Background to this analysis. In recent weeks, I watched Prime Minister’s Question Time on BBC television or YouTube. I felt an increasing concern for Boris Johnson. I witnessed his agitated reactions to Sir Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Opposition, a lawyer and former head of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Starmer would present a merciless interrogation of the alleged failings of the Prime Minister. After responding to his question, the Prime Minister sat down to experience from Starmer another exposure of the perceived major flaws in the personality of Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson’s head and rounded back would slump down like a frightened child. A cabinet minister beside him might whisper in his ear. Words of comfort or criticism of Starmer? If burying his head in notes on his lap, is this a form of avoidance by the Prime Minister of non-stop fierce critiques from the other side of the despatch box? The Prime Minister would then get on his feet to speak and, at times, point his finger aggressively at the Labour Party leader. Are these tiny signs of a traumatised person caught up in a mood swing?
At times, a heavy silence hung over Parliament or an eruption of angry outbursts. The exchanges seemed charged with personal hostility and sometimes contempt.
I started to engage in research and the impact of his upbringing on his adult life. I gave the equivalent of two full working days researching/writing this analysis. While concentrating on Boris Johnson. this analysis also refers to the widespread variations of trauma for individuals in adult life.
Please note the vast majority of my blog readers reside outside UK and may know little about our Prime Minister.
Christopher Titmuss, a senior mindfulness/insightmeditation teacher,
has counselled thousands of traumatised people
in Australia, India, Europe, Israel, Palestine, Thailand, USA and more
approaching five decades. He lives in Totnes, Devon, England.
- Ashdown House Prep Boarding and Day School
- Eton and Oxford
- Impact of Trauma in Adult Life
- Personal Life, the Journalist and the Politician
- Examples of Gross Projections on People
- Low Self-Esteem and Self-Loathing
- Office Parties and Parliament
- A Vindictive Outburst
- A World of Praise and Blame, Success and Failure
- Corruption, Covid and Behaviour of Colleagues
- The Present and Future
- References for Childhood and Education
- References for Behaviour during Career and as a Public Servant.
Boris Johnson grew up in a household of domestic abuse. Stanley Johnson, his father, had a violent temper at home, including breaking the nose of his first wife which required her to go to hospital for treatment.
The mother of Boris said of her husband, Stanley Johnson, “He hit me many times, over many years. He made me feel I deserved it.” She said her son witnessed her being hit by his father.
Boris’s mother suffered from severe depression and a nervous breakdown. She said she was certain her suffering played on the mind of young Boris.
His father dismissed the concern that his children were neglected. He once said: “It is a strange idea that parents should talk to their children at home. I never read to them or asked about their homework. I relied on the schools.”
Johnson had little ongoing access to his parent’s love and the warmth of a homely upbringing from a tender age.
Born in New York in June 1964 of English, Jewish and Turkish ancestry, his full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He has always preferred to use the name Boris.
Until the age of eight, young Boris was severely deaf. He suffered from glue ear – a painful and prolonged infection making his ear canal keep filling up with fluid. The child required several operations for an insertion into his eardrum of a grommet, a small tube surgically implanted to drain the liquid. The pain in his ear kept him in bed for extended periods.
Years later, he said his ‘evasiveness’ goes back to his childhood when he could not hear what people said.1 Boris said he feared he might say something wrong himself. As a journalist and politician, he would write or say whatever came into his mind as if to show himself he had gotten over his fear. This is a classic symptom of a traumatised child under its influence as an adult.
Seeing and knowing his mother’s suffering, depression and periods in mental hospitals, Boris distrusted his unfaithful father, regarded as a womaniser.
After widespread research and interviews, Boris Johnson’s biographer (Tom Bower in his 2020 biography) concluded Stanley Johnson’s “violence has forever haunted Boris.”
The parents of Boris packed their son, aged 11, off to Ashdown House Prep Boarding School in Sussex in 1975 for two years’ preparation to go to Eton College in Windsor, the exclusive boarding school.
