Boris Johnson showed ‘disgracefully cavalier’ attitude to studies, school letter reveals

Rory Stewart reads note from Eton to Royal Albert Hall crowd

Boris Johnson's new Brexit plan at a glance

Rory Stewart highlighted Boris Johnson’s ”disgracefully cavalier” attitude to his studies as a schoolboy, when he read a letter from Eton College to an audience at the Royal Albert Hall.

Mr Stewart – who announced on Friday he was stepping down as MP at the next election and will stand for London mayor as an independent – was participating in Letters Live, a regular event which sees performers read letters from around the world in recent and historical times to a crowd.

“Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies,” wrote Martin Hammond, who taught Mr Johnson classics at school and served as his housemaster.

The letter was sent on 10 April 1982 to Stanley Johnson, the prime minister’s father.

“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 the School...],” Mr Hammond wrote.

“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.”

The teacher added: “I’m enormously fond of Boris, and saddened that he should have brought upon himself this sort of report.

“All is not lost, by any means; he can easily effect a full return of grace by showing obvious commitment next [term].”

A second letter, sent by Mr Hammond in July 1982, suggested matters did not improve.

“Boris is pretty impressive when success can be achieved by pure intelligence unaccompanied by hard work,” he said.

“[But] he doesn’t have the instincts of a real scholar, and tends to ‘sell himself short’.

“He is, in fact, pretty idle about it all ... Boris has something of a tendency to assume that success and honours will drop into his lap: not so, he must work for them.”

The first document spread online when it was posted on Twitter in July 2019 by the Letters of Note account.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Mr Stewart, who also studied at Eton, read an extract from the first letter on Thursday, to cheers from the crowd.

On stage he said the letter constituted his resignation from the Conservative Party, in an apparent joke.

His fellow participants included Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Colman and Stephen Fry.

Mr Stewart formally resigned from the Conservative Party hours later, on Friday morning.

“It’s been a great privilege to serve Penrith and The Border for the last ten years, so it is with sadness that I am announcing that I will be standing down at the next election and that I have also resigned from the Conservative Party,” he said, in a post on Twitter.

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in