Well! Just when it looked like the only political question anyone would be talking about is the start of the leadership hustings, what do you know? All anyone can think about is Boris Johnson’s row with his girlfriend on Thursday night. The one police were called to. Just after he’d seen off Michael Gove and the leadership contest seemed pretty well sewn up, now this: a proper row a plate-throwing, loud enough for the neighbours to hear every word sort of row. For anyone who hasn’t actually read the details, here’s the Mail’s account:
“'Neighbours told last night how they heard plates and glasses smashing during a "proper tear-up" at the London flat Boris Johnson shares with girlfriend Carrie Symonds in the early hours of Friday morning. The 55-year-old PM-hopeful was heard shouting "get off my f***ing laptop" and his younger partner, 31, yelling "get off me" and "get out of my flat" at the Camberwell home she owns. The row, which came hours after Mr Johnson topped a poll of Tory MPs in his leadership battle, is believed to have started after he spilled red wine on Ms Symond's sofa.”
But it was The Guardian – which first reported the event, presumably alerted by the neighbour who phoned the police – which had the killer details:
“'Symonds is heard saying Johnson had ruined a sofa with red wine: “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.” The neighbour said: “There was a smashing sound of what sounded like plates. There was a couple of very loud screams that I’m certain were Carrie and she was shouting to ‘get out’ a lot. She was saying ‘get out of my flat’ and he was saying no. And then there was silence after the screaming. My partner, who was in bed half asleep, had heard a loud bang and the house shook.” '
Now that is quite something… Boris Johnson actually creates seismic disturbances when he loses his temper, unless Carrie Symonds is even more tempestuous than anyone thought. There are a couple of salient details about all this. One is that Mr Johnson had better get out of this nest of Guardian readers soonest. Camberwell, where he shares Carrie’s flat, is not a kindly environment for Boris; it’s hostile territory, Labour to the core. But he does not have a home of his own to go to now that he and his second wife, Marina Wheeler, have parted company. Occupying the Camberwell flat of his girlfriend is plainly a mistake. Is there no kindly and wealthy Boris supporter with a flat in Mayfair to spare?
The other is that Carrie Symonds isn’t quite the unequivocal asset people seem to think. She’s had kind coverage, especially after feminist columnists of all political backgrounds rallied round her when she was patronised as 'Apples' when the relationship became public. She’s given credit for his weight loss – no chorizo, hardly any wine – and his new hairdo. She’s seen as his conscience on the environment… pro-Brexit for animal welfare reasons. The BBC calls her his partner, everyone else his girlfriend; no one has used the loaded term “mistress” which would have been the case even a decade ago. (But then, Marina Wheeler, still Boris’s wife, was once in Carrie’s position when he was married to his first wife, Allegra Mostyn Owen.) But the thing about Carrie Symonds, very much a contemporary young woman, is that she’s keen on keeping her own personal space; plainly she doesn’t like Boris treating her sofa like he owns it when she, presumably, paid for it. The casus belli in this row – red wine on that sofa – is rather telling. She’s perfectly prepared to be assertive: he might be philosophical about the wine spillage if he has enough money to buy her three sofas. But to her, that's not the point. He spilled wine on the sofa, a defcon 1 domestic situation, and she won't put up with his famous nonchalance.
It doesn’t bode well for a Johnsonian premiership. It reminds me of the French president Francois Hollande’s relationship with the highly-strung Valerie Trierweiler… that ended with Sèvres china being thrown around the Elysée. It was Christmas for journalists of course, but didn’t do much for the prestige of the presidency.
Well, it’s now open season on Boris’s character. Granted, a rackety character is one of the things that everyone has factored into the equation when it comes to his candidacy, but love children are one thing… having the police called in is another. The telling quote from Carrie, recorded by his neighbours through the wall - 'You don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt… you have no care for money or anything' - will be recycled.
Tory voters have a choice of course. If they want a blameless home life, well they’ve got Jeremy Hunt and his devoted wife. No scandals there. Or there’s Boris.
Meanwhile, this is a joyous time for journalism; grist to our mill. Is it anyone’s business what goes on behind closed doors between two adults? Once that might have been the public interest test but when Boris is the subject, normal rules are suspended. If there’s anyone out there who’s talking about the Issues rather than this episode, they’re just not normal.