Politics

Rishi Sunak has a body language problem, says expert – and Liz Truss needs to fix one key issue

Body language expert Judi James has offered a fascinating insight into the mannerisms of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – and the issues they need to address in order to convince people they should be the next prime minister.

She said Mr Sunak is “smart, slick, always using Tony Blair’s gesticulation, we get the thumb of power all the time” – but that this looks better next to Boris Johnson.

“Stand alone, it’s not working quite as effectively,” she said, before outlining a number of issues facing the former chancellor.

Pic: Jonathan Hordle/ITV
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Mr Sunak uses similar gesticulations to Tony Blair, while Ms Truss can be ‘quite brittle’. Pic: Jonathan Hordle/ITV

“He has a huge disadvantage as a politician, which is large, expressive eyes. And I think in the other debates, you could see those moments when a point hurts him. You could see when he was looking annoyed. So a big tell with Rishi will come with this.

“He also forgets at the end that you should hold the smile. You can actually see his expression change. And watch out for too much of the thumb of power.

“He needs to watch out for sounding a bit patronising to the public.”

Ms Truss has issues of her own if she wants to present herself as prime ministerial, the body language expert said.

More on Boris Johnson

“She tends to be what I would call incongruent. She wants to sound and look tough,” said Ms James, before adding that accelerated blinking can give the foreign secretary away.

Ms James sees attempts to “channel Thatcher” but it’s not always convincing.

“She looks and sounds, beneath the toughness, quite brittle. Her body language and her vocal tone have got a kind of a brittleness to them. And I think it would be quite good for her to bring it down a notch. It needs to lose some of the brittleness and it could be way more effective.”

Ms James also analysed Boris Johnson’s final PMQs yesterday – and while we’ll get to her thoughts on the outgoing prime minister, her view of Nadine Dorries is worth mentioning first.

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The Johnson loyalist was a “pure romantic heroine” as her boss said his farewell on Wednesday, with a “hand up to her neck”

“It was a real violin moment going on there as far she was concerned.”

Nadine Dorries (R) was a 'pure romantic heroine' as her boss left
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Nadine Dorries (right) was a ‘pure romantic heroine’ as her boss left

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Boris Johnson thanks everybody in the House of Commons – including his ‘right honourable friend opposite’.

On Mr Johnson, this was “the most painful moment of goodbye for Boris… I saw signs of emotion beneath the bluster”.

These included:

  • Leaning heavily on the despatch box
  • “Self comfort, self soothing”
  • “He was constantly tucking his shirt into the back of his trousers, which he does normally. But this was pretty much an overkill ritual”
  • “Fist on the heart gesticulation… way too exaggerated”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday July 20, 2022.
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Mr Johnson showed ‘signs of emotion beneath the bluster’
Boris Johnson leaves to applause
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Boris Johnson leaves to applause during ‘the most painful moment of goodbye’

Ms James concluded: “We can see the moment the Tom Brown School Days turned into Goodbye, Mr Chips. And he looks distraught. He looked genuinely upset at that exit point, I have to say.”

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