Boris Johnson. Donald Trump. Two of the most controversial leaders in the world today. Two men who have much more in common than I think they would be happy to admit – awful hair styles, huge egos and a love of creating drama- either intentionally or not.
The other thing that they have in common is that they both have been diagnosed with the terror of the 21st Century- Covid-19. On the 27th of March this year, Boris Johnson announced via a live video broadcast that he had been tested positive for the disease. This news, at the time, was not all that surprising – many ministers in the UK governmental system had been diagnosed with Coronavirus by this point. The Prime minster stated that despite having to self-isolate, due to “the wizardry of modern technology”, he was still able to lead the nations response to the pandemic. Ten days later, Johnson was admitted to the intensive care unit after the news came that his condition had “worsened”.
Trump’s first admittance to hospital, like Johnson’s, was described as a “precaution”. Both leaders maintained that they were still at work. They were keen to be shown as strong leaders, who were committed to their nations wellbeing and wouldn’t let Covid-19 slow them down in anyway. Trumps team said that the visit to hospital was “motivated by an abundance of caution”.
The differences that we have seen so far (as Trumps diagnosis was earlier last week) are related to the person/people who have given the general public the updates on each leaders’ state. Whilst Johnson’s updates came solely from the spokesperson at Downing Street, Trump’s medical team and his personal doctor were the ones that kept the public informed.
As for these differences, it does show a key difference in the system of the two nations. In the US, an entire medical unit is based at the White House itself, devoted to the constant care of the president. There is definitely no equivalent body at Downing Street. Perhaps this shows a heightened sense of paranoia in America, perhaps they are just more prepared than we Brits.
Everything was very flashy and public in the US; Trumps doctors have been giving in detail updates about the Presidents situation. What has been happening on what day, the drugs he was being prescribed etc. In contrast, I don’t think there was any chance in heaven that the doctors at St Thomas’s Hospital were going to enlighten the press to the measures being taken to keep the Prime Minister alive.
As well as this, the two situations have shone a light on the effectiveness of the American constitution in dealing with emergency periods. The 25th Amendment allows the vice-president to assume power and carry on leading efficiently. In the UK, with our unwritten constitution, there is no formal article that allows for the transfer of responsibility. Thus, the situation became what can be called an utter debacle. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary was put on the spot and told to “deputise where necessary”. A constitutional expert said at the time, “the lack of a plan for who can take over when the Prime Minister is incapacitated looks extraordinary to many in the country and abroad”. The UK system needs a slight reshaping in my personal opinion so that in the unfortunate event that any PM is unable to carry out their job effectively, the country can continue to be led with some form of effectiveness and precision.
Johnson left hospital on the 12th April; returning to work after a two-week recuperation period. Six months on, there is still some debate as to whether the PM has made a full recovery. Johnson has been quick to shut the doubt down by stating that he is “as fit as several butchers’ dogs”.
Johnson made a clear statement after he returned to work that he thought himself too overweight when he caught Covid-19 and has started a mission to get healthier and fitter.
What will become of the President, certainly remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see how this will affect his poll ratings, given that the presidential election is only a month away. However, visitors may see Mr Trump doing press ups on the Rose Garden lawn in a few months’ time, after having a similar epiphany regarding his physical form.