Saturday, October 24, 2020
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Boris Johnson and a conflict of interest

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BORIS Johnson is, rightly, being attacked on all fronts just now. Serious questions have been asked of him both personally and politically by his friends at the Spectator and the Sunday Times.

The Mail on Sunday has also picked over the various thorny issues engulfing him. These salvos have been absolutely necessary under the circumstances. Britain is a rudderless ship devoid of a decent leader. 

It is not just the Covid crisis that is causing Johnson grief. The word ‘insecure’ has been mentioned in relation to him several times recently. This is no surprise.

No doubt his peripatetic childhood, during which his father, Stanley, was often absent and his mother, Charlotte, suffered a nervous breakdown before they divorced when he was 15 years old, has had a profound impact on his character.

His personality may not be as robust as he would have others believe. That would explain his need to act and the use of what Peter Hitchens recently called his ‘stage name’. (His family have always called him by his given name, Alexander). It is as though he has a split personality. 

This feeds into another word that has also been used repeatedly in relation to Johnson in recent weeks, ‘exhausted’.

Again, this is to be expected. As the Mail on Sunday’s political editor, Glen Owen, noted on September 27: ‘So far this year, he has endured a ruinously expensive divorce, a brush with death and then fatherhood at the age of 56 – all while battling the lingering after-effects of coronavirus, trying to limit the damage inflicted by the pandemic and preparing for a possible No Deal Brexit at the end of December.’

Who wouldn’t feel shattered having endured that lot? Personally, and this is just a hunch, I think that having reached the lonely heights of the top job, Johnson is full of regret.

It would be strange if he didn’t miss his ex-wife, Marina Wheeler QC, whose wise counsel sustained him for 25 years. It would be equally surprising if he didn’t look at his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, who is 24 years younger than him and has recently given birth to his second child born out of wedlock, and reflect from time to time on the twists and turns of his life.

As for money, it has been remarked on that he is finding it tough to survive on his £150,000 salary. This makes sense. He has many overheads. Furthermore, I am reliably informed that he is not widely known for being madly keen on parting with the stuff – even in good times. 

One fact that each of the aforementioned publications have overlooked, however, is the imminent publication of a new biography of Johnson, The Gambler, on October 15. This book by Tom Bower will be serialised in a Sunday newspaper.

Johnson will – probably – be worried. What, he may be wondering, that the public does not yet know about his colourful life, could be revealed?

Interestingly, Bower is married to Veronica Wadley, a longstanding champion of Johnson who has just been given a seat in the House of Lords.

Let’s remember that when his other biographer, Andrew Gimson, told Johnson he was writing a book about him before it was published in 2006, Johnson offered him £100,000 to desist. So he is willing to pay a handsome price for a man’s silence.  

Bower is often labelled ‘Britain’s leading investigative writer’. Let us hope that the conflict of interests which some may perceive he potentially faced while working on the book through his wife’s friendship with the Prime Minister does not deny readers the unvarnished truth.

I have heard whispers recently of extraordinary stories involving Johnson’s tangled and tattered love life. Bower knows about them too. But will he be able to confirm them in print?  

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John Smith
John Smith is a journalist.

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