BRITAIN’S prime ministers have faced many crises but surely none of Boris Johnson’s predecessors in Downing Street has ever had to deal with the extraordinary challenges he confronts today.
Four weeks ago, Boris faced death and his obituaries were being written.
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Last Monday, he returned to Downing Street and in a Churchillian speech took charge of the country’s battle for survival against the coronavirus.
And this morning, the 55-year-old was watching with excitement the birth of his son.
Surely no previous British leader has ridden such a rollercoaster and, with no end in sight of this crisis, knows that the make-and-break challenges he must urgently overcome have just now become even greater.
For most parents, every baby is a bundle of joy but also a draining full-time job — sleepless nights, changing nappies and preparing the feed.
'PASSIONATE ABOUT HIS CHILDREN'
With five other children, Boris is no stranger to the domestic chaos every newborn brings.
Although he rarely changed nappies, he has always been passionate about his children and keen on becoming the patriarch of an extended family.
While famous for his adultery, Boris’s previous girlfriends have confided that he did encourage them to have children.
Now, fiancée Carrie Symonds is the latest to fulfil his ambition.
For the first time, Downing Street’s occupants are an unmarried couple with a child.
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Boris’s extraordinary achievement is to have made that phenomenon quite unexceptional.
No one today will be shocked by his morality.
Remarkably, he has made his way of life seem quite normal.
Over the past 27 years after Lara, his first daughter, was born Boris’s family homes have overflowed with children’s bicycles, sports gear and toys.
Visitors would be shocked by the untidiness but impressed by the sense of a genuine home.
Boris has always been intensely proud about the achievements of his children — Lara, Milo, Cassia Peaches and Theodore Apollo — with second wife Marina Wheeler.
Whenever possible, he went to see his children’s performances in plays and orchestras and spoke with pride about their academic achievements.
Not least about Stephanie, his fifth child — born to girlfriend Helen Macintyre — whose music interest he firmly encourages.
His recent divorce from Marina and engagement to Carrie fractured his relationship with his four eldest children.
The personal strain broke just as he entered Downing Street.
Most men would have been shattered by the turmoil but Boris compartmentalised his emotions and fought fearlessly in the Commons and Brussels for Brexit and towards an unexpected landslide election victory.
Reared on the brutal playing fields of Eton, his remorseless willpower will crush bones and egos to guarantee success.
Breaking rules and conventions has been Boris’s trademark since his schooldays.
Defying authority, Boris has reached the top in journalism and politics by beating his rivals regardless of social codes.
Passionate about competitive sports, he always wants to beat the odds and win.
The paradox is that while Boris is damned by his left-wing critics as a lazy Etonian toff, his unorthodox lifestyle appeals to the majority as an authentic man who hates hypocrisy.
Not surprisingly, Boris has decided not to take paternity leave.
He never previously has. And right now, he knows, is not the time.
Daily, his life-and-death decisions will decide the fate of 60million Britons and now also of the youngest – his son.
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Many will wonder whether he will be named after an ancient Roman or Greek hero?
Will he bear that famous mop of blond hair?
And what sort of young man will emerge?
In the short-term, he will be privileged to use the gardens at Chequers and Downing Street and have the privileges of chauffeurs and a mother’s help.
The contrast with Boris’s own childhood will be extreme.
Fifty-five years ago Boris’s parents were struggling for money, constantly moving, and he occasionally slept in a chest of drawers.
As he grew older, he struggled with illnesses in a ramshackle farmhouse on Exmoor.
But amid the hardship, he was an avid reader, a keen painter and fearless as he mixed with farm animals or was pushed into a flowing river on a yellow rubber dingy.
Amid the Johnson family’s austerity, there was no mollycoddling.
That’s the grit feeding the gung-ho optimism Boris will draw on to inspire Britain to survive hardships ahead.
Britain waits to see how its beleaguered leader plans to cope with fatherhood on top of all the other intense demands for critical decisions.
Altogether, that surely will test Boris’s character, resilience and humour to the extreme.
Will he live up to the awesome feats of his Greek heroes?
- Tom Bower’s biography of Boris Johnson is due to be published in October.
Boris' baby joy is a happy moment – unless you're a leftie conspiracy theorist
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