The arrival of a son for Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds occupies an inordinate amount of newsprint. Less commented on is Iain Duncan Smith’s splendid sense of timing in delivering an old-style Tory rant about unmarried dads.
First up, child number five (or is it six; do I hear any advance on six?) for Boris Johnson. As a human story this has legs: man has brush with death but recovers in time for birth of his new baby son. Viewed personally for Carrie Symonds, the birth of her first child is obviously a big moment.
After that, it’s all a bit downhill for Boris sceptics.
“Good news at last for Britain” cries the Sun, yoking together Captain Tom’s 100th birthday and the birth of Johnson’s newest child. “Britain celebrates two morale-boosting birthdays”.
Well – Happy B’Day indeed to the marvellous Captain Tom, but does the arrival of another child for Boris Johnson really boost morale?
Over in the Telegraph, a front-page column has the headline: “Baby balm for the soul in these anxious times.” And, well, I gave up after that as man can only swallow so much barmy balm.
Boris Johnson has always lived a chaotic, seat-of-pants life with plenty of high drama. He is unlike previous prime ministers in being elected as much for his personality as anything else; elected for Being Boris, even though that role is a cynical calculation, all put-up bombast, over-done optimism and calculated Bunteresque bluster.
Lately, the previously loyal Sunday Times seemingly has grown weary of this act and been critical of the Johnson government – and for its efforts has reportedly been banned from asking questions at the daily press briefings (along with the also proscribed Channel 4).
As a master of narrative, Johnson knows how a story should roll, and pushes politics into that groove. Imagine how the arrival of this baby will be given a narrative role, with Boris the Daddy (again) rolling out his son at opportune or awkward moments. With a leap of imagination, here is a half-invented scenario…
Sunday Times reporter: “Prime minister, why was your government so slow to act over Covid-19 and why is Britain’s death toll so high?”
Johnson: “Oh, never mind that – have a look at this photograph of my new son.”
Blustering paternal pride pushes unwelcome stories away from the headlines (just wait…).
Anyway, Iain Duncan Smith – three words to put you off breakfast, lunch or whatever meal you’re about to have.
As reported yesterday by Huffpost, Duncan Smith claimed at a fringe event at a Conservative party conference in Manchester that cohabiting couples have “inherently unstable” relationships in comparison to those who married.
He adds that unmarried men are more likely to get into debt and commit crime. And – oh there is loads more, including an impenetrable metaphor about joining golf clubs.
But here is a key passage from the Huffpost story… “He went on to claim men out of wedlock were ‘released to do all the things they wouldn’t normally do’ such as committing crimes, drinking too much, taking drugs and fathering multiple children”.
Quite why that didn’t ring any bells about his feckless unmarried colleague in Downing Street remains a mystery. Iain, what were you thinking? Well maybe thought didn’t come into it – just the usual kneejerkery.
Should you wish to do further research, ask Google about allegations concerning Duncan Smith and a certain high-profile Tory woman MP. None of it may be true and I wouldn’t wish to comment at all, but IDS does have form for high-mindedness while forgetting to check his own shoelaces are tied.