Boris Johnson and Joe Biden’s ‘power-play’ moves: Thigh-slapping and shoulder pat

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Boris Johnson got into a bit of a power struggle with Joe Biden when they met for the first time, a body language expert says.

The Prime Minister and his new wife Carrie welcomed the US President and his wife Jill to the UK as they met for the first time since Biden was elected, preventing Donald Trump from a second consecutive term in the White House.

As they held face-to-face talks at the G7 summit in Cornwall, it seems they were sending subtle signals to each other in a bid to become the alpha.

Between their thigh-slapping for attention and that power pat on the shoulder, body language expert and author Judi James tells the Mirror the politicians were doing their best to one-up each other and assert their dominance.

The shoulder pat
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Here's what she made of the meeting…

There appears to be some of the usual power-play between Boris and Biden here as they sit side by side with a small table helping create a socially-distanced moment.

The alpha power signals are all Boris’s here although Biden does appear to use a subtle diminishing technique that might have rattled the man who was hailed as Trump’s mini-me when he first appeared alongside the previous US president.

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Boris’s knees are splayed wide to suggest power and when Biden speaks Boris places one hand out towards the President in a ‘stop’ gesture.

The two men appear to have been joking but it’s the photos that matter at moments like these.

Biden sits in a more elegant pose with his legs crossed but he also appears to be reading some notes on his lap while Boris is speaking.


Johnson and Biden met for the first time yesterday
(Image: Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)



We can see Boris’s eyes dart across and down at a rather distracted-looking Biden and he even slaps his thigh in what looks like a bid to get his full attention. If you want to take the wind out of someone’s sails, non-verbal ‘ignore’ signals are a very good way of doing it.

In the second photo of the two men standing face-to-face Biden seems to be using a technique of shoulder-holding that is a favourite of Bill Clinton’s.


The politicians were with their wives when they got together
(Image: Getty Images)


When Bush patted Blair’s back in a gesture of paternal-looking ownership as they stepped inside no10 many years ago the ‘Bush’s poodle’ term was coined, as was the fashion for political power-patting to suggest superiority and a sense of control.

It’s Biden getting the power-pat in here, with this friendly but also slightly controlling -looking hand clamp of Boris’s shoulder.

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