14th Jan, 22

Behaviour is everything – and Boris is the perfect illustration

Like him or loathe him, putting to one side your political standpoint, Boris Johnson is certain to be a figure of historical importance. It is easy to imagine discussion and debate in the classrooms of future students where the merits of political success and the personal qualities they deem most important in those people who consider themselves best placed to lead others, be it in politics or anywhere else.

As I write, we are at the height of ‘party-gate’ and in the press today is a lovely graphic in the form of a timeline under the title ‘Government parties during 2020 lockdown.’ They get to a total of 12.

Yesterday saw the circulation of extracts from a wonderful letter written to Stanley Johnson, Boris’s dad in 1982 by the then Eton housemaster and classics tutor Martin Hammond where he makes the point that:

“Boris has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude toward his classics studies…Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility: (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed Captain of the School for next half term). I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”

Has there ever been a more beautifully apt and telling summary written of anyone?

There is so much to talk about with Boris, he is the perfect illustration of unreconstructed. The commentary offered by his then tutor some 40 years ago, would be as fresh written this morning. And yet it is impossible to deny Boris’s obvious intellect and success.  

It is a big enough challenge to understand ourselves, never mind pretending to understand someone else. But what we can say is that a person’s behaviour, the pattern of that behaviour over time and the traits they demonstrate say more about them than pretty much anything else.

Social identity, constructivism, the self, the ego…given enough time, all of it leaks out. The masks slip and who we are is there for those closest to us to see who we really are. The difference with Boris is that his sense of self-worth is so colossal that he is willing to let everything play out in the most public of settings.


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