Politics

After Partygate, where on earth does Boris Johnson go from here?

Seriously, where can he go? The record of his government is awful and should be the primary criteria for which he is removed. But what the last ten days have shown to even the most happily ignorant Tory voter is that this man cannot be trusted to tell the truth. He will look for any excuse he can cling to, to explain away anything that may make him look bad. We have seen that for ten days. First, in his statement in the House of Commons on the 12th, he claimed he was under the impression that the gathering in the garden on the 20th May 2020, that he admitted attending, was a work event. Sure… The email from Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary spells it out what the occasion is for. To take advantage of ‘the lovely weather’. The rest of the country was being told not to leave their homes for anything but the most essential journeys and the government and their advisers were planning a social get-together. Now it is entirely possible that Johnson didn’t see the email invite sent out. By all accounts he is not a man who does his homework. He never has. His attitude has always been ‘wing it, people won’t be able to tell the difference.’ As soon as he said he believed the gathering on the 20th May 2020 was a work event, it rang false. As Kier Starmer said, ‘his excuse that he didn’t know he was at a party is so ridiculous, it is actually offensive to the British public.’

And he has added to the ridiculousness of his answer in the house by trying to claim that no one had told him that the gathering would be in contravention of the coronavirus restrictions. What?! You’re the Prime Minister! How can you not know what your own COVID restrictions are?! Of course, Dominic Cummings have alleged that Johnson knew that the event would be breaking COVID rules but allowed it to go ahead anyway. If that is proven true, Sue Gray will be on him in a second. Reportedly there is an email from a No. 10 official warning that the gathering would be breaking COVID regulations and guidelines. There is also the possibility that Johnson lied to Parliament over whether he knew that the gathering was not a work event. As I’ve said in this article, the wording of the email invitation makes it clear that it was not any sort of work event. This was obviously a social event. Those attending were even told bring their own drinks. How much more blatant does Johnson need it to be? 40 people all out in the garden of Number 10 carrying their own drinks, and this is a work event? Really? Johnson said he was in attendance for 25 minutes to thank those people in attendance for their hard work over the course of the pandemic. Why could they not have organised for Johnson to give his thanks to his staff in smaller groups during the working day?    

And he clearly does not have a hold of his staff. More and more details of other parties in Downing Street are emerging all the time. Not least of all, the party that was held the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, which did adhere to COVID regulations and gave us the image of the Queen sat by herself as she buried her husband of over 70 years. According to reports, the Royal Family were offered the chance to forego social distancing and other COVID measures, but the Queen declined. She decided to set an example to her country. Whereas the Prime Minister’s staff were partying together until the early hours, playing on the Prime Minister’s infant son’s slide and spilling wine on the office printer. This disregard for the rules stems from the top. What is not particularly strong at the top tends to be reflected all the way down.

Even now, Johnson continues to deflect all the pressure onto Sue Gray’s investigation. And she is on a fact-finding mission, with reference to the regulations and guidelines that were in place at the time. She can be critical of the PM’s actions and those of his staff, but she is not expected to say whether there were breaches of the regulations and guidelines. But why does he need someone else to find out what the facts were? He was there, he could see what was going on. It is just a matter of buying himself some time to try and shore up his increasingly shaky support. And anyway, the person who would decide what, if anything, needs to be done after this report comes out would be Boris Johnson. He could ask Lord Geidt to conduct another investigation into his behaviour. But, again, if Geidt concluded that Johnson broke the ministerial code, Johnson could and probably would ignore Geidt’s conclusion. He has done so before when a member of his cabinet has been accused of breaking the ministerial code. He simply disagreed and kept the minister in question in the Cabinet. And the then advisor on ministerial standards resigned in protest. If Johnson continues to look like he just thumbing his nose at the public, the Tories may decide to save their electoral fortunes before Johnson can shred them to tatters.

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