Boris Johnson, his marriage and me
I don’t want to read about Boris Johnson’s marriage. I don't believe it is any of my business and I find the whole idea of national newspapers reporting on it creepy.
This is not because I wish to see the man shielded from criticism. Far from it. The more criticism I see of his views and his public antics the happier I am, but I just can’t buy the idea that we need to know the state of his relationship with his wife.
That is supposing that any of the reporting about that relationship is accurate. I strongly suspect that even if there were good, honest reporters working on the story they could not produce fair and accurate coverage.
Marriages are intimate and complex. The odds are that you know someone whose marriage has broken down but I doubt if you would claim to have a balanced and accurate picture of the reasons. Those who are actually involved in break-ups are also often incapable of forming such a picture, and so they may well say things they will later regret.
Now imagine a Sun reporter on the case.
So if you choose to read about this, don’t imagine that the papers are showing you anything real. And the same goes for their lame public interest justifications. ‘The public needs to be told about this,’ they are no doubt saying, ‘because it gives us an insight into the character of the public man.’ I don’t agree.
If ever there was a British public figure into whose character we were less in need of insights, it is Boris Johnson. Here is some of what we already knew.
A pampered Bullingdon thug, he was fired from the Times for making up quotes before making his name with the Daily Telegraph writing lies about the EU. In politics he is an attention-seeker rather than a doer; as Mayor of London he was lazy, feckless and greedy and since then, besides being one of those most responsible for the disaster that is Brexit, he was the worst Foreign Secretary in modern British history. A crony of Rupert Murdoch and Steve Bannon, he abuses his facility for the written word in every possible way and was once recorded merrily discussing having a journalist beaten up. He knows no principles besides his own ambition and he holds almost everyone outside his own circle in contempt.
There may be people out there who, on top of all this, needed to know whatever the Sun might choose to tell them about the state of his marriage in order to gain a better understanding of the man, but I doubt it.
It is a fair rule of thumb, in fact, that when the Sun and the Mail suggest to us that we ‘need’ to know what they want to tell us on any subject, we should be very sceptical, because these corporate papers will say almost anything to get us to believe their intrusions are justified.
I recall one kiss-and-tell exclusive about a minister that was accompanied by the claim we should be worried because his antics left him worn out in the mornings when he reached the office, where he worked on the public’s behalf. (And no, it had not occurred to the editor that ministers having sex with their spouses might also lose sleep.)
To conclude: these papers are not qualified to tell me anything about Boris Johnson’s marriage that I might be able to believe, I can’t trust their reasons for being interested in the first place, and viscerally I know it is a matter of private distress and pain, some of it affecting people about whom I know nothing at all, so it is none of my damn business.