This is what a senior member of the cabinet told me this morning about whether Boris Johnson’s prospects of becoming Tory leader and our PM have been seriously harmed by the disclosure that neighbours summoned police to his home after they heard his girlfriend Carrie Symonds shouting at him to ‘get off me’.
Minister: ‘It will take a really gross transgression for Boris Johnson to deflect the faithful, but it’s not beyond him.’
And another minister said: ‘I don’t think it [the leadership contest] has changed one inch.’
For the avoidance of doubt, neither minister is invested in a Johnson victory, and one of them would passionately prefer him to lose.
Are you surprised that all the broadcasts and splash headlines about whether Johnson has the ‘good character to be PM’ are seen as just noise, by those at the heart of the country’s ruling party? Do you think they are wrong?
Having chatted with Tory members over the weekend, my sense is these ministers are spot on – even if that offends your sense of what is proper.
Johnson’s many devotees know that the candidate they simply call ‘Boris’ is always getting into what they see as scrapes. Worse than that, they see this kind of incident as either a leftie and media conspiracy to undermine their hero, or – if they believe what happened – as proving that he is ‘human’, just like them.
Their reactions are analogous to how Trump has shrugged off – both before and after his election – his many transgressions against decency.
There was a cartoon, recalled by the former Labour MP Chris Mullin, that neatly sums up the gap between the media and Tory members. It was about the disgraced former American president Richard Nixon: ‘Look, Nixon’s no dope. If the people really wanted moral leadership, he’d give them moral leadership.