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UK politics

We should have given Boris time to grieve

Boris Johnson with his mother in 2014. David M. Benett/Getty Images

Boris Johnson’s mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, to whom he was very close, died last week aged 79. “If my mum passed away, I wouldn’t be able to speak,” says Sarah Vine in the Mail on Sunday, let alone stand up and answer PMQs, as Johnson had to last Wednesday. Public figures expressed condolences. I’m sure friends wrote letters. Otherwise, nothing changed. “That such an emotional earthquake should result in no visible impact on the pace of politics is, for me, really weird. She was his mother, for heaven’s sake.”

Our politicians are no longer allowed to be human. Such is the unforgiving culture of modern politics that Johnson cannot afford to betray even the slightest weakness. And yet they are, of course, human. They do feel all these things. Or at least they do when they start off. “But if they achieve even a modicum of success, they soon learn that if they show even the tiniest crack in the armour, they won’t survive.” And so, over time, they learn to bury their feelings, to stifle their emotions. And it wreaks havoc, not just on them, “but also on their loved ones”. So, no break for Boris. These days, people never stop talking about mental health, and yet when it comes to arguably the most important person in the country and his mental health, “no one gives a fig”.