson: ‘At his heart, he is

There are a couple of points to be said in Johnson’s favour. He did win an election with a clear majority, which is a notable achievement even in the supposedly decisive British system (helped of course by the incompetence at the time of Labour and the Lib Dems). He was seriously committed to Net Zero, and was ready to argue the toss on climate with sceptics in his own party, though less good at doing the preparatory legwork for the Glasgow COP meeting. He came in early and strong on Ukraine’s side in the war, and helped consolidate the G7 and NATO in support. (Though there too, the UK is a smaller player compared to the US and the EU.) The chapter on Covid is particularly damning. An official observed that it was “astonishing how hard he found it to grasp the finer points of Covid policy… he couldn’t process the volume of information”. Another official noted that “in one day he would have three meetings in which he would say three completely different things depending on who was present, and then deny that he had changed his position”. When he insisted he hadn’t made a decision, officials had to show him printouts of what he had agreed earlier that day. The authors do apportion some praise as well as criticism. His greatest accomplishments were on global issues where broad brush strokes were needed and not the fine detail he struggles with. Getting a deal on Brexit, Net Zero and Ukraine is what he'll be remembered for. With the right team and without Covid (which saw off Trump too) he could have been a better PM, but his decision-making around appointments sounds consistently poor. The book states that Johnson described his then-fiancee Carrie as “mad and crazy” as he used her as an excuse to avoid confrontations.

It was interesting to read such an immediate review of Johnson's time at No 10, the conclusion written just over a month ago. There was a lot here that was familiar and anticipated, but also a lot of fascinating detail that fleshes out the picture. Everyone he dealt with sooner or later found him dissembling, because he was only ever willing to commit to a position if he thought there was some immediate personal advantage or because his hand had been forced. One of his officials says he lied “morning, noon and night”. He lied not just to the public, but also and often to his closest associates.

Johnson at 10: The Inside Story: The Instant Sunday Times

Why would a previously serving Foreign Secretary ask civil servants to write him a 3,000-word essay on what his foreign policy should be as PM, when he had previously served in the role under Theresa May? The related tragedy was the national one, in which we are still living. Whatever you thought of Brexit, Seldon argues – he thought it was a bad idea – it did provide “the overdue opportunity to modernise the British state and Britain’s institutions. There was a desperate need to bring the civil service up to date,” he says. “To forge better connections between universities and public life, to rejuvenate professions.” It is a book to be appreciated for all of the diligent hard work that the authors have put into it though.Such has been the pace of modern politics since then, that Johnson at 10 didn’t make it out even for Boris’s immediate successor. Two prime ministers on from him, we now have the authoritative account of what he did with his time in power. That doesn’t make it any more comfortable for Johnson, who unlike Cameron hasn’t retreated for a period of silence in a shepherd’s hut. Instead, it serves as a cautionary reminder for those who are still dreaming of a Terminator-style Boris sequel. Could he have been a better leader, if he had paid more attention to his briefs, liaised closer with his own cabinet ministers, MPs and cabinet staff, despite Covid and the war in Ukraine? To think of BJ as an intellect is wrong. He would name drop his admiration for Roman emperors like Pericles and Augustus, but would never engage with their leadership and achievements at a deeper level, and try to transfer their traits into his own leadership. He liked classic films like Buch Cassidy (a film choice of Jeremy Clarkson) but again was unable to think more deeply about what these films meant or represented. In short, his intellect/attempts to come across like a WC historian were shallow and vein. If he had engaged with history at a deeper level, he would have known that one of the key lessons to being a great PM was that you had to work through your team and the cabinet (a point Churchill knew) to achieve favourable policy outcomes. Despite the fact that Liz Truss said, ‘Boris, you are admired from Kyiv to Carlisle’, to what extent was Truss loyal to him?

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