Downing Street parties: Boris Johnson's refusal to resign will see Tory party pay a heavy price – Scotsman comment
In urging people to wait for Sue Gray’s report into lockdown breaches at Downing Street, Boris Johnson has set it up as a moment of judgement.
However, Gray is a civil servant and, while a well-respected one, the Prime Minister is still her boss and she is constrained by her role as an impartial official. She can lay out the facts, but little more.
And she would hardly be human if the fate of another official who assessed a Cabinet minister’s conduct was not at the back of her mind. Asked to consider whether Home Secretary Priti Patel had broken the ministerial code by bullying civil servants, Alex Allan concluded she had, which would normally require her resignation. But Johnson rejected his findings and, in an Orwellian twist, it was Allan who resigned.
Bizarrely, the Metropolitan Police have said they will not investigate allegations of lockdown breaches unless Gray’s report “identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence”, which sounds like their job, not hers.
However, in a democracy, the electorate holds politicians to a higher standard than the law or ministerial code: not breaking the rules is not enough, leaders need to act honourably and lead by example – like Queen Elizabeth when she sat alone at her husband’s funeral, just hours after the latest Downing Street party.
There is now an air of the final days of Donald Trump about the Johnson camp, with a refusal to accept there will be any kind of reckoning.
But if Johnson and co are not seen to pay a price for their actions, they may find voters’ memories are long enough to ensure the Conservative party as a whole pays a heavy one at the 2024 general election.
Voters like the crematorium official who broke down as he told LBC radio how he now wished he had not stopped people coming in for services once the lockdown limit was reached. “Some people would push past you… some people would stand there crying, and say ‘I understand.’”
For some, Johnson is a Brexit hero, but increasingly the public are seeing the character we were warned about by the likes of ex-Daily Telegraph editor Max Hastings who, in 2019, wrote presciently that Johnson was a liar, “a tasteless joke” and absolutely unfit to be Prime Minister.
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