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Johnson and Starmer are worlds apart, yet they can learn from each other's political style

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23.09.2021

From their class background to their politics, Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer couldn’t be more different. But the contrast is even greater when it comes to their personal temperament and communication styles, and the past few days have demonstrated just how far apart they are.

Johnson’s trip to the US has been a blizzard of photo-ops, off-the-cuff remarks and freewheeling bonhomie. The upsides are a sense of energy and an ability to deploy soundbites that stick. Disarming the doubters with a joke, coaxing rather than hectoring, has long been the Johnson method and it’s delivered electoral success ever since he shocked Labour London with a mayoral win.

The downsides come when the unscripted comment obscures the main message and when the undiplomatic diplomacy backfires. His time as Foreign Secretary was singularly undistinguished, apart from gaffes like referring to Africa as “that country” and wrongly claiming that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran. One country’s foreign minister told his counterpart Sir Alan Duncan that he must feel like “Boris Johnson’s pooper scooper”.

In recent days, his message to Emmanuel Macron to “prenez un grip and donnez-moi un break” seemed more designed to raise a laugh at home than to build bridges with Paris after........

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