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The choice before us

The weekend papers have been dominated by the story of how Boris Johnson and his partner had a screaming row. Their neighbours called the police (defensible, possibly admirable), recorded the row (defensible – it might be required for evidence later)… and sold the recording to the Guardian.

The Times reports,

Revealed — the neighbours who taped Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds’s quarrel

The neighbours who called police about a row between Boris Johnson and his partner are Tom Penn and Eve Leigh, a left-wing dramatist who boasted only a few days before that she had “given the finger” to the former foreign secretary.

Penn, who broke cover after questions from The Sunday Times, voted against Brexit but insisted last night that he and his wife had not acted because of politics. He said they felt “frightened and concerned for the welfare of those involved”. Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, was heard screaming, “Get off me” and “Get out of my flat.”

Penn said: “With my wife, [I] 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.”

However, he admitted that even after officers called back “to let us know that nobody was harmed”, the couple decided to pass a recording they had made of the incident to The Guardian newspaper.

Penn said: “I felt that 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.”

In the Times comments to this story “savetheplanet” said,

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs.

I’m being offered a world run by Boris (fortunately lazy and delegates) or Corbyn and folk like Tom and Eve .

Not a great choice but Logic says Boris is the lesser of those evils.

27 comments to The choice before us

  • Ian

    Of course we should all be sensible of the concerns of the neighbours when hearing wine had been spilt and that plates were being smashed. Good God, what person wouldn’t immediately phone the police and write an article in their local newspaper for money, with a full audio recording? That’s only neighbourly concern.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Not a great choice but Logic says Boris is the lesser of those evils.

    If Boris cannot deliver Brexit, then the Brexit party is the least evil.

  • bobby b

    “Penn said: “I felt that 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 think he’s full of partisan BS, and had no such facially-altruistic motive for selling his tape to the press . . .

    . . . but . . .

    . . . disregarding his partisan-driven bad faith, I can’t fault the correctness of the statement itself.

    Had someone recorded and released one of the Clintons’ rumored screaming matches in the White House, I would have probably made a similar self-serving but BS statement defending its release.

  • Penn … insisted last night that he and his wife had not acted because of politics. … However, he admitted that even after officers called back “to let us know that nobody was harmed”, the couple decided to pass a recording they had made of the incident to The Guardian newspaper.

    I think if he had admitted that of course they sent the report to the Guardian for political reasons, hoping it would damage Boris, then I would find any accompanying claims – e.g. that their earlier actions had involved some legitimate concern, or that people less motivated than themselves might have also have considered putting information in the public domain, or that they heard without advantages what caused them to start recording – a bit less implausible. As it is, “leftwing dramatist” and ‘Guardian newspaper” and “insisted … that he and his wife had not acted because of politics” add up to a statistical combination that may undermine the effect they hope for.

    They have put their account and recording in the public domain. Their politics and their claim regarding their motive are now also in the public domain.

  • Alsadius

    Their stated reasons are obvious BS, but hearing that she said “Get off me!” is worrying. That’s not one with a lot of good explanations.

    Maybe putting a potentially-bad guy in #10 is worth it for the country. But it’s still concerning me.

  • APL

    Alsadius: “but hearing that she said “Get off me!” is worrying”.

    Sounds like a ‘safephrase’ to me. Or, maybe Boris isn’t a considerate lover. ( Boris and the word lover, sends shivers down my spine. But women, huh!)

    But anyway, whatever some partisan leftie says, probably by definition isn’t true. Especially since they’ve just been paid for the account by some rabid scandal sheet.

  • Tim the Coder

    Just because she is heard shouting “Get off me!” does not mean Boris was anywhere near at the time, or even in the same room.

    I remarked on Wednesday evening, with Raab removed, that the anti-Boris machine would now leak its stuff. No point until the other leaver was out.
    Bang on time, we get a very theatrical anti-Boris story.

    The question is, was she a sleeper from the start, or since been got at?
    And given that she’s a 100% ecoloon, isn’t this a good step for Boris as PM ?

