Boris Johnson may be testing our claim that not even Boris Johnson can prevent Boris Johnson from winning the Conservative Party’s leadership election.
His team aren’t denying today’s Guardian story about a taped, noisy domestic row between Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds. Whatever impact the tale may or may not have on voters as a whole, the most important audience, for the moment, are the 150,000 or so Party members who will decide this leadership election.
Much may depend on whether this tape, which has been “heard by the Guardian“, sees the light of day. Johnson will surely claim that publication would be a breach of privacy and so presumably will Symonds, perhaps to greater effect.
Even without such publication, the story will doubtless roll on through today’s papers and into tomorrow’s – thereby providing an opportunity for the papers to rehash as many tales about Johnson’s public clangers, errors and private life as they can dredge up.
Johnson and Symonds might be able to kill off the story were they to step out in front of the cameras, suggest that all couples row at some point, and indicate that they are still together.
And as the Guardian itself reports, “police attended and spoke to all occupants of the address, who were all safe and well. There were no offences or concerns apparent to the officers and there was no cause for police action.”
However, such manoeuvres are not Johnson’s way, even presuming that Symonds is willing to participate in this case. He seems to take the view that they only legitimise more coverage and prurience, and are best avoided.
The media loves to put the front-runner in a election under pressure, and this would be so even were the front-runner not Johnson and the contest not the Conservative leadership election.
Many of our colleagues will thus make the most of his appearance today at the first of the membership hustings in Birmingham (and whether not Symonds comes with him).
Our snap take is that if the tape isn’t released, activists will carry on much as before. Many will ask why a concerned neighbour would make a tape in the first place, let alone give it to the Guardian. We await further details.
And if the tape does see the light of day, well, everything hangs on what’s actually on it. But Party members have shown a high threshold of tolerance for Johnson’s various goings-on over the years.
Our surveys and other evidence suggests that they think he is the more likely of the two candidates to deliver Brexit. That counts for a lot in this contest (to put it mildly).
As for voters as whole, we start from the premis that many believe all politicians are crooks, and that the Mark Field controversy, say, and the Chris Davies recall impact on politics as whole – not just the Conservatives.
There is almost no bottom to the pond of mud that can be hurled at politicians of all parties. We wait to see if Johnson is dragged to the bottom of it or, as so often before, keeps calm, wipes the splatters away – and carries on.