The Week (US)
United Kingdom: Johnson rebounds with secret wedding
The prime minister “pulled off a charming and clever surprise” by getting married in secret, said Tony Allen-Mills in The Times. Boris Johnson, 56, and his partner of three years, 33-year-old Carrie Symonds, had recently sent friends and family save-the-date cards for a July 2022 wedding. But last week the couple quietly summoned guests for a Catholic ceremony at London’s Westminster Cathedral—which disregarded Johnson’s two divorces—and held a Covid-limited reception for 30 people in the garden of their official Downing Street residence. “The cynics” may regard the timing as suspicious, because the pair had been suffering a spectacularly bad week. In seven hours of testimony before Parliament, Johnson’s former top adviser turned political nemesis, Dominic Cummings, had savaged him as a bungler whose chaotic response to the pandemic caused tens of thousands of needless deaths, and her as a meddling conniver who overspent public money and interfered in political appointments.
Cummings’ testimony was explosive, said The Observer in an editorial. That Johnson “lacks the leadership skills, capability, and integrity to guide the country through a national emergency is not a new insight.” But Cummings—the strategist behind Brexit and Johnson’s 2019 election win—gave the gritty details, telling us that the prime minister admitted he ran a chaotic government so that power would rest only with him, and how Johnson repeatedly ignored scientific advice and said last fall he’d rather see “bodies pile high” than order a third lockdown. How many of
Britain’s 128,000 Covid deaths might have been prevented? We need a public inquiry into “the gross political failings of Johnson and his ministers.” Yet Cummings is mistaken if he thinks he destroyed the prime minister’s reputation, said Nick Ferrari in the Sunday Express. Britons lived through last year. They know Johnson’s handling of the pandemic “was a shambles.” But that was the case with “every other government” around the world. At this point, more of us want to look forward than look back.
This marriage will be good for Johnson, said Anthony Seldon in Independent.co.uk. He has been an incomplete prime minister: “part intuitive brilliance, part shambolic intuitionist, over whom dominant individuals hold disproportionate influence.” Until last November, he was guided by the egotistical Cummings, “a glowering dark presence like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.” The strong-willed yet doting Symonds, though, may complement the prime minister, allowing his strengths “of empathy, optimism, and communication” to blossom. By tying the knot, Johnson is “relaunching himself,” said Anne McElvoy in the Evening Standard. Symonds is a Conservative but also an avowed feminist and environmentalist, which allows for “canny repackaging of the Conservative Party” as socially progressive. But a new wife can’t turn Johnson into a sober or effective administrator. What drives him “is not so much ideas, of which he has few of much consistency, but sheer kinetic force and will to power.” This new Johnson era “will be as much of a madhouse as the prenuptial one.”