Well, very obliging of Donald Trump to back Boris Johnson – ‘a very good guy…he’d be excellent…I like him very much’ – in his interesting interview in The Sun, I’m sure. That’ll go down terrifically well with the kind of woke constituency that’ll be on the streets from Monday to make clear that the president is very, very unwelcome here; as it happens it also includes Jeremy Corbyn who is boycotting the president’s state banquet… though I don’t know whether he made clear that this is what he’d so if he were PM, which is kind of worrying. Happily, Mr Trump made clear he doesn’t much care.
Anyway, will Mr Trump’s endorsement cut any ice with Tory members? Shouldn’t think so, unless they take the view that this means Boris has a better chance of a decent post Brexit trade deal with the US. In which case, presumably the same holds for Jeremy Hunt, whom Mr T also likes. Mel Stride, the oddly sycophantic new Leader of the Commons who speaks for Michael Gove, suggests correctly that while the president is ‘a very important person’, he doesn’t call the shots when it comes to the choice of the next prime minister.
What may however concern them is quite another matter, viz, Mr Johnson’s home life. He has not, wisely, joined those candidates who are parading their lovely wives at every opportunity and that’s probably prudent, given he’s between wives. Lara Prendergast has written a spirited piece this week suggesting that Boris’s present girlfriend represents the kind of youthful constituency that the Tories would kill to attract – and it’s interesting how Carrie Symonds, who would probably be quite at home on an anti-Trump march, has had the backing of an extraordinary range of feminist pundits – but will that wash with the actual electors, whose prejudices tend to be socially conservative? I’m not convinced; they prefer wives to girlfriends, however woke.
But perhaps I might weigh in here. My view of all this is that of what you might call the First Wives’ Club, viz, those of us who tend to take a strong view of the marriage bond. And from that high moral ground, I’d be inclined to cut Boris a bit of slack. We should perhaps remember that his present wife, Marina, and mother of most of his children, is not his first wife. Once upon a time, when Boris was married to Allegra Mostyn Owen, a lovely girl he met at university, Marina was the girlfriend for whom he left his wife. So, I think the First Wives’ Club would be inclined to shrug about his present situation. It’s not perhaps one you’d recommend to society, nor one that traditional Tories would very much care for, but it’s not any worse now than it was before. And so long as Boris doesn’t hurt his children’s feelings by parading his girlfriend as an actual asset, I think Tory voters can carry on with their present take on the thing, which is to shrug and focus on Brexit.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.