Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: No hiding places for private life of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Editor's Viewpoint

For Boris Johnson, the supposedly nailed-on successor to Theresa May as Tory leader and next Prime Minister, there are now no hiding places as he sets out to woo the party faithful. He knows that every real or imagined indiscretion will be cast into the public domain in a bid to damage his leadership bid.

The DUP's Sammy Wilson may brand the controversy over a reported 'domestic row' between Mr Johnson and his new partner as 'leftie nonsense' but whatever the truth about what happened in their home it causes embarrassment and maybe loses him some votes.

After all, Mr Johnson's marital track record - two divorces and a number of affairs - is bound to be used by the opposing camp as a question mark against his character.

While never condoning anything resembling domestic abuse, the facts of his row with his partner as revealed so far seem nothing more than the hot words many couples exchange, without any hint of violence or threat.

Mr Johnson faces opposition not only from Jeremy Hunt but also some elements within the Labour movement, who view him as a bigger threat in any near future general election than the Foreign Secretary because of his ability to galvanise Tory support.

But if Mr Johnson wins the leadership race he has another set of politicians whom he must please. As Jon Tonge sets out eloquently in the page opposite, the DUP is not a party to be wooed with honeyed words and knockabout humour.

It has Mr Johnson's own description of how he sees Brexit. If he cannot change the agreement, he will take the UK out of Europe without a deal. He told the DUP annual conference last November that he would bin the backstop and he was equally opposed to any suggestion of a border down the Irish Sea.

Those unequivocal statements - even though he was to go on and vote for Theresa May's deal including the backstop, for tactical reasons he said - went down well at the annual conference. His speech could have been scripted by Arlene Foster herself.

However, any divergence from that position would be implacably opposed by the DUP, on whom his new government would continue to depend. It would have no confidence in him and would be very unlikely to supply any support to him. From now on is when we will see if Mr Johnson really has the mettle to be a national leader.

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