Boris Johnson is in the news for an “altercation” with his girlfriend. Asked about it, he said,
“I think what people want to know is whether I have the determination and the courage to deliver on the promises that I make.”
Which brings up the thorny issue: does private behaviour matter to public figures?
Years ago, I worked for Penn, Schoen and Berland, who did the polling for Bill Clinton through the 1990s. One of the things that they figured out during the Monica Lewinsky scandal: if Clinton was able to make a distinction between public and private life, the public was far more likely to approve of his performance as President, regardless of his behaviour toward his family.
So, in his apology to the nation, he kept saying “private.” Over the course of four minutes, he kept saying “private” so that people, in listening, said to themselves, “this is a private matter; it shouldn’t matter to his performance as president.”
If I remember correctly, after the apology, his approval hit something like 75%. It was a proud moment for the company, if not the nation.
So it’s curious to me that Johnson would take this approach – focusing on whether he has “the determination and the courage to deliver on the promises that (he) make(s).” Because surely, in a relationship, there is an implicit promise to keep the other person safe? To not assault them? To not destroy their things? Did he deliver on the implicit promises to his girlfriend? And what about the promises that he made to his wife – did he have the courage and determination to deliver on those promises? What did he vow, and did he break those vows?
And if he doesn’t have the determination and the courage to deliver on the private promises he made to the most important individuals in his private life, is there any reason to believe he would have the courage and determination to deliver on any promises he makes to the nation?