There appears to be no evidence whatsoever that Boris Johnson ‘shares your anger’

The prime minister has been ‘repeatedly assured’ that ‘no Covid rules were broken’. So why apologise?

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Wednesday 08 December 2021 17:41
Comments
Boris Johnson apologises for No 10 staff joking about lockdown Christmas party

If you draw an organisational diagram of the United Kingdom, of who reports in to who, then the line that goes up from the prime minister leads directly to the people.

They, or rather we, are his boss. He is in quite a bit of trouble at the moment, over a very obviously illegal Christmas party that very obviously happened in his house, and having been interviewed about it – at Prime Minister’s Questions – here is a summary of his explanation:

1. He is “also furious” at the clip of his own staff laughing and joking about a party that he still maintains didn’t happen. He “shares your anger”. It is not clear why he shares our anger, because our anger is based on the very clear and correct assumption that the party happened, and that his staff have been caught practising how they might lie their way out of it. Whereas he is still prepared to say, in broad daylight, in the House of Commons, in front of television cameras, that the party that dozens of people went to, that happened in his own house, didn’t actually happen. So he doesn’t share our anger at all.

2. He “apologised unreservedly for the offence that this has caused and for the impression that it gives”. He understands why people are angry. But he also, when asked about it by members of the House of Commons, decided to accuse them all of “playing politics while he gets on with the job of running the country, protecting the people”. It is not clear why he apologised for it, when he also thinks it really isn’t a big deal and the Labour Party should know better than to go on about it.

He also wants to “get on with the job of protecting the people”. That is the whole people, by the way. Seventy million of us. But he isn’t actually able to protect the hundred or so staff who work in his actual office, who physically came in to work all the way through almost all of the lockdowns of the last two years, and who either love the occasional cheese and wine party, or have to sit next to people who do. And he, their boss, can’t seem to actually prevent a party in his own house from happening, and the idea that this party was socially distanced is so absurd it causes his own press secretary to piss herself laughing.

3. He has been “repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and no Covid rules were broken”. He is, to be clear, making these claims in public, reporting them to his boss: us. That a) there was no party in his house, or b) if there was, he didn’t know about it, or c) if there was a party, then no Covid rules were broken.

Boris Johnson says he is ‘sickened and furious’ over No 10 staff joking about Christmas party

He is the prime minister. The rules and restrictions around Covid are ultimately set by him. And he has, by his own admission, been assured by people he employs that no Covid rules have been broken. It was illegal, last December, to have any kind of office Christmas party, even in an office in which people are working together. But he, the actual prime minister, has been assured that whatever happened was within the rules, even though if anything at all happened then it can’t be. And the prime minister, believed those assurances. He believed that nothing against the rules happened. There was a party with wine and cheese and a Secret Santa, happening in his own house, and he believes the people who told him nothing untoward happened.

4. He’s assured us that, “if the rules were broken then there will be disciplinary action for all involved”. Just a reminder that, you know, we, the people, are the boss of this organisation, the owners. And here’s the man we’ve put in charge telling us, don’t worry, if it turns out I was too preposterously useless to realise there was a party happening in my own house (and I’m also arrogant enough to think you’re stupid enough to believe that), then don’t worry, I’ll just fire all the little people who were involved and that’ll be the end of it. And this is the kind of person we apparently want in charge.

5. He was also asked if there was a party in his own flat on 13 November, which his own former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, has claimed there was. He said, “no, and all rules will have been followed”. A “no”, generally speaking, doesn’t require sub clauses or further explanation. Not if it’s really a no. He has also said he’ll hand over any documents to the police containing what might have happened on 18 December, and the cabinet secretary Simon Case will be asked to investigate. But he won’t be asked to investigate what happened on 13 November. The only parties that will form part of the inquiry will be the ones no one is accusing the prime minister of having personally attended. And that, apparently, is fine. Also, the prime minister’s spokesperson is also currently refusing to deny whether Case was himself at the party it is now his job to investigate. So we, the people, cannot be told whether the investigator will be investigating himself. There are various reasons why this would be quite a poor state of affairs.         

So yes, all that considered, it does seem somewhat hard to believe that the prime minister really is as angry as you are. It does seem truly impossible to believe that a better person for the job is not available.

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