The Sunday papers were light on marmalade droppers this weekend, however one paragraph in the Sunday Times did raise eyebrows: the claim Boris missed COBR meetings at the start of 2020 because he was busy writing a biography on Shakespeare, “the money from which he needed to fund his divorce from Marina”. It’s worried Cummings will accuse him of this on Wednesday. What’s the evidence?
The existence of the book – or rather, Boris’s intentions to write it – has been public knowledge for a long time. In 2019 the Guardian reported it was set to finally see the light of day that year, nearly four years after its original publication schedule in October 2016. Titled “Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius”, the book is also prematurely listed on Amazon.
On the allegation Boris was writing the book to fund his divorce, this doesn’t seem to stand up. As mentioned above, it was originally scheduled for publication in 2016, and Boris received an advance for it along this time schedule, requiring its completion. He didn’t separate from Marina until 2018, however. That would have been some impressive preparation…
On spending time writing the book at the start of the year, this is more plausible. An old clip from of a February People’s PMQs – the period he was supposedly writing the book – sees Boris fill time by waffling on about the bard:
Allegations Boris missed five COBR meetings specifically to write the book seem like a stretch, though are the main source of online criticism. Funnily enough Nicola Sturgeon, who missed more COBR meetings at the start of the pandemic than Boris, has not been subject to same criticism. And she doesn’t have a biography of Shakespeare in the works to show for it…
UPDATE: On the Amazon listing, the publishers say this is a mistake and they have not scheduled the book to be released “in the foreseeable future”:
“After the success of Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor, which was published in 2014, Hodder & Stoughton contracted him to write a book about Shakespeare, originally planning to tie in with the Shakespeare anniversary in 2016. When Boris Johnson became Foreign Secretary we agreed that we would delay publication until a more suitable time, and we have not scheduled the book to be released in the foreseeable future.”