Boris Johnson is using the war in Ukraine to divert from his crimes, but the majority of people aren't just forgetting his lies, writes Terina Hine
The law was broken at the heart of government, the Prime Minister lied about it and then he told jokes about it. The war in Ukraine may make partygate seem frivolous by comparison, but that does not, nor should it, let the government off the hook.
Loyal ministers continue to tie themselves in knots to escape the obvious. Jacob Rees-Mogg, tells us partygate is yesterday’s news, while Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary, insisted the “world has moved on”. Certainly some critical MPs have, onwards and upwards it seems, as Johnson has used this period of respite to hand out promotions like sweets.
Now the Met Police is issuing fines - proving if there was ever any doubt - that illegal parties did take place in the depths of lockdown, at the heart of government. So far twenty fines have been meted out - there will be more to follow.
Ironically the former head of Propriety and Ethics has been fined, while another culprit was the very official responsible for writing the laws she then went on to break. You really couldn’t make it up.
Showing his utter contempt for us little people, Johnson chose to host another party last week and used the occasion to poke fun at the whole episode. In his speech he mocked the elasticity of the letters of no confidence MPs sent to the 1922 committee chair, Graham Brady: they send them in and then pull them out. His joke - if you can call it that - continued, the traitorous MPs should be grateful they are not in Russia trying to topple Putin. That Johnson’s witticism relied on comparing himself favourably to Putin (hardly a high bar) is bizarre, made even more so given Putin’s role in saving Johnson’s skin.
Politics is a fickle game and we all know how a few weeks can be a very long time indeed - but it really was only a few weeks ago that Johnson was on the brink of being ousted for partygate - with letters submitted to Graham Brady close to the threshold required for sparking a no-confidence vote.
But that was then - before the pause for the police investigation, before the war, before promotions and promises of reform. And now, it’s time to move on.
Yet what is abundantly clear is that the Prime Minister has not moved on at all. He is still unable to take responsibility, still denying his own culpability, and ready as ever to let others take the blame. He shows not one ounce of remorse for his actions, nor the those of his staff. He remains the joker, contemptuous of us all.
And all those loyal MPs who swore the scandal had led him to change, that a new dawn had broken in No.10, must be looking on with horror.
The current line - that the government is too busy with Ukraine to deal with the fluff of partygate - won’t hold for long, if it holds at all. It is not beyond the wit of most to be both horrified by war and disgusted by the criminality in Downing Street. Partygate cut through in a way political scandals rarely do because it affected every one of us so deeply: we had all lived through the same terrible pandemic cut off from family and friends for months - unless, that is, you happened to work in Downing Street.
The public view of Boris Johnson reached unprecedented lows earlier this year; the war in Ukraine has given him some reprieve, but not to the extent Johnson and his supporters might have hoped. Polls tell us the majority of the public, who always thought Johnson a buffoon, remain of the view formed in January, that he is a hypocrite and a liar.
The May elections are just around the corner and they are not expected to go well for the Tories. The country faces crises on multiple fronts: the cost of living, NHS waiting times, Covid resurgence and a war in Europe - and partygate is going nowhere. The police investigations are ongoing, the Sue Gray report not yet published, and the drip, drip, drip of leaks will continue while transparency is denied. No one is under any illusion about what happened, nor so stupid as to believe that Johnson himself was unaware of the parties in his own home.
If his own MPs wish to be tainted by their leader then let them; if they are too pathetic to remove him from office then we must do the job for them. Now is not the time to have a Prime Minister no one can trust.
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