Downing Street Christmas party: Boris Johnson is the Conservative version of Jeremy Corbyn and good Tories need to stand up to him – Ayesha Hazarika
It’s hard to know where to begin. When I pitched this column (which feels about seven years ago) it was about lies around a Christmas party which definitely didn’t happen, but which was nevertheless now going to be investigated by a man who may have attended this party which definitely did not happen.
Within hours, it was revealed that as well as becoming a father for the seventh time, the Prime Minister appears to have lied to his own ethics adviser in an investigation over who funded the renovation of his Downing Street flat.
It was also announced the Tory party had been fined more than £17,000 for failing to declare the donation which paid for the flat (which just about covers that infamous wallpaper which will soon have to be replaced because a couple of toddlers will have scribbled on it).
What connects these and pretty much every scandal engulfing No 10 right now is dishonesty. We have reached a stage where the most important political office in the land seems to lie on a routine basis because of who is in charge. What a dangerous place to be in.
Watching Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions thrash about and blame Labour and even the SNP for the complete lack of trust in public health messaging because of alleged rule-breaking which took place under his watch and his continuing, embarrassing cover-up was like being gaslit on an industrial scale. He even tried to deflect by burbling on about the Borders bill which was quite extraordinary. Even he can’t blame immigrants for this one.
Whatever you thought of Thatcher, Blair, Brown, Cameron or May, there was a dignity and gravitas to Downing Street. That prized Rolls Royce operation has now been reduced to a vulgar, embarrassing, tawdry and rather grotesque soap opera resembling the excesses of Donald Trump’s White House – juvenile bad behaviour and a revolving door of advisers who are courted, elevated, then booted out when the time comes. And it’s the country which suffers.
The Health Secretary didn’t dare show his face on radio or TV to talk about the pandemic at this critical moment because of the Downing Street party fiasco. Everyone is raging about it: the public, the opposition and Tory MPs of all ages and backgrounds.
I have many Tory friends and colleagues who are mortified by what is happening to their party because the cult of one man. I know exactly how they feel because that’s what happened to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.
It was an awful time, but good people within the party, from MPs to grassroots activists, took a stand – often at great personal cost – by speaking out. Many decent One Nation Conservatives from Dominic Grieve to Anna Soubry were kicked out the party because of Brexit, but also because they could see what lay ahead.
This is not about Brexit or ideology – politics should be a contest of ideas. It’s about decency, honour, integrity, and trust at the highest levels of British politics. That is something we should all care about, especially every MP in the governing party. For all those Tory MPs who rightly encouraged and praised Labour MPs who spoke out against the Corbyn regime, it’s time to have a long hard look in the mirror.
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