Well, here we are again. As regularly occurring as new Covid variants is the now-monthly story of the prime minister having yet another law-breaking lockdown party. I cannot even pretend to be shocked anymore; as I have learnt to expect a near-weekly email, video or jaunty, tinsel-festooned picture to pop up on my phone detailing how Downing Street thought themselves completely outside of the rules that they wrote.
Fancy sending an email to over 100 people, advertising the fact that you were holding an illegal knees-up. This, the latest in Boris Johnson’s conga line of soirees, was clearly organised and the fact that we have the email invite for all to see speaks to one of two unsavoury options.
Either the culture at Number 10 was such that they genuinely felt themselves to be above the rules that they made for us, and so thought nothing of sending an email out. Or, we are being governed by absolute idiots. I think it is a little from column A and a little from column B.
To get over this latest rave-up in the garden that we pay through our taxes to maintain, in order for it to be perfect for a few afternoon margaritas, the prime minister and his foot soldier ministers have decided that the best line to spin to the public is that we have to wait for the results of an inquiry being run by Sue Gray from the Cabinet office.
The prime minister genuinely thinks he can expect us to wait weeks to find out if he went to a party, at his own home, which various eyewitnesses say he was at.
Personally, I don’t need to wait for Sue Gray’s report to say, categorically, that I was not at that party. The prime minister is refusing to answer this basic question. This is not a man I want to have any power over my children’s education, my constituents’ health, the economic prosperity of my city, or the security of my neighbourhood. Chimps could be trained to answer this question.
I feel for Sue Gray, I really do. She is currently being used as a human shield so a load of men who would sell her down the river in a heartbeat can say in public that they are waiting for her because of how much they respect justice, due process and the rule of law. Just not the bit that stopped them from holding illegal parties in their taxpayer-funded mansions. They really do pick and choose when they’re going to respect due process.
The problem with the Sue Gray inquiry, which I have no reason to doubt, is that Boris Johnson is Ms Gray’s boss. They can keep saying it is independent, but Sue Gray works for the UK government. I think that Ms Gray will give completely honest findings, but when all is said and done, I feel slightly uncomfortable about the idea that a member of my staff would be asked to do this if I were the subject.
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Chatting with Tory colleagues this week, you can see how heavily this is weighing on them. I have yet to find a single Tory who isn’t utterly embarrassed by the prime minister and even more embarrassed by the line of lies and obfuscation he has decided to take. However, one told me that they were certain that even if there was a vote of no confidence, triggered by enough Tory MPs putting in letters of complaint, that Boris Johnson would win. What an utter mess.
Tory MPs should know that the prime minister’s behaviour will damage them. Yes, he may get away with turning Downing Street into a frat house with his totally brazen lack of class and care. But the public are less forgiving, and when they realise that all the other stuff he professed would happen was a load of flannel, they will punish each of them.
Boris Johnson lying about parties and hiding behind a civil servant who cannot speak publicly is one thing, and the fact that he is out there telling people they are getting new hospitals which no one can actually see, and that their kids education is the best it’s ever been even though there are 33 kids in the class, they have had to move to shorter hours and the roof is leaking, is quite another.
The emperor’s new clothes idiom doesn’t come close because he is not just humiliating himself, he’s taking the country along for the ride. See you next week when, inevitably, another party will have come to light.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding
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