Upon arrival at the Prep School, a preparation for Eton, parents would drag their children from the car into the school. Children would run after the car as their parents drove off.
The Prep School did not permit crying. Pupils found crying were punished with a beating.
In later years, Boris criticised the school for corporate punishment. “I remember being so enraged at being whacked for talking at the wrong moment.”
Former pupils of the Prep School, a boarding and day school, made allegations of physical and sexual abuse of pupils in the 1970s.2 Teachers would regularly punish boys or entire classes with caning.
One former pupil, Alex Renton wrote a book called Stiff Upper Lip about his experience at the Prep School. Another pupil from the school recalled the “sadness and trauma boarding can cause.” A law firm investigated the allegations.
In March 2017, a science teacher from Ashdown House received a 12-year prison sentence for serious sexual assaults on a number of boys, including an eight-year-old, during the 1970s.
Family and school experiences left Boris with an emotional hole, referred to as the ‘frozen child.’
The author wrote: “The British have always been both sentimental and violent to children in a way that sets them apart from other European nations.”
At Eton School, his classics teacher wrote that Boris Johnson “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 that blames everyone else.”
After Eton, Johnson attended Oxford University and joined the Bullingdon Club, a group of 23 students dedicated to an ostentatious lifestyle, alcohol consumption and an inflated sense of their self-importance. Bullingdon Club3 had a notorious reputation in the university for living with extravagance. Membership of the Bullingdon Club gave him a sense of self-importance, a person of distinction.
In March 2013, Boris Johnson said he looked back at time in the Bullingdon Club, including helping to smash up a restaurant, with a sense of ‘deep, deep self-loathing.’
The Prime Minister went onto to show in his teenage and adult life signs of a person traumatised during his upbringing due to the abuse and neglect he suffered at home and at school.
A childhood traumatisation refers to a shock or significant upset that has a long-standing impact on a person’s life. The trauma can include a physical injury/sickness, a wound in the emotions or agitation in the mental functions or a combination. A person may experience expressions at times of reactivity as listed below without any childhood history of traumatisation, whether a sudden painfilled situation leaving a deep wound or exposure to an ongoing distressing situation.
A traumatised person suffers an ongoing impact year after year without any resolution. Those who suffer because of seeing or experiencing family violence at home or school, or both can react differently in adult life. A trauma robs a person of a deep sense of well-being and inner peace. Various kinds of reactive behaviour send alarm signals to those who witness the behaviour. Some people with an unresolved trauma appear to function reasonably well for much of the time but remain prone in specific situations to:
- Impulsive behaviour
- Lack of Transparency
- Need For Attention
Here are four common outcomes in adulthood of trauma
- Remarkable recovery from such abuse and get on with life, often due to skills and kindness of others
- Internalise the abuse and act out the same abusive behaviour
- Experiences years of self-doubt, unhappiness and perhaps depression.
- Retreat into a mental fantasyland, where one feels loved and appreciated.
Boris Johnson seems to fall into the fourth category, though denial of faults or verbal aggression sometimes take over.
Parental behaviour, such as abuse/punishment/anger/threats/neglect and fault-finding will often traumatise a child for life.
TEN SIGNALS IN ADULT LIFE OF POSSIBLE
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE
In Alphabetical order:
- An unreachable parent
- Constant attempts to please
- Distrusts men and pursues close friendship with women or vice-versa.
- Experiencing low self-esteem when alone for an extended period
- Fear of loss of attention
- Feeling that nobody can help them.
- Need to be seen and understood.
- Not able to meet emotional needs of others.
- Not feeling good enough
- Sudden outbursts of frustration, blame and anger
From this understanding, it seems that Boris Johnson pursued power to achieve status among his peers and recognition from the public. It appears Johnson fed his addiction for attention through his circles of rich, influential friends, the media and politics. He presents himself as affable, sociable, controversial and ambitious to achieve maximum public attention.
