Chums: More Boris coming to your TV screens as Simon Kuper’s hit 80s Oxford book gets picked up by TV studio


You may think you’ve seen quite enough of Boris Johnson recently, but there is more on its way as Simon Kuper’s hit novel Chums, about Oxford in the Eighties, the Bullingdon Club and the friendship group that has risen to rule the UK, is going to be made into a four-part TV series.

The forthcoming show is still in its very early days of production: it was only announced in May that Channel 4-backed Scottish group Two Rivers Media will be developing it.

The series is based on Simon Kuper’s book of the same name. Chums, which tracks the well-connected Oxford posse who go on to govern Britain, was only released at the end of April but has already received a tonne of rave reviews. It focuses on Johnson, Cameron, Theresa May, Michael Gove, George Osborne and Dominic Cummings. Kuper also attended Oxford in the Eighties.

There is so much material to make the show truly fascinating, such as the “slave auction” at the Oxford Union in 1987 where a 19-year-old kilt-wearing Michael Gove was reportedly bought for £35 after a furious bidding war. The previous year Johnson hadn’t shown up and was bought in absentia.

Kuper shares his insights into the way the young Oxfordians would debate, communicate and learn the ropes of the manoeuvring that can be seen playing out in government every single day: how to bluff, how to gain allies, how banter can save a debate, and how backstabbing might be able to save ones (political) skin.

“If you thought you knew the extent of the stubbornly incestuous Oxford networks that currently sit at the top of our politics, this book will still surprise you,” said The Guardian’s Tim Adams. The Oxford networks in the eighties go deep: on the right, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Daniel Hannan were also forging relationships and interests, while on the left there were the Miliband brothers, Yvette Cooper, Ed Balls and Keir Starmer.

But Chums particularly focuses on the current Conservative elite. Kuper writes that the book is, “An attempt to write a group portrait of a set of Tory Brexiteers… who took an ancient route through Oxford to power”. So, the upcoming show has massive potential - albeit being slightly terrifying that most of the material is based on actual people and events.

This will not be the first time that Boris Johnson has been dramatised on TV: Kenneth Branagh will become Johnson in the upcoming Sky drama This England and in 2019’s Brexit: The Uncivil War the Prime Minister was played by Richard Goulding opposite Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings.