Boris Johnson’s next big headache is finding accommodation, says biographer | Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is not a man currently without, as he himself might put it, a host of significant issues. But his biggest problem now, according to his biographer Tom Bower, is simply where he’s going to live.
“I think it’s extraordinary that no one has figured this out, but his biggest problem is his own domestic arrangements,” Bower said. “He rented his house in Oxfordshire because he thought he wouldn’t need it for many years and he didn’t have a home in London. Carrie has a flat in Camberwell but it’s not big enough for four people, including two young children.
The appearance of the wallpaper in Carrie’s flat in Camberwell is not known to the public. But even assuming that is tolerable, Johnson is used to having his accommodation, transport and much of his living expenses covered by the taxpayer on top of his £155,376 salary as prime minister. Now, without even a car to his name, the soon-to-be former prime minister looks decidedly ill-equipped for life in the outside world.
Of course, any prime minister who leaves Downing Street unexpectedly needs to think quickly about these things: when David Cameron resigned in 2017, his Notting Hill home was still rented. Cameron, however, had the advantage of having a close friend in Sir Alan Parker, who stepped in to lend Cameron his £17million spare home at Holland Park.
Johnson, on the other hand, is a loner who might have to bear the indignity of renting property. For a resentful man, it is the brutal return to earth that will be most dear to him.
“He’s going to have a tough time coming to terms in the days and weeks to come,” Bower said. “Psychologically, the threat of homelessness, of not having all the minions, of not having power, of not having ladies and of not having authority is going to hit him very hard.”
The fiddle, however, is small – financially, experts agree Johnson will bounce back in a very short time. He’ll be on the phone with his agent within the week, asking him to set up speaking engagements around the world and identify companies willing to pay around half a million a year for the privilege of deploying it to impress their clients. .
Andy Coulson, the Conservative party and Downing Street communications director from 2007 to 2011, predicted the prime minister’s quickest memoir in history, followed by well-paid newspaper columns.
“He will be shameless as a former prime minister,” Coulson wrote in The Times. “He understands – just as his idol Churchill did – that controlling the narrative of your failures as well as your successes is the absolute key to life beyond No 10.”
There may, however, be a slight hiatus in his membership of the American lecture circuit. When the world thought it would make a worthy exit from Downing Street, the smart money was for it to be embraced by Republicans and Democrats across the water.
But commentators are now wondering if the similarities between Trump and Johnson having to be dragged out of office by their heels as their fingers claw at the walls will make many US Democrats less eager to hear from him.
“While there are a lot of differences with Trump, there is a feeling of an unnecessarily prolonged, mildly ridiculous, test-of-the-constitution exit,” said Prospect magazine editor Tom Clark. “All of this is a sufficiently obvious parallel to Trump that Central America regards it with a little more disgust than it otherwise would have.”
The disgust, however, will not last long: in a few months the attention of even the most ardent Democrats will have turned away from something they had only half noticed at the time, and the invitations from the American conference circuit will come and ride in it.
“Johnson never got his just rewards,” Clark said. “There’s no reason to think he’s going to start getting them now.”
Whether his reputation at home is so easily recoverable depends on the leadership of the Conservative Party in his wake. In the unlikely event that a loyalist such as Nadine Dorris wins the hot seat, for example, it would be because they positioned themselves as someone who backed Johnson to the bitter end and made it a virtue to keep singing his praise. In that case, Clark said, it would be easier for Johnson to slip back into the public sphere.
But if Jeremy Hunt or another rebel takes over as prime minister, then smearing Johnson’s reputation will be part of their modus operandi as they subject the party to a period of purge.
“It will continue to make headlines about the bad things Johnson has done that they’re pushing the party away from,” Clark said. “It would detract from the ‘mischievous prankster’ character that is essential to the success of the Johnson brand.”
But Giles Edwards, who has spoken to many former world leaders about their lives after leaving office for his book The Ex Men, sees no hiatus in Johnson’s financially bright future.
“I don’t think the end of his term as prime minister hurt his life after government,” he said. “From everything I understand about how it works, there will immediately be a huge demand for him.
“There will be loads of people paying to hear his ideas on governance or politics, certainly in the first two years. What can he tell them about relations with President Biden or President Trump? What can he tell them about the war in Ukraine? He saw a great country through some really, really big things.