Partygate fines mean Boris Johnson should resign as Prime Minister. It's simply the right thing to do – John McLellan

Boris Johnson's lockdown breaches are driving even life-long Conservatives away (Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)Boris Johnson's lockdown breaches are driving even life-long Conservatives away (Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's lockdown breaches are driving even life-long Conservatives away (Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Thanks to Fitbit and Pacer, an impromptu competition has broken out amongst our candidates in May’s council elections to see who has done the most steps in a day on the campaign trail, with Mark Brown in Drumbrae racking up an impressive 36,000 on Thursday.

No doubt the other parties are doing the same, but thanks to events in Westminster those standing for the Conservative Party are that bit more impressive because they are being made in the political equivalent of diving boots, like one of those marathon entrants who take weeks to complete the course in aid of a good cause.

And all the candidates believe their cause is good, so they are out there fronting up a national manifesto which offers council tax cuts, opposition to the workplace parking tax, a pothole action fund and a tutoring scheme to help school pupils catch up on learning lost in lockdown, to name but four.

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Of course, we should be talking up our policies and dismantling those of our opponents, and in Edinburgh that’s not hard with the SNP putting a vastly expensive and disruptive, not to say ruinous, extension of the tram system through the Old Town at the top of their priorities.

But everything is framed by Partygate and the fine meted out to the Prime Minister for breaking Covid laws at his birthday party in June 2020. If the Daily Telegraph is correct, another fixed penalty is winging its way to Number 10 for his contribution to a leaving party for former communications chief Lee Cain in November 2020 as the second wave of deaths mounted.

Other fines may follow, as insiders are reporting the birthday party was the least serious breach of laws he set himself.

Scottish leader Douglas Ross was out promoting the council election manifesto and was not asked on national TV about potholes and council tax, but his off-on support for the Prime Minister.

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Ruth Davidson was there too, but from the safety of a place in the Lords could stick to her off-off position. Now the party is mocked for claiming to be the only party which can be trusted on law and order when the main man has broken it.

Party members are shying away from calling out other parties’ misrepresentations because of the fear of a “Boris lied” response. Previously loyal Conservative supporters are now voting with their feet, or more accurately not voting Tory.

“With great regret, as a lifelong Conservative voter, I feel unable to vote for your successor whilst Boris Johnson is our Prime Minister,” wrote one to me this week. “Most of the rest of the party have compounded the insult to the public by backing him,” he added.

Like a Black Hole, Partygate is sucking every political molecule towards it and is letting the SNP away with a hopeless track record, and when voters could be “sending a message” to Nicola Sturgeon, the billets-doux are heading our way.

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While the Scottish Government receives a record amount of cash, hospital waiting lists are lengthening, local services are starved of resources, Police Scotland is under-funded, education standards plunge and drug deaths scar hundreds of families, yet Nicola Sturgeon asks how Douglas Ross can look himself in the mirror?

It’s a similar mirror into which she might have gazed every morning when she would have us believe that everyone involved with the SNP except her knew that Bute House at night under her predecessor was more like the Moulin Rouge than a seat of government.

How distant 2017 now seems. For all the problems during the General Election campaign and the so-called “Dementia Tax” U-turn, Theresa May was a benign figure in Scotland and Ruth Davidson was in her pomp as the standard bearer, even being talked up as a future UK leader, however implausible that was.

The result was the number of Conservative councillors elected shot up from 112 to 276, me amongst them, and six weeks later the number of MPs went from one to 13. Maybe the same number of Conservative councillors will be returned on May 6, just as the party held onto 31 seats in last year’s Scottish Parliament election, and maybe the view from Aberdeenshire is different to that in Edinburgh, but somehow I doubt it.

Political calculation is inherently cynical, based only on a cold assessment of what needs to be done to win and, with probably two years to go before the next General Election, the current analysis can only be that the cost-of-living crisis can be ridden out, taxes can be cut and Partygate will be ancient history, and that credit for keeping the Ukrainian army armed will not go unnoticed.

Most of those who have argued that now is not the appropriate moment for a contest, including Douglas Ross, have not done so because Boris Johnson is the right man at the right time, but because a contest will be a distraction at a time of crisis and in the very, very short term that may still be so.

But comparisons with Neville Chamberlain and Herbert Asquith’s aren’t helpful because it took them 13 and 28 months to leave office after war was declared, and in both cases there were no leadership contests but an immediate transfer of office. And Lloyd George had a lot more in common with the current incumbent than the man he replaced.

Even if Mr Johnson was to stand down now it would make little difference to the course of the war or the results in May, any more than controversial policies like the transportation of asylum-seekers to Rwanda. But sometimes the best advantage will be gained simply by doing the right thing and those fixed penalty notices say the right thing is for Mr Johnson to depart.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor in Edinburgh

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