Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2807

Partygate trouble rumbles on for Johnson

The revelations of parties in Downing Street has caused tension within Tory ranks that could lead to Johnson’s end says, Sarah Bates 
Issue 2807
Boris Johnson partygate Tories

Boris Johnson grovelled about partygate scandal (pic: Number 10)

The party may be over, but partygate is far from finished for Boris Johnson. Civil servant Sue Gray released her full report on Downing Street parties during lockdown last Wednesday.

The Times newspaper claimed Johnson had met Gray to pressure her not to publish the report. A Whitehall source told the Sunday Times newspaper that three civil servants were applying pressure to Gray in an attempt to anonymise partygoers. But in any case it did not provide the genuinely devastating criticism that Johnson deserved.

Gray has admitted she didn’t investigate the so-called “Abba party” on 13 November 2020 because the Met Police was looking into it. Yet the booze up, apparently hosted in Johnson’s own flat, was potentially the most politically ­damaging event. For months Number 10 press officers denied any parties took place. Gray has confirmed there were parties in the press office.

Johnson’s only response was to make another fake apology to the Commons. In his snivelling apology to the Commons last week, Johnson claimed he took “full responsibility” yet has tried to wriggle out of any accountability. Disgracefully, he said he attended the parties because it was “one of the essential duties of leadership” to thank workers for their hard work.

Afterwards he told a press conference that some events identified in Gray’s report were held for the purpose of “saying goodbye to valued colleagues”. This was at a time when people couldn’t visit dying relatives or attend their funerals. Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former senior adviser who ­himself broke lockdown rules, said of his former boss, “He doesn’t think he did anything wrong. As he said repeatedly in 2020 ‘Everyone better remember I’m the fucking Fuhrer around here’.”

It’s not just Cummings who has got a knife out for Johnson. Desperate to save their own skin, an increasing numbers of Tory MPs are distancing themselves from the partygate fallout. Paul Holmes MP resigned as aide to the home secretary Priti Patel. He said that there was a “toxic culture that seemed to have permeated No 10”.

And Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton said calls to move on from partygate “is to treat with contempt and disregard” the sacrifices that people had made. She said Johnson had misled parliament and said “those around him clearly did not advise a policy of being honest and transparent with the British people.”

At least 24 MPs have called for his resignation and sent letters of no confidence to the 1922 committee. A total of 54 letters is needed to trigger a no confidence vote. An instant opinion poll by YouGov showed 59 percent of people thought Johnson should resign, 30 percent that he should stay. Despite his best efforts, Johnson is unable to completely rid himself of the stench of partygate. It may yet be enough to get him booted out for good. 

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