We Wish You a Merry Saturnalia: Northern Churchman

We Wish You a Merry Saturnalia? The Northern Churchman There is a familiar feel to this time of year. The Christmas advertising on television, the darker evenings, the Carol Services – and the inevitable scoffers who call the Christmas story a myth. Not ‘Once in Royal...

Mark Pickles: The Story of Two Trampolines

Gospel-Driven Anglicanism By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles The Story of the Two Trampolines:  A passage that is frequently referred to during times of great revival is Isaiah 64:1-3:  “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your...

Ten Thousand Bibles for London’s Children

TBS Auxiliary Meets Ten Thousand Bibles For London’s Children The Greater London Auxiliary of the Trinitarian Bible Society was delighted to report at its Annual Meeting held on 15 November that over 10,000 Bibles have been distributed to London schools since the...

Good News for Egypt’s Christians

Barnabas Fund Reports Good News for Egypt’s Christians The government of Egypt licensed 125 churches and church-affiliated buildings on 14 November. It is the 24th batch of approvals made since the government committee overseeing the licensing process started work in...

Church Society’s Response to MP Ben Bradshaw

Church Society’s Response to MP Ben Bradshaw In the aftermath of Desmond Tutu’s daughter being refused permission to preside at a funeral in a Church of England parish, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told The Guardian that the “C of E must move swiftly to welcome lesbian...

Collins: Who’s Your Righteousness?

Who’s Your Righteousness? By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins Who’s your righteousness? "The Lord our Righteousness" was the sermon preached March 20, 1757 at St. Mary's Church in Oxford. It offended nearly everyone that day and William Romaine was invited to never preach...

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act of 1963

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act of 1963 Persons Against Whom Proceedings May be Instituted. Proceedings under this Measure may be instituted against an archbishop, any diocesan bishop or any suffragan bishop commissioned by a diocesan bishop or any other bishop or a...

Editorial: Joy to the World Cup

Editorial Joy to the World Cup The result of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is already in. And it appears the Church of England has lost. The latest advice from the Church of England’s Support Hub is for parishes to consider the timing of Christmas Carol Services to avoid...

Symes to Step Down from Anglican Mainstream Leadership

Symes to Step Down from Anglican Mainstream Leadership By Chris Sugden Andrew Symes is to stand down as Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream on January 1, 2023, after nearly ten years in post. Rev Symes, 56, who had earlier served with Crosslinks in South...

Retired Bishop Given Life Suspension

Retired Bishop Given Life Suspension By George Conger The former Bishop of Ramsbury has been suspended for life from the ordained ministry after he admitted to having sexually abused two women. The Daily Mail reported the Rt Rev. Peter Hullah had been the subject of...

Character Matters: Prudence Dailey’s Commentary

Prudence Dailey’s Commentary

In Private as in Public, Character Matters

My 89-year-old mother says she never trusted Boris. It wasn’t his policies—she didn’t especially object to those—but his personal life. Married and divorced twice, and known for his affairs and an unspecified number of children born out of wedlock, he also became the first Prime Minister to move his (then) girlfriend into Number Ten.

I, meanwhile, while not enthusiastic about these aspects of Mr Johnson’s character, was more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt at first. His optimistic and bumbling demeanour almost made it possible to believe that his personal transgressions—like much else about him—weren’t really all that serious, and had probably happened almost by accident.

How did we get to this point? A generation ago, it was generally accepted that, in public life, if a man’s wife couldn’t trust him, neither could the electorate. Whilst no doubt people still got up to all sorts of things on the quiet (with human nature being what it is), if you were found out then resignation soon followed: anything else would have conveyed the message to society that such indiscretions were not important.

In the mid-1980s, Cecil Parkinson was forced to resign from Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet after revelations that he had got his secretary pregnant. By 1997, however, when then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook was discovered to be having an affair with his secretary, his response was to announce that he was leaving his obviously devastated wife for her, and to remain in office. When Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned earlier this year following the discovery of his clandestine relationship, it was the fact that he had broken his own COVID lockdown rules that sealed his fate, rather than the liaison itself.

Early in his premiership, John Major had coined the slogan ‘Back to Basics’ as an appeal to values such as ‘neighbourliness, decency and courtesy’. Although the Back to Basics campaign was never claimed to be about sexual morality, it was nevertheless used by Major’s opponents to accuse the government of hypocrisy whenever one of its MPs was found with his trousers down. This was partly political opportunism; but partly also a clever and cynical ploy to undermine traditional Christian notions of personal morality within the culture at large, helping to usher in an era in which politicians dare not be seen to advocate ‘family values’. At the same time, the peccadillos of politicians were increasingly seen as entirely separate from their public lives (despite the fact that, in social attitudes surveys, the majority of Britons still say they believe infidelity to be wrong).

Given this history, the bien pensants who criticise the personal lives of Boris Johnson and for that matter Donald Trump, and suggest that they are therefore unfit for office, are the true hypocrites. We must nevertheless acknowledge that they (and my mother) are onto something. 

When Boris Johnston was accused of having had an affair with Spectator journalist Petronella Wyatt during his time as the magazine’s Editor, he famously dismissed the story as ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’. The report was, however, discovered to be true, and Boris was sacked—not for the affair itself, but for the dishonesty surrounding it—from the Shadow Cabinet. And yet what affair does not involve dishonesty?

Since then, there has been a string of other instances, both personal and political, in which Johnson stands accused of being less then truthful. It has got to the stage that, when he insists that there was no Christmas party in Downing Street last year—or perhaps there was, but he didn’t know about it; or perhaps there were several, but they didn’t break the rules—no-one has any reason to believe him. The product of an increasingly de-Christianised culture, he is apparently unmoored from the faith and teaching that once underpinned our collective mores—and it shows.

A politician is a whole person; the public and the private cannot be rent asunder. Character matters.

Miss Dailey is a member of the General Synod from Oxford Diocese.