Unresolved traumas from childhood may surface from time to time, especially under pressure, facing hostility or craving for attention. The traumatised can function well daily, as long as the conditions do not trigger painful childhood experiences. Manifestations of unresolved trauma can show in deeply rooted prejudice, craving for attention, lack of integrity, abusive behaviour and volatile mood swings spanning over years.
Boris Johnson’s mind shows signs of polarised forces and tensions within, contributing to a proliferation of views and opinions with the binding element of self-interest. Views, true, false, half-true or mostly false over decades, have an equal status when repeated.
As a result, has Boris lost his moral compass? He is frequently criticised for expressing views serving self-interest rather than facts. His first instinct when caught out for deceptive speech or outright lies shows in projecting responsibility and blame upon others.
The Prime Minister seems to lack the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, facts from fiction.12 This entanglement in his mental constructs haunts his life and has widespread consequences for himself and for the country. He appears to prefer those in the public sector and the poor carry the burden of economic decisions rather than corporations making staggering profits pay extra tax. His upbringing supporting entitlement shape his political views.
A traumatised person might escape into a fantasy world where everybody like him. We expect far too much of such a contracted mindset. If he took responsibility for his failings, he would be a ‘bad boy’ and people would not like him.
In the morning, I suspect Boris looks in the mirror and makes his hair look as dishevelled as possible. His hair reflects his state of mind.
Boris Johnson became an opportunist in his determination to make his way up to the top rung of society. He had an unwavering determination to place himself as the primary consideration in his personal life, love life and working life. With his need for attention, he had pursued lovers and fathered several children. He once boasted to a woman. “I haven’t had to have a wank for 20 years.” Boris has found himself unable to develop lasting friendships with men due to distrust in his father. He seeks the company of women. His painful childhood upbringing appears to have affected every area of his life.
He has spent years fabricating views to bring attention to himself. In 1988, Boris Johnson worked on a story for the front page of The Times where he fabricated words of his godfather. The outcome cost him his job owing to a “gross failure of responsibility.”
Johnson spent years ridiculing the European Union with fallacious stories in the Daily Telegraph. His Euro myths included the banning of British sausages, standardised condom sizes, and an EU plan to legislate for an acceptable curve for bananas. He claimed he wrote satire. If so, presumably the £350 million extra per week for the NHS on the red “battlebus” 4 as a major feature of the Brexit campaign also offered satire to passers-by.
The former Conservative Party leader, Michael Howard, twice fired him as a minister when Johnson, married with four children, lied to him about his love life and an abortion to end an unwanted pregnancy of his lover. Johnson described his exposure as an inverted pyramid of piffle. He tends to turn to convoluted English when he is lying.
In 2006, Andrew Gimson, a journalist, told The Times Boris Johnson offered him up to £100,000 not to write a biography of his life. Johnson probably feared he would be exposed to public criticism.
We do not have to probe far to see the influence of his upbringing.
Here are just four examples spread over 20 years showing the influence of his trauma upon others.
He wrote vulgar statements about single mothers, Africans, Muslim women and Hillsborough football fans.
- In 1995, he described in an article the children of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”
- In 2002, Boris Johnson said colonialism in Africa should never have ended and downplayed Britain’s role in the slave trade. “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.” He wrote this article while a Conservative Party MP. Years later, he referred in a racist tone to former US President Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan.” 5
- In 2004, as Editor of the Spectator (a right-wing magazine), he claimed drunken fans were partly responsible for the Hillsborough tragedy, where 50 Liverpool football club fans crushed to death. The police engaged in a cover up. 6
- In 2018, he wrote in his column in the Daily Telegraph he “burka is oppressive” and Muslim women who wear the full veil look “like letterboxes” and “bank robbers.” 7
The Daily Telegraph paid him around £5000 per article, which probably took an hour or two to write.
In the Sunday Telegraph, his father wrote his son was “spot on” with his comments about Muslim women and said he would have liked his son to “go further.” Boris can never get his father’s full approval for his bigoted articles.
