The Bigger Book of Boris: lots of jokes, not much politics

One of the questions that ambitious politicians often struggle to answer safely is, “Do you want to be leader of your party / Prime Minister?” Answer ‘yes’ in some form and journalists will line up to write stories about party splits, pending leadership challenges and the like. Answer ‘no’ and many will not believe you – whilst also quietly filing away the answer to quote back at the politician at an embarrassing later date.

The Bigger Book of Boris (an expanded version of the earlier Little Book of Boris) shows Boris Johnson’s political skill with humour in his answer to this question. “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive”, he said (and in fact deploys Elvis a second time in a similar answer on another occasion).

Faced with such surreal absurdity it’s hard for anyone to stick to the journalistic conventions which mean olive-free answers so often cause problems for the politician. As Johnson says in another quote in the book, “[I am] a wise guy playing the fool” – and he knows very well the way in which playing the fool can provide not only helpful political colour but also distraction.

Through the book there are plenty of jokes at his own expense, a fair number of comments about culture and religion but almost nothing that relies on knowledge of modern life much beyond that which you could cull from reading Daily Telegraph leaders. Compared to other humourous politicians, Boris Johnson makes more (and better) jokes yet draws from a much narrower range of source material.

Nor is his humour often deployed to reveal a deeper or hidden truth. It is after dinner speaking humour rather than political satire. This makes the book an enjoyable source of laughter to dip in to now and again but not a prompter of political thoughts.

You can buy The Bigger Book of Boris, compiled by Iain Dale, here.

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