‘Rake’s Progress: My Political Midlife Crisis’ (2020)


Being sister to The Prime Minister and a cabinet minister and the daughter of a former Conservative MEP comes with its own perks, as well as its challenges.

Whilst working as a journalist in her own right, Johnson recounts stories of playing tennis and having dinner with an ex-prime minister to hanging out with defecting MPs.

But Rachel Johnson is a fighter and having lost the South West and Gibralter MEP seat to the Brexit Party’s Ann Widdecombe and Liberal Deomcrat Martin Horwood last May, she continues to battle on.

On the campaign trail, Rachel is a strong performer. I know as I was a part of the Change UK campaign for a short time. Unfortunately, public perceptions of the party and its leaders were not the same. The campaign was about Rachel. She was party’s top candidate for the seat and she set out to do everything she could to make it to Brussels.

A short summary

It is extremely fitting that the cover reads ‘My Political Midlife Crisis’, as never did I think, I would be sitting in Bristol, facing Gavin Esler and Rachel Johnson at the Change UK launch. Here were two of the most political and media savvy people I’ve admired since my college days, announcing their candidacies for the European Parliament. The book sets out in detail, the highs and lows of life as a ‘Tigger’ since that upbeat day in April.

In the book, Rachel tells of how she pleaded with her brother to support the remain campaign as she knew what damage leave would do, having lived in Brussels for a period of time. Sadly this call was not answered by some in her family and what happened next is history.

A critical review of Rake’s Progress: My Political Midlife Crisis

Rachel Johnson provides a brutal yet honest account of the Change UK operation. With two brothers already in politics, Johnson was repeatedly asked time and time again ‘why don’t you go in to politics Rachel?’. Well, these endless questions spurred her on to do it.

Part two of the book begins thirty-four days out from the election, and where she starts to detail where things began to fail, city by city and event by event. Bath was the best, yet it wasn’t a political talk from Rachel by any means but a debate about scones and jam, and what goes on the top and what goes on the bottom. At the end, ex Labour MP Joan Ryan rose to her feet and this is where it became cringe-worthy.

Ryan told the audience to hold their hands out in front of them and state ‘I have the world world in my hands’. Rachel was very critical about this, as was everyone who left the cricket ground in Bath that day, and the ‘party’ was slammed in the media for it. If Rachel had one

thing 100% correct in this book, is that Dr Sarah Wollaston, the ex-MP for Totnes, who eventually defected again, this time to the Liberal Democrats, took care of everything in the region on behalf of Change UK, and did so to the absolute best of her ability and with what little resources she had.

Concluding remarks

This was an extremely detailed and thorough campaign trail diary. Some of Johnson’s reflections are unique and interesting, yet some were going to be obvious from the start. I believe Johnson had an inkling project Tigger was going to fail when she saw turnout figures at the Bristol launch.

Although Change UK may have failed to make the new decade, a bright future awaits Rachel Johnson.

Sadie is a Politics and International Relations student at The University of The West of England in Bristol and President-elect of UWE Liberal Democrats. She Tweets @SadieTrent_92.