Partygate won't finish Boris Johnson but his own party might 5 months ago

Partygate won't finish Boris Johnson but his own party might

There might be some evidence of rats fleeing a sinking ship

Last month, when allegations of a Downing Street Christmas party hit the headlines, we all had a great time joking that the Prime Minister - who claimed to have no knowledge of any festivities - had not been invited to a gathering in his own home.

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This time around someone inside Number 10 has given us receipts - in the form of an email from the Prime Minister’s Principal General Secretary, Martin Reynolds. The explosive email invited 100 Downing Street officials to a “bring your own booze” event in the Number 10 garden while the rest of the country was in lockdown. You know - that lockdown when you couldn’t even go to your dad’s funeral.

The event was held on May 20,  about an hour after then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden ordered the nation not to meet more than other other person outdoors. And to add more farce to fire: five days later, the Prime Minister himself said police should intervene to stop people having outdoor parties.

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Schrodinger’s parties are currently being investigated by top civil servant Sue Gray and, wow, the government will not let us forget it. Standing in for the PM in parliament on Tuesday afternoon, paymaster general, Michael Ellis continuously said he couldn’t answer any questions on any parties before Sue Gray concluded her investigation. Yawn. 

The civil servant is currently looking into allegations surrounding Christmas quizzes, lockdown summer drinks and cheese and wine parties. All fine in normal times. Definitely not ok in a pandemic when people were being forced to die alone. We’re expecting the results of the investigation as early as next week. 

Sue Gray, said Johnson’s stand-in, is a "paragon of independence and integrity". Known as Whitehall’s sleazebuster, her CV includes presiding over the resignation of Theresa May’s deputy Damian Green after he lied about the presence of pornography on his computer and dealing with the Plebgate inquiry that led to the resignation of David Cameron’s Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell. All of this would be exciting if this government were inclined to take even an ounce of accountability for their actions.

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Listen, Labour were right not to call for Boris Johnson’s resignation the first - I don’t know - one thousand infringements, because he’s not going anywhere. And it’s unlikely that this latest scandal will force a man infamous for his infidelities into a crisis of conscience. But there might be some evidence of rats fleeing a sinking ship.

Boris’s chances of clinging to power would be higher if the disapproval was coming solely from opposition parties, but his own disciples seem to be turning on him. Leading us to the biggest mystery of all - who is the leaker(s) of No 10, and why are they revealing all of this, now?

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And let’s remember who helped hoist our prime minister into power. Boris worked hard, but the hard-right of the Tory party, formerly known as the European Research Group, worked harder. 

This Tory sub-group take some credit for the 2019 election result, and getting Boris elected on a “get Brexit done” ticket. Around 21 members toured the United Kingdom with a favourable set of broadcast interviews and op-eds promising potential Brexit Party voters that he was the only man who could get the job done. 

That group, spearheaded by Brexit-hardman Steve Baker has morphed into the Covid Recovery Group, and now they have the government in a chokehold. In December, they alongside nearly 100 fellow Conservative MPs, voted against plans for Covid vaccine certificates for some large venues in England – marking the largest rebellion of Boris Johnson’s premiership. The number of rebels far exceeded Johnson’s parliamentary majority of 79, and the 56 MPs needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

If anyone is going to depose the Prime Minister - it’s this lot. At the moment, they’re still backing Boris - but that could change if the government starts to look at tighter Covid measures. 

Polling might not be looking favourably on the PM, but unless his backbenchers plot a full scale rebellion, Boris Johnson, aka the Shopping Trolley - as his nemesis Dominic Cummings has christened him - is not crashing out of power any time soon.

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