Netflix 'Anatomy of a Scandal': Did British PM Boris Johnson inspire Sarah Vaughan's novel?

Netflix 'Anatomy of a Scandal': Did British PM Boris Johnson inspire Sarah Vaughan's novel?
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a press conference on the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)

Netflix’s latest drama series ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ dives deeper into the world of politics and the power that comes with it. Big politicians have always had the privilege of using their political power to influence people whenever they get tangled in a scandal and that’s what the show is all about.

The show, based on the novel written by Sarah Vaughan, revolves around James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend), a member of the British parliament who is known for engaging in extramarital affairs. However, one of his affairs comes back to haunt him as one of his close political aides, Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), accuses him of rape. James’s wife Sophie (Sienna Miller) is stunned after hearing the claims and wants to clear her husband’s name. As soon as she starts getting immersed in the case and criminal trial, she starts finding the dirty truth about politics and finds herself questioning everything.


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Vaughan has been one of the most renowned journalists and correspondents in British media. She has worked for The Guardian and often reported on scandals emerging from the British political system. So, ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ has been inspired by such instances and one of them includes a discussion with current British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.


Britain's Prime Minster Boris Johnson speaks with police officers as he makes a constituency visit to Uxbridge police station on December 17, 2021 in Uxbridge, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)


‘Anatomy of a Scandal’: Did British PM Boris Johnson inspire the Netflix show?

In one of her blog posts for Waterstones, Vaughan revealed that her time as a political correspondent played an integral part in writing ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’. When she started covering politics, she got to know the real meaning of “power, privilege, and entitlement”. However, a discussion with Boris Johnson also played a vital role in writing the book.

Let’s clear one thing, the character James Whitehouse is “not at all” related to Johnson, but there are some similarities between the two. While writing about how Johnson inspired the book, Vaughan wrote that she was given the task of tracking Johnson down when she was working with The Guardian in 2004. A scandal had taken place suggesting that Johnson had an affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt.


Petronella Wyatt attends The Spectator Summer Party at Spectator House on July 3, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images)


Surprisingly, Johnson called her back and had a discussion with her. Sarah knew that the story was true. She wrote, “We didn’t stitch him up. We didn’t run a story about him confessing to this, partly because we wanted to throw the story forwards. But the fact that he had lied about the affair and had thought he could get away with it for almost a whole week rankled.”

In her blog, she also admitted that this was the “first time” she saw a renowned public figure “blatantly” not telling the truth.


The author revealed that her conversation with Johnson stuck with him and served as an inspiration when she thought of writing a novel involving an Oxford-educated minister.
Even though James and Johnson are not at all related to each other, there are some parallels. While the storylines in the show are not true, they show how privilege, power, and politics dominate society.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 2021 in New York City. More than 100 heads of state or government are attending the session in person, although the size of delegations are smaller due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz - Pool/Getty Images)


‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ will be streaming exclusively on Netflix on Friday, April 15.


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