Tried to show @BorisJohnson the picture of Jack Williment-Barr. The 4-year-old with suspected pneumonia forced to lie on a pile of coats on the floor of a Leeds hospital.
The PM grabbed my phone and put it in his pocket: @itvcalendar | #GE19 pic.twitter.com/hv9mk4xrNJ
— Joe Pike (@joepike) December 9, 2019
I shuddered when I watched Johnson’s reaction to an unpleasant photo. Johnson refused to look at it and I know just how he feels. We all have shoved the letter from HMRC under the table, not opened the email you dreaded, refused to take in the bottom line of the spreadsheet.
We are of course lying to ourselves, creating a reality for ourselves which is unique to us, cutting ourselves off from the realities of others.
Which is not what leaders do – or certainly should do.
Mankind can only stand a little reality and Johnson fails in leadership by hiding the journalists phone in his pocket, he is showing a characteristic in ourselves we do not admire.
This is what general elections do to leaders, they tire them to the point where they are seen naked. Johnson recovered enough to struggle on, but yesterday had one of those “thick of it” moments which are salutary and chastening – that is why I shuddered.
How we treat our future selves.
Our promises to ourselves can only be kept if we face today’s tough decisions. That doesn’t mean a token trip to the gym in January or a month off the booze, it means strong and determined action to change our current lifestyles to meet our future promises.
That’s what some of the people we watched last week on Channel 5 seemed capable of and it’s what we know we are capable of too. We have it within ourselves to meet the challenge of our future selves and change our ways.
Many of us won’t – for some the choices are gone.
The homeless who live around me bear witness to the failure of our society to catch those who don’t make it. Witness my Scottish friend never fails to say “hi” to me from his bed on the pavement outside the Grange Hotel St Pauls. He knows and I know he is dying. I cannot give him enough for the hostel he needs, because whatever I give him, goes on stella and fags, that is his pathway.
Yesterday, I went for a diagnosis of why I have pulmonary embolisms, the blood tests alone cost £1500. As I got off my bike coming back from the hospital he was there, we chatted for a couple of minutes, I looked death in his eyes and thought what that £1500 could do – for that man and for Jack Williment- Barr.
I will be diagnosed, I will recover and I will go on to live and work another 30 years, as my Dad did. Many will not get the treatment I have got and will die early and vicious deaths – as I fear my friend will – this winter. As Jack Williment-Barr might do too.
Compassion as your BAU
It is easy for politicians to put on shows of compassion to order. I watched Johnson’s face at the vigil for another Jack , a few days back.
But compassion needs to be your business as usual, it needs to inform all that you do, if you are to lead a country.
Compassion in leadership
I will respect Johnson as a leader when he faces his crucial moments when he is confronted by reality, and – rather than putting the phone in his pocket – weeps openly or privately for Jack Williment-Barr.
That emotion needs to come from the heart – not from the political playbook.
There is no strength in bluster, there is mighty strength in compassion.
The lessons of Christianity are of pity, compassion, forgiveness and above all love.
Without these qualities are leaders are nothing but hot air. There is something very wrong in having privildge and abusing it, Johnson yesterday was found wanting
Johnson failed yesterday as a leader, he showed himself not up to the challenge of reality. But we should not throw rocks at him, we should recognise we are just like him at our worst.
We can show we can be better in leadership than him, by governing our own lives with greater honesty , guts and determination, in these little matters of compassion.