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The End of Boris’s Illusion

By clinging on through scandal after scandal, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has certainly demonstrated the power of positive thinking. But the problem with “Prozac leadership,” as some researchers call it, is that it can take a politician – and a country – only so far before reality reasserts itself.

LONDON – “Desperate, deluded PM clings to power,” reads the front page of the Guardian’s July 7, 2022, print edition. But can UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bizarre behavior really be chalked up to some mental disorder?

Such facile claims are all too common in today’s media environment. In Johnson’s case, it is difficult to find coverage that does not offer some kind of psychiatric diagnosis. If there is any debate, it is over what particular emotional malady he exhibits, not whether there is any other psychological explanation for his surreal antics.

Following an unprecedented wave of ministerial resignations this week, Johnson almost had to have the keys to No. 10 Downing Street wrenched from his hands, so staunch was his refusal to accept the obvious logic of his predicament. Even in his speech finally announcing that he will resign, he blamed his ouster on a “herd instinct” among his Conservative Party colleagues, and suggested that it is rather “eccentric” to change leaders now.