Psychology of Brexit: One-upmanship

PUBLISHED: 17:10 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:10 29 August 2017

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: PA.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: PA.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

One of the ironic elements of the Brexit debacle is that we have a trio of politicians tasked with working together to make it happen, who clearly do not get along with each other. Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary), David Davis (Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union) and Liam Fox (Secretary of State for International Trade) cannot seem to do anything without appearing to be locked in a battle of one-upmanship.

Strongly competitive as he is, Johnson seems the most involved in the battle. If life is a game, you’re either one-up or one-down. And Johnson certainly knows which one he’d rather be. As biographer Andrew Gimson wrote of the bouncy, blond politician he was born “to wage a ceaseless struggle for supremacy” and if he is going down, it will be fighting.

Just how competitive any of us should be is a much-debated topic in many areas of life. As Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College, has asked in Psychology Today, “Is competitiveness a dangerous drive that must be repressed in schools and the workplace, or the essential motivator of success, even survival?”

These three, all working within the Conservative Party, are not listening, as each of them struggles to be better (or better-appreciated) than the others. All eyes are on them and if anyone suffers more or less in the public eye, the discomfort or relief is palpable. But is it good for the party? Post-election they’re having to make do with a situation no-one would have wanted. Most importantly (for them, not us) is that how they handle getting the UK out of the EC is what will determine where they end up afterwards. In other words, does one of them get to replace Theresa May as PM?

Even in these quiet days of summer, newspapers have managed to keep up the stories about Davies and Johnson. The Sun reckoned that friends of one were spreading rumours about the other. This column is not the place to repeat such salacious gossip about which man may have been consorting with what other politician’s aide. But it gave them the excuse to print pictures of the Foreign Minister’s glamorous younger sister, writer Rachel Johnson, apparently being kissed (on the cheek) by David Davies. Only to be lectured to by her brother, Boris.

Whether that’s the true story, who knows? As someone’s mother might have said “They’re as bad as each other”.

Louise Chunn is the founder of find a therapist platform welldoing.org

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