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A salute to great teachers

Niall Ferguson

By Niall Ferguson (Original source Boston Globe)

“‘Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed captain of school for next half). I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”

Thus Martin Hammond, the master of Boris Johnson’s house at Eton, in a letter addressed to Johnson père in 1982. Boris took much the same approach to life at Oxford, where I met him a few years later. It was the same story in Fleet Street; in parliament; as a junior minister; as mayor of London; as foreign secretary — and I have no doubt that it will be same story if, as now seems all but inevitable, he is elected Conservative leader and fulfils his life’s ambition to be Britain’s prime minister.

It is true that Sir Winston Churchill was also something of a maverick at Harrow, where, according to a contemporary, he “consistently broke almost every rule made by masters or boys, was quite incorrigible, and had an unlimited vocabulary of backchat”. A few years ago Boris dashed off a very bad book about Churchill, the main purpose of which was to draw attention to resemblances between himself and Britain’s greatest prime minister. For me, the book only confirmed the chasm between them.”

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