Social Secretary Kitty Grant reviews Boris Johnson: The Rise and Fall of a Troublemaker at Number 10, praising the well-written historical account
Love him or hate him, Boris Johnson has got to be one of British politics’ most interesting figures of the 21st century. When Andrew Gimson last updated his first memoir of Johnson, Boris: The Making of the Prime Minister, in 2016, Johnson was fresh off the high of the Brexit win but had withdrawn from the race to become Prime Minister following former ally Michael Gove’s comments that Johnson was not fit to lead the country. Gimson’s new book covers Johnson’s career and life from this point until his resignation as Prime Minister in 2022.
In the opening pages of the book, Gimson assures the reader that he does not want to change their mind about Johnson and his politics, but does want to remind us that he is human. I think that’s why I read biographies of these larger-than-life political figures (well, okay, I read this one for my dissertation, but I probably would have read it anyway): to understand them as people. I remember most of the events of this book happening, but I wanted to learn more about why he made the decisions he did and how he managed to appeal to so many people. I think Gimson was successful in this.
Boris Johnson: The Rise and Fall of a Troublemaker at Number 10 went into far more detail about his relationships with other politicians than anything I’d read before, which I really enjoyed reading about. One of the reasons I love politics is because it is like an insane reality show – the backstabbing, infighting, and insults sometimes feel like deleted storylines from RuPaul’s Drag Race – so my favourite parts of the book were those that focused on his relationships with other politicians. Many of the side characters in the book now have more power than Johnson, including Jacob Rees Mogg and, of course, Rishi Sunak, so learning more about how Johnson influenced their careers was also really interesting.
My main criticism of Boris Johnson: The Rise and Fall of a Troublemaker at Number 10 is that, despite its subtitle, only a few pages are dedicated to the Chris Pincher scandal and Johnson’s resignation. There is a little more attention on the other events that led to his fall, including the Owen Patterson scandal and Partygate, but the dramatic events of his resignation are not given the space that I think they deserve. Maybe it’s unfair of me to judge a book by what isn’t included rather than what is, but the last year of Johnson’s premiership was one of the most interesting years in British politics I can remember (second only to the first year after his premiership), and I think it was a missed opportunity not to focus more on this period, and particularly on Johnson’s feelings and motivations.
Boris Johnson: The Rise and Fall of a Troublemaker at Number 10 is a well-written and often funny look at the career of one of the most fascinating figures in modern politics. I think this book could be enjoyed by most people, regardless of their feelings about Johnson. For the most part, Gimson doesn’t try to convert the reader to either a Johnson-lover or a Johnson-hater, but allows the reader to form their own opinion (which, admittedly, they had probably already decided on before reading this book). I do think there are some missed opportunities, but overall Boris Johnson: The Rise and Fall of a Troublemaker at Number 10 is an enjoyable read that made hours-long dissertation sessions in the library more bearable.
Enjoyed this? Read more from Redbrick Culture here: