Who’s really harassing Carrie Symonds? We have no proof that her boyfriend Boris Johnson is. One surreptitiously recorded late-night row does not add up to evidence of an abusive relationship. But we have plenty of proof that leftists are. That’s the great irony of the Boris-tape controversy: Boris-bashers claim merely to be concerned for Ms Symonds’ welfare but in truth many of them seem hell-bent on making her life a misery.
Ask yourself what kind of person puts up posters outside a young woman’s flat mocking her lover. That’s what some of Ms Symonds’ neighbours have done. They attached posters to metal railings showing Boris looking ridiculous, alongside the words: ‘We’d rather endure him as our neighbour than our Prime Minister.’
The dishevelled anarchist outfit Class War went further: it held an actual protest outside Ms Symonds’ flat. It stood on the steps to her flat with a massive banner saying: ‘We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live.’ Its members waved placards that said: ‘Fuck Boris. Fuck the government.’
Doesn’t this cross a line? Protesting against politicians is one thing. It’s a key feature of democratic society to confront the powerful — though even that should not be done at a politician’s private home.
But turning up to the private apartment of a politician’s girlfriend to hurl expletives is something else entirely. It isn’t political agitation, it’s sexist bullying. It is the public shaming of a woman for her personal choices, in this case her decision to date the man who might be the next PM.
Then there are the neighbours who recorded the row and gave the tape to the Guardian. Even after they knew, in their own words, that it ‘was clear that no one was harmed’. How must Ms Symonds feel knowing her neighbours seem to have a penchant for recording her private conversations and arguments and handing the recordings to the national press? I’d say she feels violated. I’d say she feels she cannot even raise her voice in her own apartment. I imagine she feels spied on.
Adding insult to injury, it has been revealed that one of the neighbours who made the recording — the anti-Brexit playwright Eve Leigh — boasted on Twitter about giving Boris ‘the finger’.
Again, what must Ms Symonds think if her neighbours treat her lover with such contempt and then publicly brag about it on social media? She certainly won’t feel welcome on her street and might even reasonably feel like she is being singled out and harassed by her neighbours.
Indeed, according to one report Ms Symonds now feels too scared to go back to her home. That isn’t surprising. There are Class War idiots on her doorstep shaming her for her choice of romantic partner, posters on her street mocking her boyfriend, and neighbours who have made it clear they will record her heated moments. This is a woman under attack — not by Boris but by Boris-bashers.
There is an undercurrent of sexism in the media coverage, too. All those commentators speculating that Ms Symonds is a victim of domestic abuse and using this incident to talk about the ‘spectrum’ of violence against women and girls are making judgements about her life that she herself has not publicly made. They are essentially saying that they know better than her what is going on in her life. She might not think she is a victim, but they know she is. This is extreme paternalism, the implication being that this woman doesn’t know her own mind and thus needs wiser, more feministic people to enlighten her about her own life.
We hear a lot about ‘slut-shaming’ these days, where women are judged harshly for their sexual behaviour or life choices. The public humiliation of Ms Symonds feels a bit like that. This is a woman who is being protested against, publicly judged and exposed by her next door neighbours and the national press, seemingly for the simple reason that she chose Boris as her boyfriend. She’s getting a lot of abuse, that’s for sure — but it isn’t coming from Boris.