>> On the very first page of this undertaking, staggering in its chutzpah,Boris Johnson is called a “great man”. On the second, a “phenomenon”. The introduction has barely begun as Harry Mount thanks the “planet-brained, blond onion” for “letting” him edit a book – essentially a cuttings job of Johnson’s greatest bons mots – which reaches new highs and indeed lows of hero worship. “It’s hard to overstate not just Boris’s fame,” he writes, “but also the affection he’s held in.” Mount, however, gives overstatement a jolly good run for its money.
This archive of quips, bumbling remarks and the odd gaffe is gathered together in thematic sections – Early Years, Boris in the House, Boris the Classicist (Mount essentially casting Johnson as Cicero reborn) and so on. Actually, to have all these Johnsonisms piled up against each other isn’t amusing as much as dispiriting. Johnson’s faux-ignorance – his “engaging liability” regarding politics and power as Simon Jenkins called it – becomes both really irritating and quite clearly a conniving construct of someone who can’t really be bothered (as his tutors reveal here) to put the real hours in and understand what makes a country tick.
This book does not shed much light on Johnson, beyond his like of women and bicycles, and his belief that voting Tory will “cause your wife to have bigger breasts”. That he continues to enjoy such widespread, uncritical support probably does make him a phenomenon, after all.