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Boris Johnson turned politics into a game of personality. The row in his flat matters

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Let’s begin with the straightforward part: any incident in which a woman is heard screaming in her home, and shouting “Get off me!” at a man, instantly becomes a matter not only of public interest but public responsibility.

The precise motives of the neighbours who called the police on Thursday night to report the row between Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds – and also alerted the Guardian – should be a matter of near total indifference. So what if they were “remoaners”, or Tory haters, or vacationing ministers in the Venezuelan government? Would it really have been better if they had let it be? Allowed whatever was happening to run its course, on the old, deplorable basis that it is intrinsically wrong to intervene in a “lovers’ tiff”?

None of us yet knows precisely what took place between Johnson and Symonds. But – forgive my frustration – that’s the point. The only defensible response of a neighbour in such circumstances was to contact the police.

I have argued in the past that Johnson’s turbulent private life is a poor basis on which to attack him. One of the great improvements in British political culture in recent decades has been the decline of moral puritanism: after the fiasco of John Major’s “back to basics” strategy, a new and sensible consensus emerged that sexuality, infidelity and marital status are no long fair game in political conflict. But that shift does not represent a blank cheque. Yes, the police left Symonds’ flat satisfied that “there were no offences or concerns apparent to officers”. But the mere fact that the man poised to become prime minister in a few weeks was involved in an alarming altercation in which a neighbour felt it necessary to call police is self-evidently a legitimate matter for public inquiry.

Broadcaster Iain Dale was quite right to press Johnson on the matter at the Conservative........

© The Guardian