  • Had someone recorded and released one of the Clintons’ rumored screaming matches in the White House, I would have probably made a similar self-serving but BS statement defending its release. (bobby b, June 23, 2019 at 10:27 pm)

    As my comment above indicates, had I done such a thing, I would have been upfront about my political stance and any political motive, especially in the context of explaining that my original reason for listening and recording was not partisan (if it were not). This is relevant to

    whatever some partisan leftie says, probably by definition isn’t true. (APL’s,, June 24, 2019 at 6:39 am)

    Anything recorded is recorded FWIW*. By contrast, if there is reason to think the neighbours have heavily spun one bit of their story, there is reason to consider they’ve spun the rest of it.

    Similarly, where Tom Penn has said:

    “The attempts from some areas of the press to instead focus their stories on us, and in particular my wife, have been eye-opening, and very alarming.”

    I would instead have said that, of course, if I record a neighbour who is a public figure and send the details to a paper very hostile to them, then my bona fides as a witness will be reviewed. I would have tried to express what I thought was reasonable and inevitable in that line, the better to save my fire for anything unreasonable. (What the U.S. press did to Joe the plumber was unreasonable because he merely asked a legitimate question of Obama in a normal public forum. Had Joe instead recorded his neighbour Obama having a row with Michelle, and sent the recording to Fox news, I would have been less surprised by at least the first stage of their investigation of him.)

    Meanwhile, the Guardian has found neighbours Fatimah and Imran who also say that sounds of shouting were heard. However the police account remains clear:

    “At 00.24 on Friday 21 June, police responded to a call from a local resident in [south London]. The caller was concerned for the welfare of a female neighbour.

    “Police attended and spoke to all occupants of the address, who were all safe and well. There were no offences or concerns apparent to the officers and there was no cause for police action.”

    Would modern police regard the smashed plates and glasses alleged in the neighbours’ account as ‘no concern’?

    *As records whatever anything heard or recorded might or might not mean, I confess to being confused as regards reports of “Get off me” versus “Get off my (beep) laptop”.

  • TDK

    “but hearing that she said “Get off me!” is worrying”.

    Based on that quote alone – not at all. Trying to calm an angry person with an arm round the shoulders is normal, as is a subsequent rejection.

  • Itellyounothing

    The Guardian is wrong about everything all the time. The rest of the MSM are little more accurate.

    I don’t even like Boris as leader and never vote for Conservative again.

    This reeks of smear. Any verbals you hear without visual context can be wildy misunderstood.

    I’d take the same view if hardcore Tory neighbours of Corbin tape recorded a domestic through the wall….

    Admittedly if either start making friends with the Soviet Naval Attache’s honeypot, I might feel differently…..

  • Mr Ecks

    As Tim Newman points out on his blog this is the UK left trying out the anti-Trump style of shite. Given that it has driven the scummy Democrats to be near unelectable–reparations anyone (& where do descendants of Free blacks who owned black slaves stand?)–then it is welcome.

    Alsadous–“get off me” without context is meaningless–don’t fall for this Marxist garbage.

    BoJo is –akin to liberal Democrat Trump–BlueLabour. So the scummy left trying to present him as Hitler 2 is astonishingly stupid and a very welcome sign of more leftist lunatic self destruction to come.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Alsadius writes, “Their stated reasons are obvious BS, but hearing that she said “Get off me!” is worrying. That’s not one with a lot of good explanations.”

    And TDK replies, “Based on that quote alone – not at all. Trying to calm an angry person with an arm round the shoulders is normal, as is a subsequent rejection.”

    That was my first thought, too. I could just imagine Boris doing that in the most annoying way possible. She’s furiously angry with him and he sidles up to her saying, “Awww, c’mon” and puts an arm round her like he thinks he’s so great that his mere touch is enough to make her stop being angry. She makes it clear that his oafish attempt at conciliation has had the opposite effect.

    This is, of course, pure speculation. But then so is the idea that “get off me” necessarily means he is assaulting her.

    I’ve heard or said versions of “get off me” or “gerroff” many times, but never in the context of violence.

  • TDK

    This is, of course, pure speculation.

    Hence why I began with “Based on that quote alone”. In context, I might reverse my benign interpretation.

  • Mr Ed

    As my comment above indicates, had I done such a thing (released a recording of the Clintons), I would have been…

    writing my will?

    Has anyone heard the recording? I am loath to click on teh Guardian, perhaps Natalie, having made an enemy of the North Koreans, has held her nose long enough to have dipped into that sewer.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Mr Ed, has it been made public? I know I blogged about this story but I haven’t been following developments hour by hour.

    Assuming the recording has been released, I feel queasy listening to something that I think should not have been made public, but on the other hand that wrong cannot be undone now. I’d have to think about whether to listen to it.

    I second your question: Has anyone heard it? If so, what was your impression about the context of the words “get off me”?

  • Today’s Times reports that Carrie Symonds is afraid to return to her flat – not for fear of meeting Boris there but because fear of hostile neighbours is now being amplified by fear of left-wing protestors. A picture of the protestors outside the front door showed a Lucy Parson’s quote banner

    We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live

    complete with skull and crossbones for added emphasis.

    If what began as an assertion of neighbourly concern for Carrie’s safety ends in her having to leave for fear of meeting those ‘concerned’, it will undermine the effect Tom and Eve hoped for. If they are indeed concerned, they will have a word with these protestors (Eve especially sounds like she should be able to speak their language) and address Carrie’s fears. We’ll see.

  • Julie from Chicago, you were perhaps busy yesterday (as I know, alas, too well, one cannot spend all one’s time keeping up with the fount of wisdom that is samizdata), leaving it to me to point out that the Times (such degradation – what are we coming to? !!) did indeed write, as Natalie quotes

    and Carrie Symonds’s quarrel

    instead of

    and Carrie Symonds’ quarrel

    The latter is what I was taught as correct English. Transatlantic commenters can say which is good American English but the Times was once a supposed authority on how the Queen’s English is written over here.

  • bob sykes

    Tom Penn and Eve Leigh committed what is called in America a “SWATTING,” which is an attempt to get the local police’s Special Weapons And Tactics team to attack the neighbors’ house by submitting a false police report. The hope is that the SWAT team will react violently to any resistance or even hesitation to obey and that the victims will be injured by the police. In the US, Tom Penn and Eve Leigh would have committed a crime and they would have been prosecuted for it.

  • pete

    Brexit and the election of President Trump has cause the already loony liberal left even more loopy.

    It’s a joy to behold.

  • CaptDMO

    Woman screaming….smashed plates?
    I wonder why the po-po would be responding to (reported) concerns of a female neighbor?

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Niall Not in my classes. Jesus’ disciples but Charles’s Law. Jesus was the one exception that I recall to the rule that the singular possessive was
    denoted by ‘s after the noun even when the singular noun ended in s.

  • Bruce

    “…..wine had been spilt and that plates were being smashed.”

    Was someone playing a bouzouki as well?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, Clovis, and others: I write in my position as the Last Word when it comes to grammatical authoritation. (E.g., I know that that last word is correct, because I made it up myself.)

    For a discussion of the words Woods, Woods’, Woods’s, and for good measure Woodses, see Amazon’s biographical sketch of the authoress, Geraldine Woods.

    https://www.dummies.com/education/language-arts/grammar/how-to-show-possession-for-nouns-that-end-in-s/ .

    Geraldine Woods, the writer of the explanation, per Amazon, has taught English for over 30 years in New York.

    https://www.amazon.com/Geraldine-Woods/e/B001H6KH4K%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

    Unfortunately, Amazon quotes her as saying this:

    What would I do without the sharp eyes and excellent grammar skills of my friends?

    Grammar skills? Grammar skills? I dunno about 30 years ago, but when I were in school in the ’50’s, we were taught that “grammar” is a noun, and that the adjectival form is “grammatical”: Thus, “grammatical skills.”

    .

