“Why won’t Boris tell us what happened?!” screamed the Sunday Express, next to a picture of a troubled looking Boris with his head in his hands.
The row at the home of his girlfriend Carrie Symonds poses some serious questions as to why Boris isn’t coming clean, with his rival Jeremy Hunt warning that Mr Johnson doesn’t deserve to lead the country unless he gives us answers about his character.
Personally, I always preferred Boris for the big job. Rough around the edges and a bit more ‘out there’ than Hunt. Hunt is a little too smooth for me, too ‘together,’ which doesn’t feel 100% real, even though I agreed with his “It is possible to be very polite and very tough,” comment. So Boris had the edge. Until that is, he refused to provide answers about what happened that night.
Hunt is right to bring up the issue of character. Character is important, especially if you’re up for most important job in the land. It goes without saying that the role of Prime Minister comes with a certain degree of scrutiny. People have a right to know what kind of person is going to run their country and in the age of fake news, election tampering and climate denial, we need honesty and transparency now more than ever.
After the row, a photo suddenly emerged of the ‘happy couple’ in a pub garden. On his LBC radio show Nick Ferrari asked Johnson again and again when the picture of him and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds was taken, claiming that it was an old photo, taken before he’d had his hair cut. Boris refused to answer the question 26 times.
We’ve all had arguments with loved ones and said and done things we probably shouldn’t have (I’m extremely grateful my neighbours haven’t recorded me rowing with my husband!). But Boris is a complete closed book, shutting down any attempts from the media to get to the bottom of what happened. The danger here is that he is inviting mistrust. The reason people are getting obsessed with the photo is because Boris isn’t saying anything at all. When people don’t get answers, they fill in the gaps themselves, often highly dramatised and not even remotely related to the actual truth.
I guess poor old Boris is feeling low vibe. How could he not be? Of course he doesn’t have to disclose all the gory details, but it’s the complete avoidance of the issue that’s breeding the mistrust. It automatically makes us pose the question, what has he got to hide?
What Boris should be doing is owning that he messed up. Maybe saying something like, hey, I feel bad about what happened. I regret disturbing my neighbours and I feel terrible that this has impacted my girlfriend and our relationship. We’re working to resolve the issue and I ask that you respect my girlfriend’s privacy and mine at this time, so that I can focus on getting the best Brexit deal that I can and we can come together as a United Kingdom.
Why? Because it makes him real. It makes him accessible. It makes him human. And this automatically creates empathy and trust.
We see this in business all the time. When the ship is going down and leaders, having made bad decisions, are right in the middle of it, the default mode is to keep schtum and carry on regardless.
Rising Vibe want to bring emotion back to business because when leaders talk about and own their mistakes, it makes them approachable, accessible and real. People connect with that. We can forgive most things when there’s honesty and transparency.
Up until he lost the Wimbledon final, Andy Murray had been closed book. When he cried and apologised for letting everyone down, the country took him to their collective breast. It wasn’t fake, the emotions were real and of course, we forgave him.
Leaders don’t have to share their deepest fears and emotions with everyone, but avoidance is not helpful. Boris is treading a dangerous path. Not only is he avoiding coming clean about that fateful night, he’s also refusing to debate publically with his rival. This doesn’t feel safe and it doesn’t feel honest.
If he’s not careful, he risks alienating us all.