A hate crime monitor reported Islamophobia hate crime increased 375% in the week after his article appeared. Johnson claimed he had no intention of causing distress. This displays an emotional detachment, the frozen child, cut off from reality – typical of those still under the influence of domestic violence.
The son of Stanley Boris reveals the characteristic feature of an individual, who feels a deep sense of low self-esteem and, at time, self-loathing.
He cannot bear to experience such painful feelings and thoughts about himself. He projects the loathing onto others. In authoring such articles, he experiences the feel-good factor feeling temporarily better about himself as being superior to those he looks down upon.
For decades, Boris regularly turns out the ritual apology for what he says or writes but continues to create fake news. This behaviour reveals lifelong insecurity due to going back and forth in the mind between fact and fiction. Beneath his insecurity lurks the influence of traumatic experience from childhood.
Boris Johnson needs recognition from the intelligent and powerful to gain a sense of self-importance. The outcome of this craving for attention has turned on its head. He now faces the loathing of others within the Conservative Party, around the country and on the international stage.
For example, in a crowded Parliament, former cabinet minister and long-standing MP, David Davis stood up in the House of Commons in January 2022 and told Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign. “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, Go.”
A marmite politician, public figures line up to attack his lack of integrity, lack of moral compass, sleaze, denial and lies while others defend regardless of his loose relationship to ethics.
Partygoers, mostly office staff, walked through his front door to attend 16 parties, sometimes wining, chatting and playing party games.8 Johnson attended some parties for varying lengths of time, including one in his own flat. A party took place at 10 Downing Street on the eve of the funeral of Prince Philip. 9
Setting an example for the rest of the country, the Queen sat alone in a section of the Cathedral saying goodbye to Prince Philip, her husband of 70 years. Her lonely presence must have reached the heart of millions of her subjects, especially those dealing with social isolation of the dying and death of their loved ones.
When a reporter reminded Boris Johnson of the party in his residence on the eve of the funeral, he mumbled yet another apology. He looked shell-shocked and vulnerable, having let the Queen down. That probably gave him sleepless nights.
Some treat events in Downing Street as a storm in a teacup. Those who have not lost family members and loved ones during lockdown may find it hard to understand the anguish and loss of trust in the Prime Minister, the Government and Civil Servants. Understandably, they condemn the self-entitlement of those in power who show such disregard for the suffering of those they serve.
His humour has become a tool to make himself liked among his peers. This need to be popular prevents him from using his authority as the Prime Minister to ensure everyone in 10 Downing Street kept to the same rules as 65 million other people in the country.
The staff in Downing Street, who attended the parties, showed their utter disregard for the Prime Minister and his authority. Like himself, the staff were out of touch with the reality of life in Britain under lockdown. They imitated the lifelong behaviour of entitlement of the Prime Minister. His spokesperson, Allegra Stratton remarked there was “definitely no social distancing” as she joked and giggled in a mock press conference during one party. One person at the party had the decency to leak her performance to ITV news.
The initiation and organisation of these parties showed contempt for the Prime Minister since they knew he would not exercise his authority to demand adherence to the rules.
Hearing the public outrage, Boris Johnson said he took “full responsibility.” but refused to say what he took “full responsibility” for. He offered the country empty words with no substance.
It is an unedifying spectacle, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, who loathe each other, trying to get the upper hand. Neither of them understands their mutual entrapment.
In one vindictive outburst, Boris Johnson told Sir Keir Starmer that he “used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile (a British TV personality, a serial sex offender of hundreds of children).
Sir Keir Starmer said Johnson was “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points.” (No evidence has shown Starmer had any personal role in the Jimmy Savile case).
Despite requests from Conservative Members of Parliament, the Prime Minister refused to offer a personal apology for making a false accusation against the Leader of the Opposition. It is a simple request and only requires a sentence or two of apology. An emotionally traumatised person cannot offer a heartfelt apology.
As a young boy at home and at prep school, his father and teachers probably forced him to apologise for minor misdemeanours or unfounded ones. Boris would have felt hurt, humiliated and misunderstood.