    OTOH, writing that last sentence I committed “grammar” just once. Subsequently, I substituted “e” and even “i” for the second “a.”

    I learned to be vewy, vew-w-wy careful to proofread “grammar” when I put a sign on my door in the dorm advising that I was available to tutor in “grammer” [sic]. The note was corrected almost at once by some insensitive young woman who wrote on the note something to the effect that perhaps I should find another line of work. Oh, the shame! 😥 😥 😥

    Amazon also says,

    She makes snarky comments on grammar and usage in her blog, http://www.grammarianinthecity.com.

    I will visit again, because she has a posting up about silly signs. (I enjoy ranting about booksellers — who write things like “box sets” and “your item has shipped!”; you’d think anybody who can read English would go nuclear at this vandalization of the language, or else faint away at its ignorance or stupidity. The same with the aisle-signs in supermarkets that say “Can fish” [where? I don’ see no stream or lake] or “Can vegetables” [hot-pack or pressure-cooker method? Hot-pack not so safe for veg.])

  • Julie near Chicago

    PS. Niall, on her About page, Ms. Woods also says,

    “[I am] an educator with four decades of experience teaching the rules of Standard American English.”

    What dreadful grammatical notions Britain has sold to our elder brothers Across the Water, I do not know. *haughty sniff*

    PPS. The site Grammarly can actually conjugate the verb to sink! As an example of a righteous (almost wrote “writeous”!), it gives:

    The Smiths’ boat sank.

    (I assume they meant the boat owned by or carrying more than one Smith.)

    https://data.grammarbook.com/blog/apostrophes/apostrophes-with-words-ending-in-s/

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, Clovis, et cie,

    Oh blazing cowbells! I spent some time looking for the latest on the apostrophe problem with nouns ending in s. Apparently the comment has been lost.

    At

    https://www.dummies.com/education/language-arts/grammar/how-to-show-possession-for-nouns-that-end-in-s/

    Ms. Geraldine Woods has written about Woods, Woods’, Woods’s, and for good measure the members of the family Woods: namely, the Woodses.

    Amazon has a sketch including her credentials at

    https://www.amazon.com/Geraldine-Woods/e/B001H6KH4K%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

    Her own About page is at her site

    http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?page_id=460 .

    Looks interesting. It induced me to add a righteous rant about booksellers (like Amazon) and supermarkets that clearly have no acquaintance with English. Alas, either the dog ate it, or Transcyberways Postal Service was out to lunch, or else the mail room at Samizdata lost it.

    Oh well…maybe it’s just as well.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Test comment to next posting worked. So to repeat the last comment I made here, which seems to have been lost:

    Niall, Clovis, et cie,

    Oh blazing cowbells! I spent some time looking for the latest on the apostrophe problem with nouns ending in s. Apparently the comment has been lost.

    At

    https://www.dummies.com/education/language-arts/grammar/how-to-show-possession-for-nouns-that-end-in-s/

    Ms. Geraldine Woods has written about Woods, Woods’, Woods’s, and for good measure the members of the family Woods: namely, the Woodses.

    Amazon has a sketch including her credentials at

    https://www.amazon.com/Geraldine-Woods/e/B001H6KH4K%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

    Her own About page is at her site

    http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?page_id=460 .

    Looks interesting. It induced me to add a righteous rant about booksellers (like Amazon) and supermarkets that clearly have no acquaintance with English. Alas, either the dog ate it, or Transcyberways Postal Service was out to lunch, or else the mail room at Samizdata lost it.

    Oh well…maybe it’s just as well.

  • Paul Marks

    I will make a judgement about Prime Minister Boris Johnson when I have actual evidence to go on.

    He was not my choice for leader of the party I have been a member of for 40 years (a long time – I said forty years, youngsters), but I am willing to give him a chance.

    If Prime Minister Johnson breaks his word and does not lead the country to real independence, then it will be a sign from the universe that it really is time that people like me were dead (to be fair – I suspect I should have been dead for many years anyway).

    We shall just have to wait and see.

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