Boris Johnson shouts loudly

POSTED: June 25, 2019

For reasons that will no doubt go down in history, Britain finds itself trapped trying to leave, or remain in, the European Union. The entire political class has collectively taken leave of its senses, and got itself into a problem of its own making that, apparently, has no solution whatsoever.

The current episode finds the Conservative Party wasting almost all of the time left for finding a solution in an election for a new leader, who will inevitably become (for however short a time) the new Prime Minister. The media have decided to treat this as a public event, whereas in fact it remains, as it always has, an internal Tory matter. The result of the election by 100,000+ Conservative Party members will have very public consequences, but the public will have no say whatsoever in the election itself.

The odds-on favourite is everyone’s favourite reprobate Boris Johnson, a man whose main talent is a contrived unsinkability, closely tied to a peculiarly English view of the amiable rogue, the man who makes you split your sides with mirth even as he leaves the room with your life savings in his pocket.

On June 21, the Guardian revealed that: “police called to loud altercation at potential PM’s home”. According to the report

Police were called to the home of Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, in the early hours of Friday morning after neighbours heard a loud altercation involving screaming, shouting and banging.

The argument could be heard outside the property where the potential future prime minister is living with Symonds, a former Conservative party head of press.

A neighbour told the Guardian they heard a woman screaming followed by “slamming and banging”. At one point Symonds could be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.

So far, so tawdry.

When I thought about this later I wondered how this had happened. The report points out that a neighbour informed the Guardian, who had a bone fide exclusive. A couple of days later, the "neighbour went public".

Tom Penn, who has lived at the property in south London for just over a year, said he wanted to put the record straight on his reasons for recording the row and then dialling 999.

Penn, who heard the loud argument, said he only contacted the police as a last resort after knocking three times at the couple’s flat and was concerned over the “bizarre and fictitious allegations” put to him and his wife since news of the incident broke and dominated front pages.

It comes after the Guardian revealed that police were called to the flat Johnson shares with Symonds in the early hours of Friday morning after the neighbour heard a loud altercation involving screaming followed by slamming and banging. On a recording made by the neighbour, Symonds can be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.

In a statement released on Saturday night, Penn, 29, said: “In the early hours of Friday morning, I answered a phone call from a takeaway food delivery driver. At the same time, I heard what sounded like shouting coming from the street.

“I went downstairs, on the phone to the driver, and collected my food. On the way back into my flat, it became clear that the shouting was coming from a neighbour’s flat. It was loud enough and angry enough that I felt frightened and concerned for the welfare of those involved, so I went inside my own home, closed the door, and pressed record on the voice memos app on my phone.

“After a loud scream and banging, followed by silence, I ran upstairs, and with my wife agreed that we should check on our neighbours. I knocked three times at their front door, but there was no response. I went back upstairs into my flat, and we agreed that we should call the police.

“The police arrived within five minutes. Our call was made anonymously, and no names were given to the police. They subsequently called back to thank us for reporting, and to let us know that nobody was harmed.

“To be clear, the recordings were of the noise within my own home. My sole concern up until this point was the welfare and safety of our neighbours. I hope that anybody would have done the same thing.

“Once clear that no one was harmed, I contacted the Guardian, as I felt it was of important public interest. I believe it is reasonable for someone who is likely to become our next prime minister to be held accountable for all of their words, actions and behaviours.

“I, along with a lot of my neighbours all across London, voted to remain within the EU. That is the extent of my involvement in politics.

He then goes on to complain about the “unpleasant things being said about myself and my partner, and some quite frankly bizarre and fictitious allegations, have been upsetting for not only us, but also for family, friends and fellow Camberwell neighbours, who are currently being harangued by the media”.

This whole business strikes me as more than bizarre in several ways.

I have no doubt whatsoever that anyone of any political allegiance could fairly describe Johnson as a charlatan. I have no doubt that he deserves pillorying. I do have severe doubts, however, about the Guardian doing something that it would shout very loudly about if the Daily Mail or the Sun did it: basing “an exclusive” on secret recordings made by a neighbour of a private quarrel going on between two adults in their own apartment.

Remind me never to rent an apartment next to Tom “phone against the wall” Penn, whose idea of normal behaviour clearly differs from mine. You might want to take the phrase “along with a lot of my neighbours all across London” as a trigger warning.

This might perhaps redefine the concept of neighbourliness for a whole generation. It might also serve to pinpoint the exact moment when The Guardian joined the tabloid press.