Inside Politics: Johnson accused of ‘running scared’ as he ducks debate on MPs’ standards

Senior Tory calls on PM to apologise as Labour accuses him of leading his party ‘through the sewers’, writes Matt Mathers

Tuesday 09 November 2021 08:22
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Just how far is Boris Johnson willing to go to escape scrutiny? Some 26,000 miles – or more than the entire circumference of planet Earth, according to one crafty Labour Party HQ staffer, who reportedly totted up the distances travelled by the PM throughout his career during times of crisis or political uncomfortableness. His trip to Afghanistan to avoid the Heathrow third runway vote, a camping excursion to Aberdeen amid the A-level chaos and yesterday’s journey to the North East all made the list. As Stephen Barclay was sent out to face the music, No 10 insisted that the PM’s visit to a hospital in Northumberland was “long-standing” and that he wouldn’t be able to get back to London on time for the debate – an excuse that came days after he took a private jet home from Cop26 in Glasgow to attend a dinner with journalists at a private members club in London. Downing Street’s handling of this mess appears to be going from bad to worse, with the PM still refusing to apologise. The calculation made by him and his aides seems to be that this scandal will soon blow over, which it will, but at what cost to the reputation of parliament and MPs? A look at today’s papers and news websites suggests this story is going nowhere just yet. “Just say sorry for the mess, prime minister,” says the Daily Express, which critics have in the past accused of North Korea levels of support for Johnson. As anger continues to foment on all sides of the Commons, it looks increasingly like No 10 has judged this one extremely poorly.

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