Socialist Worker

The Gambler—biography that’s a weak effort to show Boris Johnson’s ‘greatness’

Journalist Tom Bower’s last biography was a hatchet job on Jeremy Corbyn. His latest book fawns over Boris Johnson. John Newsinger suffered through it

Issue No. 2728

The Gambler - Tom Bowers biography of Boris Johnson

The Gambler - Tom Bower's biography of Boris Johnson


In 2019, Tom Bower published his hatchet-job biography of Jeremy Corbyn. It was serialised in the Daily Mail newspaper which is, of course, a clue as to its politics.

The book was a contemptible disgrace, intended to help the Tories to victory, and presumably played some small part in that outcome.

It also saw the Mail having to pay out substantial damages to the Palestinian Return Centre.

Now Bower has published a biography of Boris Johnson. It certainly has a lot to say about Johnson’s relations with women, his habitual lying and his many gaffes.

But reviewers in the mainstream press have had difficulty squaring this with the book’s politics.

Bower’s reputation as an investigative journalist hides from them the fact that his book is in fact a celebration of Johnson.

Bower sees Johnson as someone who’s flawed—this is blamed on his wife-beating father—but is nevertheless a hero with a vision for Britain.

Let us start with what got this wholly self-obsessed toff involved in politics.

According to Bower it was during the three months he spent working on a local paper in Wolverhampton as a trainee in 1987.

Here he came to the conclusion that the working class were oppressed and held down by the benefits system and dependency for the benefit of Labour councils.

As Bower puts it they “lacked ambition and relied on benefits”. It was Margaret Thatcher’s “destruction of this poisonous welfarism” that made her Johnson’s hero. He was won over to Thatcherism by the plight of the working class under Labour councils and by how Thatcher was rescuing them. Really! Mainstream reviewers have not given Bower enough credit for his sheer stupidity.

Of course, Johnson has given more than one account of his political awakening.

Another is that it was someone asking him to contribute to a collection for the miners’ strike in 1985 that roused his Thatcherite fury. Over time he will certainly invent other such moments.

What of Johnson’s time as Mayor of London?

Bower says Johnson only got the Tory nomination because the then editor of the Evening Standard, Veronica Madely argued that only a celebrity could beat Ken Livingstone.

By an amazing coincidence, she just happens to be Bower’s wife.

She went on to become one of Johnson’s senior advisers when he was mayor and somewhat predictably got a peerage this September.

Johnson was a great success as mayor, according to Bower, helping to lift millions out of poverty.

The lack of monuments—such as a garden bridge—celebrating his achievements is unfortunate.

Surely the Grenfell Tower fire will come to be seen as his monument, symbolising the dramatic increase in inequality during his time in office.

The fantastic fictional life of Jeremy Corbyn
The fantastic fictional life of Jeremy Corbyn
  Read More

But how does Bower cover the fire? It was all the fault of “incompetent firefighters”.

It was then exploited by the BBC and Channel 4 who portrayed it as a “capitalist conspiracy against ­downtrodden workers”. This really is what Bower says.

Bower only just avoids using the phrase “fake news”.

But the overall picture he paints is one where all of Johnson’s ­achievements are buried by his enemies disgracefully exaggerating his flaws. His enemies on the left, whether it is “malignant” Marxists such as trade unionists or Polly Toynbee have all done their best to sabotage and diminish him. But the people have seen through their lies…

Inevitably Bower acquits Johnson of being a racist.

Bower once again displays quite remarkable stupidity.

He’s apparently unable to see that Johnson is quite prepared to exploit racism for his political advantage.

But what of the future under prime minister Johnson?

Will, as Bower hopes, this “intelligent patriot” be able to deliver on his vision of a “prosperous united society”?

What rubbish. A more realistic assessment sees a corrupt government, characterised by historic levels of ideologically-driven incompetence, causing poverty and hardship and costing tens of thousands of lives.

Boris Johnson: The Gambler by Tom Bower is out now


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