Gerard O'Regan: 'Shenanigans in Boris's personal life mean he's following in the Tory tradition'
Gossip - the juicier the better - makes the world go round. Boris Johnson, whose private life has been described as flavoursome, has of late served up some tasty nuggets. A late-night verbal spat between the twice-married bulldog of British politics, and his 'much younger' girlfriend, had right-on political types, plus gossip fiends of varying hue, in a near frenzy.
There were reports the putative prime minister was seen ambling around a local Tesco store, sniffing out the latest wine offers.
We can't be sure if the glass of red he spilled on his girlfriend's couch was the result of such a foray. But we have been told the lady in question, Carrie Symonds, has been successful in moderating his 'bottle-of-wine-a-day' habit.
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However, toppling over the glass that cheers on her best furniture touched a raw nerve with Ms Symonds. Psychologists who try to diagnose the deeper recesses in romantic link-ups would have a field day processing her obviously enraged response.
"You don't care for anything because you're spoilt. You have no care for money or anything,'' she angrily exclaimed.
Was this outburst a symptom of raw anger from the less well-off, spurred by the carelessness of the rich, when they damage other people's possessions?
In any case, words began to fly. "Get off me. Get out of my flat," she exclaimed.
"Get off my f***ing laptop," countered the prime minister in waiting. Intriguingly there was a loud crash, plus screaming, shouting and banging, lasting for about 10 minutes.
Despite the best efforts of those in the anti-Johnson camp it has all the hallmarks of a not too unusual alcohol-fuelled domestic row. Only outside busybodies would take it upon themselves to deduce something more profound. Their promptings persuaded the police to call round.
But unless Ms Symonds made a formal compliant, this remains a private matter, between the couple concerned. Accordingly, Johnson was within his rights when refusing to answer any questions on what might, or might not, have occurred. Nothing was to be gained by washing dirty linen in public.
But there was a time when staying mum on what is dubbed an 'erratic' private life was not an option once details became public. Anglo-Saxon prudishness goes back a long way. In the past, hypocrisy was the accepted cloak, particularly for the upper classes, once matters of marriage, sex and romance strayed from acceptable norms.
Tory prime ministers of more humble origin also had private peccadilloes kept firmly under wraps. John Major, the ultimate 'grey man', had a long-running affair with fellow Conservative MP Edwina Currie.
Another prime minister, Harold Macmillan, was a figurehead for the conservative establishment during his time in Downing Street, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. All the while his wife Dorothy conducted a liaison with colourful Tory politician, Bob Boothby. It lasted until her death; they also had a daughter together. The relationship was widely known in political and media circles - but a conspiracy of silence meant it never became public. For a variety of reasons the Macmillans considered divorce as simply not an option.
Another Conservative prime minister, Ted Heath, a lifelong bachelor, was the subject of much rumour and innuendo. It is now claimed he was a closet homosexual. Even the iconic Winston Churchill, reported to much prefer the pleasures of Champagne to the company of women, is said to have had an unlikely extra-marital dalliance with a certain Lady Castlerosse in the 1930s.
The old cliché has it Conservative party scandals are usually linked to sex - their Labour Party counterparts are more tempted by the attractions of money.
With a wife, an ex-wife, a daughter with an ex-mistress, a current girlfriend, and a series of high-profile affairs recounted over the years in the gossip columns, Boris Johnson would seem to be following in a certain party tradition.
But questions of a personal nature are likely to keep on coming. There is one he steadfastly refuses to answer. Is he father to five or six children?