When Anthony Eden became prime minister in 1955 – having effectively been kept out of the job by Churchill overstaying his tenure – he was the first occupant of 10 Downing Street to have been divorced.
The fact was kept as discreet as possible, and when it did emerge, it was pointed out that in the breakdown of his first marriage, Eden had been “the innocent party”. The divorce hadn’t really been his fault.
When Boris Johnson, a possible con-tender for the future occupancy of No 10, announced last week his impending divorce, the Tory MP Nigel Evans said he did not think this would affect voters’ view of him. “It is 2018,” he said. We are not in the 1950s now, so things move on.”
Yes, attitudes to divorce have changed since the 1950s, but so have those within the media – print, online and “social”. There will be nothing discreet about Boris’s divorce. Every jot or tittle about “bonking Boris” (The Sun’s nickname for him) will be on the daily news feed of the tabloids; and indeed of the serious press too.
People may be less “judgmental” (in Nigel Evans’s words) about divorce, but when it comes to public lives, they’re a lot more prurient, intrusive and less respectful of privacy. Hot on the heels of the impending divorce announcement came tabloid information about the new, younger woman in his life.
This may not make any impact on the likes of Nigel Evans – a keen Brexiteer, and thus a political ally of Boris – but we cannot be too sure about how women voters will react. They may come to feel that Marina, Boris’s wife, has been treated shabbily, and humiliated by the publicity. Women voters may see Boris as bit of a bounder – and maybe they wouldn’t be entirely wrong, likeable though he is.
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