He resists expressing any genuine apology because he will experience a lack of self-worth, guilt and another personal failure. We demand too much of Boris to force him to apologise. To repeat, he is a traumatised adult.
‘Apologies’ then serve self-interest rather than a sincere acknowledgement of blind spots or reactive allegations against other(s) with little regard for the impact. Genuine apologies will come after wise counselling and release from his inner demons.
Boris Johnson’s top policy aid for 14 years, Munira Mirza resigned after Johnson ignored her advice. It was probably the last straw for her which broke the camel’s back. Other seniors in Downing Street followed her out.
Her boss has made various sexist, racist and homophobic comments.
Boris Johnson lives in a world constructed of praise and blame, success and failure and appears to lumber on from one major issue to the next.
All the above information within this critique of Boris Johnson has been available online or in books for everybody to read. Yet, the Conservative Party elected him for the highest role in the land. He also had the backing of much of the media and those who voted for him.
His tragic childhood indicates he cares about others when it serves his self-importance. Does this lead to him giving himself priority more than his country?
I suspect his anguish at times runs through his upbringing, education and into his private and public life as an adult. If so, Boris might live in a privatised version of reality, singular in viewpoint, wanting reality to be as he would like it to be.
He dismissed police investigation into historical domestic violence/child abuse telling a radio interviewer that the police spent “an awful lot of police time” looking at “historic offences and all this malarkey”.10
Today a family member, friend or neighbour may have contacted social services or police so the authorities could speak to Stanley Boris about domestic violence with a warning or more. It might have stopped years of abuse in the household. His mother said her husband ‘hit her many times over many years.’
Why should we expect Boris Johnson to change when he has supported entitlement for himself and his influential friends all his life? No Covid rules for Downing Street and rules for the rest of the country has become the mantra of mistrust in the UK. It is the tip of the iceberg of issue at the head of government due to the unreliability of the Prime Minister’s state of mind and his erratic views.
His newspaper editor said Johnson was “utterly unfit to be Prime Minister.”11
During the Brexit campaign, the Prime Minister and others engaged in deceit about the benefits of Brexit whereas the country has experienced shortages in supplies for manufacturing, food, job market, energy costs, long lorry queues at border, shortage of lorry drivers, no single market, no extra money for NHS, checks required for goods coming into Northern Ireland from the UK and more.
Former Prime Minister, Sr John Major said the Prime Minister Johnson broke Covid laws and must resign if he lied to Parliament.12
The government made contracts with 40 businesses totalling £4.2bn for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The High Court of England and Wales ruled against a fast-track lane, which let Government ministers and MPs award contracts for lucrative PPE deals to a select number of businesses.13 These awards helped companies win huge contracts from the government. Accusations of sleaze and corruption haunt the government. The Prime Minister failed to act
He proclaims his success in handling Covid through getting a high percentage of the population vaccinated, while others have a different point of view. UK deaths from Covid rank the sixth highest of the world’s 206 countries. Covid death toll stated on UK death certificates so far number over 150,000 citizens, 1.3 million people have long Covid. Six million people wait for an operation. People continue to suffer, endure agonising pain and have died through not getting the treatment they need. The government has not provided figures for this death toll.
His need for recognition from Members of Parliament and the public got mixed in with the priority in the Covid/Economy national debate. Boris Johnson comes across as a gambler with the health and welfare of the nation. Tom Bower named his biography of Johnson The Gambler.
The Prime Minister resorted to defending individuals as long as possible, such as his former Chief Advisor, Dominic Cummings, Home Secretary Priti Patel14 and former MP Owen Patterson15 All three were accused of irresponsible behaviour, such as breaking the Covid law, bullying of Public Servants or for breaching the Parliamentary Code of Conduct regarding use of paid advocacy.16
The Supreme Court ruled the Prime Minister’s previous efforts to prologue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.17
The Leaders of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Ian Blackford said the Prime Minister should be ‘censured’ for ‘scandal after scandal.’ He also said in Parliament he ‘has demonstrated himself to be a liar.’ SNP leader then walked out.
