His character is key, of course. Those pictures of him posturing as a child, and his mother’s fervent wish that he would never go into politics. The supercilious Johnson while at Eton, and reports from his outraged tutor that he seemed to think success should come to him as a right, without working for it.
Johnson the ‘journalist’
Then on to his career in journalism, and being fired as The Times’ Brussels correspondent for making things up. From there he went on to the Telegraph where, because he was easily bored and couldn’t be bothered to attend briefings, he continued to do the same. Much of the nonsense about the EU the British public were led to believe, like straight bananas and fishermen required to wear hairnets, were his inventions.
The eurosceptic press loved it, and a truculently xenophobic Tory party pricked up its ears. So politics loomed, but as we knew already Johnson wasn’t there for the hard grind of the backbencher. Can you imagine him sitting in a dingy hall, listening to a litany of constituents’ problems about housing complaints and benefits disputes? No. In that by now well-known proclamation by the young Boris, he wanted to be ‘World King’!
Johnson the lothario
He began to be adored by the establishment, and took success with women as his right too. It’s often wondered how they could find him attractive, but sometimes it seems they didn’t. He just helped himself. A woman remarked that men would be surprised how often women allowed themselves to be seduced simply because they couldn’t be bothered to say ‘no’ any more.
There are countless stories about female dinner guests being groped under the table – on one occasion two simultaneously, one with each hand. If he was still alone at the end of the evening he would request the woman of his choice to take him home with her. It seems this is what happened with Jennifer Arcuri, the young American on whom he lavished £100,000 of public money. There are suggestions it was the same scenario when he met the present Mrs Johnson.
Johnson the liar
He made promises to women, editors, politicians and the public, with no intention of keeping any of them. Brexit was of course his crowning glory. He made things up on the bus just as he had in the bars of Brussels. Dominic Cummings and the team in No.10 realised it quickly after he became prime minister. Boris has always been Boris; he can’t and he won’t change. A promise is just a joke to see him through to the end of the interview. Nothing is expected to come of it, because Johnson has always been shambolic and disorganised, both traits the result of his almost pathological laziness. After two and a half years of being prime minister, his carelessness with the truth and his complete inability to apply himself to anything which doesn’t offer him instant gratification have become apparent.
The study of human values analyses what lies behind our attitudes and opinions, our deeper self. There is a group called ‘prospectors’, whose needs are defined as ‘self-esteem’ and ‘the esteem of others’. They like recognition and reward. They often want to be the centre of attention, they want to hear the applause. But within a small dark corner of this group is what is called ‘the dark triad’, which is where lurk those whose characteristics mark them out as having serious and possibly dangerous character flaws.
Johnson and the ‘dark triad’
The three in the triad are narcissism, psychopathy and machiavellianism. There are plenty of observers who would claim Johnson shows all three. As this is being written, there is effectively nobody running the country. Johnson has resigned but remains, since he has conned his party into allowing him to continue as prime minister, a catastrophic outcome for both his party and the country and which will unravel over the coming days, but a good temporary outcome for him. His resignation speech shows he continues to show no regard for his country or his party.
In spite of it all, he is still there, still with his own interests as the centre of his attention as they have always been. He clings on. He can’t simply resign, and not only because his character won’t let him.
At least three or four criminal investigations have been held over by the Met because of squeamishness over what they call “political sensitivities”. In other words, they don’t want to investigate the prime minister. But what about when he is no longer prime minister, what then?
Johnson is also desperately short of money, with who knows how many children to support. He is believed to owe his publisher £100,000 which they gave him as an advance on a book about Shakespeare which he has never written. The Telegraph used to pay him £250,000 a year to write a column, with what turned out to be Russian money. Will a disgraced Johnson still be considered worth that?
The most likely ending is that during the forthcoming chaos he will demand a ‘pay-off’ for going quietly. (The present fudge is part of it.) Some Tory billionaire donor will be asked to grant him the use of his luxury villa somewhere in the Caribbean for a couple of years, rent free, while the ex prime minister tours the Republican states of America where he can still earn both money and applause to re-hash his jokes and his self-justification there. Johnson is still determined to go on his own terms, a victor and hero – at least in his own self esteem.