However, the allegations relayed by Conservative MP William Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, suggest that Boris Johnson’s acolytes, in seeking to defend him from the Partygate scandal, have done so with such vigour that it may constitute a criminal offence.
“The reports of which I'm aware would seem to constitute blackmail,” Wragg told the committee, saying colleagues should speak to the Commons’ Speaker and the police.
The first response to Wragg’s remarks by a government minister came from Stephen Barclay who was at the committee meeting. He said he would pass on Wragg’s concerns to the government, but a short time later, Johnson himself and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries made clear they would ignore them.
Dorries simply attacked Wragg, claiming he was engaging in “attention-seeking behaviour” and that the claims were “nonsense”. Johnson’s first reaction was not quite as dismissive, but he said he had seen “no evidence” of blackmail.
Surely a genuine leader, on being presented with such claims, would want to make sure that his people were not engaging in anything of the sort? However, it was only when pressed whether he would look into the reports that he quickly said “of course”. Only a fool would take this seriously.
Fortunately, voters are not fools, with a new poll in Scotland showing 78 per cent already believed Johnson should resign over Partygate. If aides have been blackmailing MPs it will only add to that number.
At a time when the country is still dealing with Covid, facing a cost-of-living crisis, and alarm is growing about the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UK needs a government that is firing on all cylinders.
Right now, the growing size of the operation by Downing Street to “Save Big Dog” appears to be eclipsing not just those serious matters but common sense, decency and sound judgement.
In those circumstances, honourable Cabinet ministers need to have the courage to do what is right and denounce Johnson – or, at the very least, to make the cold, hard political calculation that Johnson’s days as a political winner are over.