Johnson’s marriage shows he is more normal, prudent and pragmatic than his critics can begin to imagine

31 May

Many congratulations to Carrie Symonds and Boris Johnson on their marriage. All but the most curmudgeonly of the Prime Minister’s critics will wish them happiness, as one would any couple who have just got married.

That is one of the good things about a wedding. It links bride and groom, whether famous or obscure, not only with each other, but with millions of other people who have gone through the same rituals and made the same vows.

There is something normal about getting married. It is not a state reserved for perfect couples.

One caught a hint of this when Westminster Cathedral issued a statement which included the words, “The bride and groom are both parishioners.” The Church is there for everyone.

We do not enter here into the dispute about the correct interpretation of the Roman Catholic Church’s rules on remarriage.

Our point is a broader one. Johnson and Symonds have done what many people nowadays do. They lived openly and unashamedly together, and had a child, before they got married.

No previous Prime Minister had behaved quite like that, but by contemporary standards, what they did is conventional.

Johnson’s critics find themselves in a predicament comparable to that of hunters who complain that their quarry will not keep still.

They would like the Prime Minister to oblige them by adopting some fixed position, in which they could riddle him with bullets. He instead moves about, sometimes with extraordinary fleetness of foot.

Saturday’s wedding came as so great a surprise to the media that news of it only broke about six hours after it had taken place. When one considers how much attention the fourth estate devotes to Johnson, and how predictable it was that he and Symonds would get married, it is fairly astonishing that he managed to spring such a surprise.

How to interpret his behaviour? Should one call him a moderniser, for living out of wedlock with Symonds, or old-fashioned, for getting married in church?

Is he at heart a Conservative, a Liberal or a Social Democrat?

And is he or is he not a Roman Catholic? Here too it is hard to be sure.

His critics protest with great bitterness that he keeps breaking the rules.

They yearn to place him in an ideological box, and smash him to pieces for having the wrong opinions.

Johnson prefers to work out what is the best thing to do, and to do it. In other words, he is a Tory pragmatist.

Which is not a very romantic conclusion to arrive at in a piece which began with his marriage. But here is another surprise about Johnson which ought not to be a surprise.

If one looks at what he does, as opposed to what the press thinks he is doing, he is often unscrupulous enough to choose the most prudent option, while pretending to be utterly reckless.