In This Review

Boris Johnson: The Gambler
Boris Johnson: The Gambler
By Tom Bower
WH Allen, 2020, 592 pp
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In today’s media-obsessed world, many politicians publicly flaunt narcissistic personal habits, lie openly about important issues, shift their fundamental principles to fit the moment, tailor their actions to build a personal brand rather than a political legacy, and hire subordinates more for loyalty than expertise. This book illustrates these trends by tracing the life of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The author, an investigative journalist, churned out nearly 600 pages within a year, so perhaps it would be unfair to expect the most accurate, scrupulously documented, nuanced, or well-written biography of Johnson in print. It is none of those things. But it is the newest recounting of the prime minister’s life, taking the reader all the way up through July 2020—well into the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the book’s sometimes compulsive effort to document both sides of every judgment, Johnson emerges as the stereotypical rich boy from a privileged background. He is a compulsive gambler who repeatedly jeopardizes his jobs, marriages, and future prospects through sloppy, lazy, and risky behavior—and each time is saved by his charm, luck, ambition, and connections. His is a life for our times.