Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: We’re always fascinated when family feuds hit the headlines

Strained loyalties: Boris and brother Jo
Strained loyalties: Boris and brother Jo
Meghan and dad Thomas
Cock-a-hoop: Corinne Fesseau with Maurice
Jacob Rees Mogg
Lindy McDowell

By Lindy McDowell

Blood's thicker than water - as we so often say without giving a whole lot of attention to the obvious follow-on question... Is thick blood really such a big deal? Making the headlines this week have been two stories featuring blood of very watery consistency.

First up there was Meghan Markle and her dear old dad cranking up their ongoing transatlantic fallout.

And then Jo Johnson doing a Brutus to brother Boris just when the latter needed him most.

In a week in which Boris's plans for a no-deal Brexit and/or election have been off and on more times than Coleen Rooney's wedding ring, the PM could surely have been forgiven for assuming that the sibling he'd made a minister wouldn't kick him in the governmental groin just when he was already reeling from Remainer attack.

But no. Johnson Jnr tweeted his barbed adieu: "In recent weeks I've been torn between family loyalty and the national interest."

Obvious inference there - Boris hasn't been acting in the national interest. The PM responded graciously, ladling on the fulsome praise about his brother's "fantastic" service. I imagine Dominic Cummings, the Number 10 aide also known as the Rottweiler of Downing Street, may have chosen other terms.

Politics aside, the Johnston spat/split/betrayal - call it what you will - is all the more intriguing because the pair come from what we'd describe here as a family who are very "thick" with each other.

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Stanley, the Johnson patriarch, is said to have encouraged in his children a closeness and a fierce competitiveness. All became high flyers. (It's always easier to attain maximum altitude of course, when you've got a bit of money and an Eton education behind you.)

Apart from Jo and Boris there's another brother Leo, who keeps his head down, and sister Rachel who, like Boris, is a bit of an attention seeker.

Rachel and Jo are very much Remainers. So why then did Jo take a position in Boris's cabinet in the first place?

Why dump his own brother when he knew it would cause maximum headline damage?

And why will this dumping sting more than, say, Michael Gove pulling the rug from under Boris?

It's because there's something especially acidic (and let's be honest, riveting) when it comes to a high-profile public clash between family members.

From Cain and Abel through to Liam and Noel and on to Ed and David Miliband, there's a particular fascination with such rows because it's not what we expect from brothers, is it?

If you can't rely on your family...

Which brings us to the still squabbling Markles.

This week, old Thomas, the spurned da, got the gossip ball rolling again with an interview in which he called his daughter and her husband hypocritical. He sniped about Harry travelling by private jet, talked about his pain at not being allowed to see his grandson and dismissed a claim by Meghan that she'd paid her own way through college. He had, he said. And he had the bank statements to prove it.

You don't need to be an expert in family mediation to see that this may not be the best way of going about achieving rapprochement, Thomas.

The inevitable "royal sources" then piled in to reveal that Meghan had taken the "heartbreaking" decision not to get in touch with her father again in order to "protect" herself, her husband and her son.

In the circumstances "protect" is a pretty potent and incendiary word. I doubt that's going to put the tin lid on Tom.

Meghan, meanwhile, is also central to the reported row between royal brothers William and Harry.

Unfortunately for all of them, family feuding between the rich, the famous and the embattled incumbents of Downing Street do grab headlines.

Brotherly bloodletting (in the metaphorical sense, of course) and family in-fighting always make for a good read.

They'd have to be a bit thick themselves if they don't see that.

No fowl play over Maurice’s crows

Cock-a-hoop: Corinne Fesseau with Maurice

Maurice the Rooster is finally a free man. Or to be more precise, a free cockerel. Maureeese (as the French would say) was hauled before court in Rochefort in France this week accused of crowing. He crows a lot apparently.

Although not half as much I’ll bet, as England when they win a football game.

Maurice at least has the defence of being a rooster. And crowing — although admittedly at often ungodly hours — is what roosters do. His neighbours however felt that the racket — sorry, cry of nature — coming from the old boy was disturbing and stress-inducing. They took the cockerel to court.

Once the story broke the local populace and the wider public sided, as you might have guessed, with the feathered defendant.

The island of Oleron where he lives is a fairly rural community. In summer, visitor numbers boost the population. Among these are the urban dwellers who own a holiday home next door to Maurice and who subsequently brought him up before the beak.

Daft as this legal action might sound it was seen by many in France as a clash between rural traditions and way of life and disrespectful city-dwellers seeking to destroy the same.

In the case of Townie v Rooster, in the end it was Monsieur Rooster who emerged victorious. With compensation even. Having ruled that Maurice was just “being himself”, the judge officiating at this European court of poultry rights awarded the old bird €1,000 in compo.

His sleep-deprived neighbours may have considered him a foul fowl. But Nature is, you know, natural. And quite often that entails being loud and smelly.

Catty complaint unfair on Susan


As if the case of Maurice the Rooster isn't enough to melt hearts, we now have our own story of a persecuted (not yet prosecuted) pet.

Step forward Susan the Cat from Co Armagh. Susan, a stray, has been barred from the off-licence of JD Tipler where she charmed staff and customers.

Someone complained. Why we don't know. But how lovely are all those staff and customers who have cared for Susan. How different they are from the gurner who got her barred.

Reclining Mogg foolishly lords it

Jacob Rees Mogg

Inappropriate Slouching of the Week.

That would be Jacob Rees Mogg reclining on the Commons benches during a crucial debate - like Cleopatra awaiting her Antony.

He's since attempted to make light of the incident but it's one of those pics that will return to haunt him.

Lord Snooty in repose is never a good look.

Moggy needs to remember that being Leader of the House doesn't mean you should act like Lord of the Manor.

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