FINTAN O’TOOLE. Boris Johnson. The Ham of Fate (New York Review of Books, 17.7.2019)

Jul 23, 2019

When things are too serious to be contemplated in sobriety, send in the clown.

Boris Johnson seems likely to be elected the Leader of the British Conservative Party and expects to be the next Prime Minister of the UK.  In the New York Review of Books, Fintan O’Toole provides some excruciating detail about Boris Johnson.  See excerpt below, with link to whole article here.  John Menadue.


But Johnson has always understood that a vivid lie is much more memorable than a dull truth. He is a product of the tight little world of English class privilege in which the same people move from elite schools to elite universities to (often interchangeable) careers in politics and the media. (Johnson’s contemporaries at Oxford included David Cameron, a fellow member of the aggressively elitist Bullingdon Club; his own main rivals for the Tory leadership, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove; and the political editors of the BBC and Channel 4 who now report on him.) From Oxford he soon sailed into a position as a graduate trainee at The Times. It was there that he learned a valuable lesson: it pays to fabricate stories. The Times had to fire him because he sexed up a dull story by inventing lurid quotes and attributing them to a real Oxford historian (who happened to be his own godfather). Instead of ending his journalistic career, this was the seed from which it blossomed. Almost immediately he was hired by The Daily Telegraph, which then employed him as its Brussels correspondent between 1989 and 1994.

The job of a Brussels correspondent is an odd one. It almost entirely consists of covering the EU, and therefore it carries a degree of prestige. But most of the time, the EU is immensely dull. Johnson thus had a plum job but one with little public profile. His genius was to turn page 20 stories into page 1 stories by seizing on relatively inconsequential EU market regulations and inflating them into attacks by demented foreigners on the British way of life.

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