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When sorry seems to be the hardest word

Lulu Sinclair asks what is it about Boris Johnson that prevents him from ever admitting his mistakes

Another day, another decision, each one stranger than the last...

It was Harold Wilson who once said that a week is a long time in politics. Now, even a day seems a long time, particularly as we manoeuvre around this in-out Covid lockdown and sometimes forget to keep a watchful eye on our government.

Boris Johnson said farewell to Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain within the past two weeks with no explanation as to why they went. We were told of some spat between Carrie Symonds (Boris’s beloved) and the men on his team but nothing has been said officially. 

Next came the news of the extraordinary and amazing (seems there can never be enough hyperbole when it comes to these stories) awarding of contracts to PPE suppliers without going through official channels. We are then told that these suppliers have links to people within government or are friends of friends or acquaintances, or have tenuous links – but there is some connection somewhere.  

And, most recently, comes the case of Home Secretary Priti Patel who has been found to have bullied and diminished her staff at the Home Office. It was expected that she would resign but no, she’s staying on. Instead, the writer of the independent report, former diplomat and intelligence expert Sir Alex Allan has resigned because Boris Johnson did not take his report seriously. What Boris did was to WhatsApp his pals and tells them to form a square (surely he means circle) around the “Pritster” to protect her. 

What?!

This is our Prime Minister talking. It is not a teenage boy who can’t believe his luck that he’s got to be head boy. Or perhaps it is.

First, I have to declare an interest. I’m a floating voter and I voted Conservative last December. It was the best of the worst option because I couldn’t go for Corbyn. Oh, for the gift of hindsight…

I did warm to Boris when he was mayor – although I continue to bear a grudge against him for wrecking central London with his cycle lanes – and I liked his optimistic nature. If we had to go through with Brexit, I liked the idea of someone championing our corner. It gave me a bit of hope.

Now, however, I’m beginning to hate him, at least in his role as my Prime Minister. What is wrong with this man? What is it about him that prevents him from ever admitting his mistakes, or accepting that he may have done the wrong thing? 

Stephen Glover in a Daily Mail article on Boris Johnson suggests the Prime Minister is easy going and good natured and has neither bullied nor been bullied so he may lack the imagination to see the problem. I’m not sure I agree. I bet his father gave him a hard time and, if we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn’t, those kids at both Ashdown House and Eton would have. Children can be horrible little bullies, given half a chance. He may appear to have led a charmed life but, as I’ve written elsewhere, he will have deep feelings and they won’t always be happy ones.

Anyone with an interest in what makes Boris tick will have read that he doesn’t comment on his private life. We have stories about what he’s been up to but he doesn’t do direct response. This has worked well for him.

The problem is that he is no longer a private figure and the silent treatment for the public is not an option. Someone needs to tell him that, in his public role, he is accountable and he does need to speak up and explain himself and apologise if necessary.   

Covid was not Boris Johnson’s fault and I don’t blame him for that. I don’t even blame him for being his bravado-filled self and locking us down later than he was advised (personally, I’m still not sure it was the answer). But I’m beginning to blame him for the situation we find ourselves in now. 

I want a leader who’s polite, conciliatory and prepared to admit he, as Prime Minister, has to take the blame when sometimes things go wrong. I want a leader who recognises that we have indeed “lent” him our votes and that we can lend them to someone else in the next election. I want a leader who can be strong when necessary. I suspect Boris sees apologising as a sign of weakness. Sometimes, it can be a sign of strength.

Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

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Lulu Sinclair

Lulu is an experienced journalist who has worked in print, TV, radio and digital media. She retrained as a psychotherapist and counsellor some years ago and now combines both her passions. She writes a regular blog on mental health topics for a Harley Street psychotherapy practice.

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