Invisible in his hospital bed, Johnson dominates the news. He is Britain’s darkest hour absent leader. He is the master speaker, reduced to silence.
And yet, right now, the Prime Minister is sort of at his most human. There is a guy of all ages who has trouble getting out of the virus room alive. And people attract it.
“How’s Boris doing?” For millions of people, it was our first thought when I woke up yesterday. And our last thought before we fell asleep the night before. The prospect of losing our Prime Minister was deeply shocking. “He won’t die, will he?” “, Wrote a friend at 11:18 p.m. “My heart will break. “”
It was columnist Allison Pearson, writing this week in The Telegraph, the newspaper where Johnson once worked as a hack, under the headline “We need you, Boris – your health is the health of the nation. “
The disappearance of the Prime Minister at dusk from the ICU this week has aroused the sympathy of those who frankly say they cannot support his conservative policies.
” I hate it. But I would be devastated if this clown died, “said Vicki Cullen, 40, who stopped by for take-out coffee at London’s Exmouth market. “I mean, two days ago, I found myself in tears talking to my family.”
Like few other British politicians, Johnson is intimately known to the public, thanks to the series of scandals and returns that make up the tabloid drama of his life.
But this episode is by far the worst.
Johnson and his 32-year-old fiancée Carrie Symonds were beaming with photographs as recently as the end of February, when they announced their engagement a few days after his divorce was settled – when the virus was already spreading in Great Britain. Brittany after having cracked down on China. and Italy.
The two violated all protocol, all standards, when they moved into 10 Downing Street as an unmarried couple after Johnson’s election.
No one has complained. Rather, people cheered – or shrugged.
Two weeks ago, Symonds started to suffer from the same symptoms of the virus as her future husband and has not seen Johnson for days, the two isolating themselves.
Rachel Johnson, Boris’ sister, retweeted a photo of hospital staff wearing face masks and brandishing letters that said, “Heal Boris quickly.”
Stanley Johnson, the isolated 79-year-old father of Boris, told the Daily Mail: “I am not told how Boris is doing. But he is optimistic, determined and resilient. “
Guto Harri, Johnson’s director of communications when he was mayor of London, said people felt like they knew Johnson personally. In addition to serving two terms as mayor, Johnson worked as a newspaper reporter, appeared on television shows and wrote books – including one on his hero Winston Churchill and a comic political novel widely titled “Seventy-two virgins ”.
His fans like him, said Harri, because Johnson appears to be authentic. He is an educated politician at Eton who is fluent in French, pronounces Latin in sentences and has had a colorful personal life (and has been accused of groping journalists). But, said Harri, “Ordinary people will be linked to anyone until you pretend to be someone that you are not.” “
He added, “He has flaws, he has business, his wife kicked him out, brought him back, and then he’s with a young pregnant woman. But there is very little resentment – because most human beings are themselves imperfect. He’s not trying to present himself as someone better than you. ”
So when Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus but posted videos suggesting it would persist, “it became a metaphor for how the country and the economy will fare as well,” said Harri. “But when it went wrong, the country thought, damn, it will hit us harder than we thought.” “
Andrew Gimson, Johnson’s contemporary political journalist and biographer, said, “Some people are surprised by the concern they feel for him.”
He said, “It’s just a natural human thing; people feel his pregnant fiancée and his children and all his family rather complicated and extended. Human sympathy takes precedence over partisan fire. “
Tony Hudson, a Royal Post employee, said he was following Johnson’s plight via television and radio reports. Johnson’s former home is around the corner in Islington, north London, and Hudson said she felt like a neighbor, as much as a leader, was in trouble.
“It shows you, it could affect anyone, right? Said Hudson, who was waiting in a queue – each person six feet from the other – outside a pharmacy. Hudson, 52, noted that he was about the same age as the Prime Minister but that his life in the midst of the pandemic was very different.
Hudson has to work every day with mail and parcels without protective gear. “I wouldn’t say we are afraid. But of course, we are worried, “he said. And a Prime Minister of the USI, he said, “made everyone think.”
Johnson’s early management of the coronavirus crisis has been criticized. Britain has been slower than most European countries to put in place strict home stay measures. But few have questioned his work ethic. If anything, maybe the Prime Minister was working too hard. Aides complained that it could have undermined his immune response.
As the epidemic got worse, Johnson seemed to adjust his tone. He no longer laughed in his usual way. Instead, he was accompanied by senior medical and scientific advisers at the daily press conference at 10 Downing Street, where he encouraged them to weigh in on the issues.
For most of Johnson’s political life, Gimson said, Johnson’s critics have argued that he is “a clown and not trustworthy, and they are very attached to that view.” But now, he said, “most honest people recognize that he is not just a jester but a person of considerable ability, and everyone really hopes that he will get better.”
Politicians from all walks of life have declared their support. Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who clashed with Johnson over Scottish independence, said that many, including herself, felt “really shaken” when she was admitted to care intensive.
“We wish you all, Boris. Get well soon, ”she said.
Johnson’s critics have not turned into fans. Some people on social media responded to calls to #ClapForBoris on her second night at the ICU by posting videos showing scenes of complete silence from their window sills.
“She’s not the queen. He is still a politician, “said Ben Page, managing director of the Ipsos Mori polling group. But he noted that just before Johnson entered the hospital, his personal scores were up 16 percentage points from what they were before Christmas. “People are gathering around their leader in a crisis.”
This is also the case of Margaret Thatcher, the first female British leader, who was very unpopular in the early 1980s during waves of strikes across the country. But she saw a huge increase in support after the Falklands War in 1982. In 1983, she won an overwhelming victory in the general election.
Johnson’s current approval rating is 52% – a peak for Britain, where voters are known to elect and then immediately begin to ransack their leaders.