Science | PSHE

‘Greased piglet’ Johnson survives (for now)

Can a person ever change their character? The British prime minister has promised to turn over a new leaf. Again. Like most of us, he believes he can change – but probably won’t.  In 2004, Boris Johnson was sacked as Shadow Arts Minister for lying about having an affair.  "Boris is finished", observers confidently predicted. Yet just four years later, he got himself elected Mayor of London. In 2016, he was seen as the frontrunner to become the new prime minister. But he had to pull out of the contest after key ally Michael Gove turned on him. "Boris is finished", observers said again. Instead, he was appointed Foreign Secretary. He lasted two years before resigning so he could criticise his own government’s negotiations with the EU. "This time", they said, "he really is finished". Yet in 2019, he was elected prime minister. Barnard CastleOwen Paterson, Partygate – any other prime minister would have fallen long ago. Yet last night, faced with a confidence vote from his own MPs, Johnson has once again lived to tell the tale. He promised his furious MPs that if they voted to keep him, he would change how he operates. But his way of doing politics has raised him to the highest office in the land. So why, some ask, would he ever change? In fact, some think no politician ever changes. In 1837, Benjamin Disraeli made his maiden speech in the House of Commons. Other MPs mocked his pompous speaking style until he sat down, humiliated. Two decades later, he was prime minister. He would dominate British politics for the next 10 years – making exactly the same flamboyant addresses. But some politicians have changed their ways. In the 1960s, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, was a staunch segregationist who ran openly racist campaigns. But in the late 1970s, he renounced his past views and apologised to Black civil rights leaders. He appointed a record number of Black people to state positions. Can a person ever change their character? All change please Yes: Many politicians undergo a Damascene conversion in their time. Some even end up switching parties, or dismantling their own legacy. We should never give up hope of change. No: The public does not like its politicians to change too much. Michael Portillo went from hardline conservative to social liberal, and it ended his career. From another viewpoint, change looks like inconsistency or cowardice. Or… Politicians change in small ways all the time. Johnson himself has morphed from a liberal Mayor of London into an authoritarian prime minister. But big shifts in their character are much rarer. KeywordsMichael Gove - A Conservative politician who has held a variety of high-profile ministerial positions. He was defeated by Theresa May in the 2016 Conservative leadership election.

Continue Reading

The Day is an independent, online, subscription-based news publication for schools, focusing on the big global issues beneath the headlines. Our dedicated newsroom writes news, features, polls, quizzes, translations… activities to bring the wider world into the classroom. Through the news we help children and teachers develop the thinking, speaking and writing skills to build a better world. Our stories are a proven cross-curricular resource published at five different reading levels for ages 5 to 19. The Day has a loyal and growing membership in over 70 countries and its effectiveness is supported by case studies and teacher endorsements.

Start your free trial Already have an account? Log in / register