Financial TimesFinancial Times

Boris Johnson: the entertainer who tried to defy political gravity

By Henry Mance

07 Jul 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

As a kid, Boris Johnson once dreamed of becoming "world king." The FT charts the prime minister's spectacular rise and fall–a political career defined by charisma, chaos and dishonesty.

UK prime minister once united people in amusement but ended up uniting them in contemptTwenty years ago, Boris Johnson, then editor of The Spectator magazine, was hosting the BBC quiz show Have I Got News for You when he struggled to work out which team had got the correct answer. “You edit a magazine?!” mocked one of the regular panellists, Paul Merton. “What on earth are the editorial meetings like?”

But Johnson knew there was something more important than appearing organised: being charming and entertaining. “You’ve all done exceptionally well on this question,” he smiled to the competing teams. On TV, as in politics, he started out as the man who could unite people in amusement. After nearly three years as prime minister, he united them in contempt.

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