Stanley Johnson: ‘I’m happy to see the lighter side of Brexit and Trump. Who wouldn’t be?’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 August 2017

Stanley Johnson at the book launch in Daunts, Marylebone: Picture: Mark Rusher

Stanley Johnson at the book launch in Daunts, Marylebone: Picture: Mark Rusher

Archant

The gradual deterioration of world order over the last 18 months has taken its toll on many of us, but not Stanley Johnson.

Stanley Johnson with son Boris Johnson at the book launch in Daunts, Marylebone: Picture: Mark RusherStanley Johnson with son Boris Johnson at the book launch in Daunts, Marylebone: Picture: Mark Rusher

The gradual deterioration of world order over the last 18 months has taken its toll on many of us, but not Stanley Johnson.

The former MEP, environmentalist, and patriarch of one of Britain’s most recognisable modern political clans (amongst his children are Foreign Secretary Boris, Jo, a Conservative MP, and Rachel, a journalist) was a staunch Remainer during the EU referendum – yet he doesn’t show much in the way of disappointment at last year’s result.

Instead, Johnson appears to have funnelled any Brexit emotions into the writing of satirical political thriller Kompromat, which fictionalises world events from 2016 to this year’s General Election.

“The premise of the book was that something had to have happened in the run-up to the EU Referendum,” Johnson says, referring to rumours of Russian interference and the “skulduggery” that may or may not have taken place in the run-up to the EU Referendum. That the Russians played a significant part in swaying the vote is the idea at the basis of Kompromat, and Johnson, who considers Russia a “great nation and country” seems amused, rather than offended, at the idea.

With over a hundred characters, it might have been difficult to keep track of all the players that nip in and out of the narrative, but most will sound decidedly familiar to many readers – so no prizes for guessing who leopard-print-kitten-heels-wearing Mabel Killick is standing in for, not to mention boisterous tycoon and American presidential candidate Ronald Craig, or his cunning daughter Rosie.

“I started in February this year and turned in the completed draft - some 90,000 words - in April,” he says with pride. Amazingly, his publisher allowed him, at the last minute, to add an extra part on the latest development to shock the British public – the June general election which resulted in a hung parliament.

Given that Kompromat draws on constantly evolving situations, how did Johnson know when to stop writing and give back control to the publisher? “I stopped when I did because I wanted the book to be out for the summer, on the grounds of this Brexit affair having been a fairly gloomy business. This book is meant to be something for people to take on holiday. It’s supposed to be fun, rather than making a big political point.”

And it is fun, in no small part because Johnson clearly had such a “tremendously” enjoyable time writing it. He chuckles when retelling some of the book’s slapstick episodes, like when Russian President Popov fires a dart into Ronald Craig’s backside, or when it is revealed that German Chancellor Helga Brun, formerly a KGB spy under Popov, had once asked former flame and future Russian President: “Igor, were you born with an erection?”

What emerges is a collage of familiar situations and characters that highlight the absurd unpredictability of the events of 2016. It’s a welcome breather: world affairs, but funny. It seems that, despite being a committed Remainer, Johnson has achieved this modern age’s nirvana: being able to look past the seismic Brexit result to the point of successfully satirising it.

“People on Amazon have left comments calling the book ‘satire’, which I feel genuinely pleased about, as it’s a difficult genre to get right,” Johnson says.

How did he do it? With the reassuring tone of someone who has been involved in politics long enough to know to take it in his stride, he says: “My view is ‘we are where we are’. I just want to be sure that we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and that we keep all the good environmental and animal welfare legislation that we have built over the years through our membership of the EU. But of course, I’m happy to see the lighter side of Brexit and Trump. Who wouldn’t be?”

Channel 4 appears to agree: they bought the rights to Kompromat and are looking to turn it into a mini-series, something Johnson is very excited about and hopes to have a cameo in. And so it doesn’t look like either Brexit or the Trump election will be leaving our screens or consciousness any time soon; but if they must, let them stay in the outrageous, hilarious version conceived by Stanley Johnson.

Kompromat is published by OneWorld Publications, £14.99

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