I have been observing the goings on over in the UK where prime minister Boris Johnson is under fire for having parties during the lockdown, thus breaking the covid-19 restrictions that his government had put in place that severely restricted the number of people who could attend indoor gatherings. These revelations have generated fury and reinforced the strong sense that elites feel that rules are for other people, not for them. This has led to a senior civil servant named Susan Gray being given the task of evaluating the charges and her report was initially expected to come out this week. If it turns out to be damning, Johnson’s job could be on the line.
The latest revelation concerns a surprise party thrown for his 56th birthday.
Boris Johnson was facing renewed anger from MPs and bereaved families on Monday after the disclosure that his fiancee threw him a surprise lockdown birthday party, as sources said an official inquiry had uncovered “appalling evidence of mismanagement” at the heart of Downing Street.
In the latest alleged breach of rules, No 10 admitted that Carrie Johnson held a party for the prime minister and up to 30 staff on 19 June 2020 despite Covid rules banning indoor social gatherings. Outdoor gatherings were limited to groups of six.
ITV reported that the prime minister attended the party in the cabinet room at No 10 at 2pm on his 56th birthday, and that the interior designer Lulu Lytle – who was not a member of No 10 staff – was there.
It comes as whips have been warned that Johnson is facing the possibility of losing a vote of no confidence amid growing anger about the multiplying revelations.
One senior MP estimated up to a third of the ministerial payroll – ranging from ministers to principal private secretaries and Tory vice-chairs – could vote against the prime minister, leaving Johnson reliant on support from at least half of his backbench MPs.
On Monday night angry MPs said they were fuming at the latest “drip-drip” of lockdown breach stories. “And presumably there is more being stored up for release after the Gray report just in case that hadn’t dealt the killer blow,” one said.
As Johnson tries to defuse the damage of one party revelation, a new one is disclosed soon after, requiring yet more damage control. It seems to me that the steady ‘drip-drip’ of revelations of one party after another is a carefully orchestrated effort by a person or persons unknown that has been designed to create maximum damage. From what I know of the vicious nature of infighting and backstabbing in British parliamentary politics, this could be the work of a high-level rival to Johnson who seeks his job. Such a person would be privy to the goings on at Downing Street and also have access to media sources that could be leaked to confidentially. That would narrow the list of suspects down. Or it may simply be someone who hates Johnson and wants to bring him down while having no ambitions of their own. That would be a wide range of suspects, since he is eminently unlikable.
Today comes news that the police are investigating the parties based on evidence received from Gray’s investigation.
Scotland Yard has placed the heart of government under investigation after receiving evidence from Sue Gray’s inquiry on alleged parties at Downing Street and Whitehall in a move that will delay her report’s publication.
As a result, Boris Johnson will face a wait before Gray’s inquiry is released, with the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, performing a U-turn and signing off on a formal investigation.
Both the Cabinet Office and the Met have concluded that allegations uncovered by the inquiry are serious enough to warrant investigation beyond Gray’s remit. The move is a significant change of tack by the Met, which previously said its policy was not to undertake retrospective investigations of lockdown breaches.
On Tuesday, Dick told the London Assembly her force had launched a criminal investigation into eight events where lockdown rules were allegedly broken, as a result of information provided by the Cabinet Office.
What is astonishing to me is that Johnson even finds himself in this mess that is entirely of his own making. I know that elites tend to think that rules are not meant for them but surely he would have known that attending party after party during a time of restrictions for the nation would be bound to come out and cause problems? Possibly because, like so many members of the elite, he has escaped consequences for bad decisions and actions seemingly all his life, he believed that this one too would not harm him.