Boris Johnson apologies on numerous occasions for his harmful speech, neglect of attention to issues and defence of the apparent indefensible. He makes an apology and then continues in a similar behaviour. It is another indication of a traumatised mind unable to initiate personal change of his views of people/minorities/cultures he has little respect for.
The Prime Minister reveals a personality suitable for the entertainment industry. An engaging, funny, overgrown public schoolboy, he can put on a performance to impress people. His personability bears little relationship to his role as Prime Minister. His impression of others, himself or both take priority over truth, over reality and over facts.19 In the inner world of Boris Johnson, his flamboyancy and crude outbursts reduces trust in him. He appears out of touch except with those who are impressionable.20
He is constantly criticised for not having the power of concentration, nor ability to attend to detail in major or minor matters in politics/economics/social legislation. This is yet another indication of an unsettled and impulsive mind due to the impact of past and present issues troubling him.
Attacking Boris Johnson, defending him or ignoring him keeps him in the grip of conflicting voices around him and within himself. People with strong levels of empathy might well want to take him under their wing and give him lots of hugs.
There is only one thing worse for Boris Johnson than being liked or disliked. He cannot handle being ignored. He does not know, nor anybody else, how much longer he will stay in office. When the day comes when he ceases to be Prime Minister because of the Conservative Party sacking him or the electorate, he will be yesterday’s man. It would be out of character for him to step down as it means obscurity.
The Conservative Party has articulated, confident and sharp minded Members of Parliament. None of them have a ministerial post. The Conservative Party has not shown any substantial confidence in a single government minister to be the next Prime Minister. Perhaps Boris Johnson selected his minsters based on his needs to avoid threats to his position.
Boris knows he is dispensable. A traumatised person will try to create order in the disorder. These are anxious times for the Prime Minister. The Conservative Party, Parliament, Civil Servants and the country will move on. He may go quietly into the night or keep fighting for attention, as with Donald Trump after he leaves Downing Street. His problematic past will have a major influence on his reaction.
Boris Johnson will likely hate being a backbencher. Like his father, he hates anonymity. Unresolved personal issues will hit him hard. It would be a waste of a gifted man to leave Parliament and become a full time TV personality to get attention to help stave off his inner demons.
Personable and energetic, Boris is endearing for many people. With his flair for Latin and Greek, he expresses at time an original, sparkling use of language. He has much to offer. We want him to have a long and healthy life. To his credit, he jogs and cycles, but he appears heavy with a forward leaning posture. This places some pressure on his heart. A physical health coach advising daily on diet, posture and exercise could bring him immense benefits lasting decades.
Vulnerable to insecurity and reactivity, Boris Johnson needs much love and skilful support at this time and also to get him through the anguish in the future of being yesterday’s man when his time finishes as Prime Minister. He has made a meteoric rise and his fall can be much faster.
He needs wise counsel in specific areas of his life to resolve his troubled past and its impact upon the present. Such counsel would include a psychologist specialising in support for the traumatised, comprehensive courses in mindfulness and daily guidance to develop body, speech and mind without losing his natural eccentricity. The benefits would turn his life around.
Boris Johnson has the potential to become a true public servant, offering leadership, vision and compassion. Instead, he reveals endless reactions to a traumatised childhood, which carries on unresolved with a widespread impact on the country and elsewhere.
His real friends and family, who love him and care for him, need to step forward now.
Penguin. Random House
(see chapters 1-3)
STIFF UPPER LIP
Secrets, Crimes and the Schooling of a Ruling Class
Weidenfeld and Nicholson.
See Introduction and Chapter One
A Tale of Blond Ambition
Introduction, Chapter 1 and 2.
The Makings of the Prime Minister
Simon Schuster UK
An earlier version of this analysis was emailed as an attachment to 650 Members of Parliament. Under rules for MPs, MPs only reply to emails/letters from their constituents due to volume of messages they receive on a daily basis. Emails from outside the constituency might receive a standard acknowledgement from some MPs.