Carrie Symonds is moving in with her boyfriend. Which for most people would mean a housewarming and maybe your mates clubbing together to get you a Jo Malone candle. But Carrie is romantically involved with a world leader, so what it actually means is an entire week of news about their co-habitation – specifically whether or not their living together out of wedlock has some heavy moral message for the people of the UK.
As you almost certainly know, Boris isn’t married to Carrie. In fact, he’s still married to the wife he left for Carrie, Marina Wheeler. Who he in turn married having left his previous wife Allegra Owen.
The Symonds-Johnson-Wheeler situation is an omnishambles, that’s true. But it’s also the most relatable thing about any of them. These are highly educated, wealthy people living in fancy parts of a fancy city doing high profile jobs. They’re a million miles from most of us. But having a messy personal life? That’s where we can relate. How many of us have started seeing someone fresh from a long term relationship? Or had a screaming row over a spilled glass of red wine on a sofa?
There have been dozens of debates since Boris was announced at the new leader of the Conservative party about whether or not it’s ‘appropriate’ for Carrie Symonds to live with him given that she’s not his wife. That's despite the fact that fewer young people than ever before are getting married.
Hundreds of column inches have been dedicated to a pseudo-pious debate about politicians and their vital moral obligation to lead the country.
We don’t get our morals from politicians. We get them from our upbringings, our families, our friends, our religious beliefs and maybe even from social media. We get them from all sorts of corners of our lives, but not from the people who run the country. Never in 28 years of life had I heard someone justify a behaviour on the basis that they’ve copied it from a politician.
Boris Johnson is the first British Prime Minister to openly co-habit with a woman who isn’t his wife. Which is arguably the most appealing thing about him. Unlike his education or his career, his relationship status reflects the reality of many of the people he now leads.
There is something depressingly small minded about expecting politicians to stand outside a white picket fence with a wife and two neat children in matching outfits. Historically when that has happened, it’s often turned out that there were several kilos of heroin in the attack and a mistress on speed dial.
Critics have questioned how Carrie, who is not a wife, will fit into a system where a PM’s wife is supposed to follow behind smiling in an LK Bennet dress and play nicely with the other wives. Perhaps rather than asking how a non-wife can do that, we should be asking why we’re still handling diplomacy like a dinner party in a Noel Coward play.
Boris Johnson has not been a universally welcome choice as PM, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons to object to his appointment. His personal life is not one of them.
Boris and Carrie are just one of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of British couples who are in a bumpy relationship which may have involved an element of infidelity, and may or may not last.
If we are going to have a debate about Boris and his poor choices, let’s talk about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe or the Garden Bridge project. But let’s leave his romantic choices to him. Because honestly, when it comes to making questionable romantic choices, who amongst us can judge?