Conservatives' 'nasty party' reputation looks secure as rich get richer, poor get poorer and Partygate affair rumbles on – Laura Waddell

In the wake of his embarrassing performance at the ongoing Partygate inquiry, many Conservatives are at pains to distance themselves from Boris Johnson, determinedly trying to project a party future that looks smarter than the shambolic silhouette cast by their erstwhile leader.

But I doubt he’ll be that easy to wriggle away from. So happy have the Conservatives been to milk Boris’s idiosyncratic celebrity that he has been one of the most recognisable politicians among the general public for several decades. Long before he became Prime Minister, their efforts to shed the “nasty party” tag saw them make the most use they could of him as a figure of jollity and levity, turning him into a tousle-haired mascot for the tabloids and his face into badges. Good luck trying to undo that association.

Mascots, while we’re on the subject, as well as doing their bit to set the tone – you know, bigging up the crowd, hugging children and all that – ultimately reflect something of team character. The Conservatives judged Boris, his hair and his morals fit enough to receive a succession of high-profile roles on his journey to leader, and he had plenty of backers to get to that point.

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Is it any wonder they’ve also given the British public a succession of ‘got mine’ governments giving permanent tax breaks only to the very richest households and PPE contracts to peers? Under their purview, financial disparity in the UK continues to widen. The Office for National Statistics released this data on household income for the last financial year: for the poorest fifth of the population, median disposable income decreased by 3.8 per cent but for the richest fifth increased by 1.6 per cent.

In those Partygate inquiry moments where Johnson begins to lose patience or seems incredulous the inquiry is happening to him at all, he reveals a galling but unsurprising lack of humility. In my view, it is nakedly pathetic that a man who readily assumed the role of leader of the United Kingdom cannot find within himself the capacity to take ownership of his own decision-making.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report on lockdown breaches in Downing Street was critical of senior Tory leadership for a culture of events that “should not have been allowed to happen”. For as long as our modern political system has existed, UK leadership has been drawn from such a limited pool of the exclusively educated that its culture draws from the elite ethos of such places: little boys brought up to conceive of themselves as a class of rule makers, not rule followers, like the rest of the populace.

As for the state of leadership in Scotland, among long-term SNP supporters, there was a lack of excitement about any of the three candidates on their ballot papers. The evening before results were announced, I said on BBC Scotland’s panel discussion programme Seven Days that I believe the next truly galvanising leader for the SNP’s independence drive has yet to step forward – and I stand by that. I was content to see a win for Humza Yousaf’s campaign over closest rival Kate Forbes and her views on abortion, equal marriage, and conversion therapy, but as I said when Rishi Sunak took office, national leadership shouldn’t be transferrable by the members of one party without a general election – as exhausting as the prospect might be.

Boris Johnson's lack of humility during the Partygate affair has been obvious (Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)Boris Johnson's lack of humility during the Partygate affair has been obvious (Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's lack of humility during the Partygate affair has been obvious (Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)



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