At long last the Gray report into the parties held at Downing Street has been published, or at least parts of it. There are three blank pages in the 12 page pdf which was released on Monday afternoon, and the report itself is really only five and a half pages long, the rest of the document is made up of factual and non-contentious annexes. Sue Gray also notes that her report does not provide a “meaningful” account of the goings on at Downing Street because of the omissions requested by the Met Police.
Nevertheless what has been published is a damning indictment of the culture of entitlement which pervades Johnson’s Downing Street, and if we were dealing with a functioning democracy and politicians who accepted responsibility for their failings, this report would immediately be followed by resignations. But of course we are really dealing with the shameless liar that is Boris Johnson and an equally corrupt and mendacious Conservative party.
The report does not criticise Johnson personally, but finds failures of leadership in No 10 and the Cabinet Office. Gray writes : “There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times.” And that is Johnson’s get out clause right there. He will blame the civil servants in the Cabinet Office and sack a few of them so that Conservative MPs can pretend to themselves that action has been taken and the problem has been dealt with. We saw some toady Tory MPs congratulating Johnson for promising to make changes to the work culture that he himself created. Others insisted that Parliament had spent too much time debating this and demanded that the government get back to “more important” issues, as though the fact that the Prime Minister of the UK is a corrupt liar was not important.
One of the events mentioned in the report was a party held in the Downing Street flat on 13 November 2020 to celebrate Dominic Cummings leaving. On a personal level, that one hits hard. On 13 November 2020 I was in hospital, still unable to walk after the stroke I had had a few weeks previously, and had been unable to have any visitors at all, yet while I was lying alone and frightened in a hospital bed, deprived of an embrace or a supportive hug from my nearest and dearest, and with my sole contact with my husband reduced to waving to him from a first floor window as he crossed the car park below, Johnson and his cronies were having a piss up in Downing Street.
As he spoke to the Commons about the report, Johnson said that he understands the anger people feel. No. He doesn’t. If he had even the vaguest inkling of the anger people feel he’d resign immediately. Instead he sat on his bench in the Commons with a smug grin on his face, believing that he’d got away with it.
Theresa May, who herself was no slouch when it came to mendacity during her time as Prime Minister told Johnson: “Either he had not read the rules, or understood the rules, or thought they didn’t apply to him… which was it?”
Ian Blackford accused Johnson of lying and misleading the house, we all know that Johnson did lie and mislead the House, yet it was Ian Blackford who was reprimanded by the Speaker and forced to leave the Chamber. That right there tells you all you need to know about what is wrong with Westminster. In Westminster it’s a greater sin to call a liar out for lying than it is for the liar to tell lies. Westminster is a ridiculous excuse for a parliament which is incapable of holding power to account. In the farce that is Westminster, Ian Blackford is told to leave for telling the truth, while Johnson gets to stay for lying. The fact that MPs can’t call a lie a lie in Parliament makes a mockery of the whole principle of accountability.
Johnson is now insisting that we must all wait for the police to complete their investigation and then he will decide what should be published. He repeatedly refused to answer a simple question about whether he was present at the party on 13 November, merely repeating that the police need to complete their investigation. You don’t need a police investigation to tell you whether or not you were at a party, unless you were so rat-arsed you can’t remember what happened that day, and that by itself is enough to tell you that you were at a party. We can infer from Johnson’s refusal to answer that he was indeed present and that there was indeed a party, which would prove that he had in fact lied to Parliament when he denied that any party took place.
The Tories are desperate to move on from this and judging by today’s performance it is clear both that Johnson will not go quietly and that it’s unlikely that back bench Tories will find enough of a collective spine to unseat him. On Sunday, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Creeping Jesuses said that Johnson has already apologised for any breach of the rules and that we all need to find some “Christian forgiveness” as though we are the ones at fault for wanting Johnson to be held to account and not Johnson for lying, cheating, and repeatedly breaking the rules. I’m no Christian but I always thought that Christian forgiveness depends upon genuine contrition, remorse, a willingness to make amends and a determination to change and not repeat the same offence. We have seen no evidence of any of that from Boris Johnson.
What will happen next is that we will have to wait weeks or months for the Met to conclude its investigation, the police will conclude that some civil servants breached the rules and should receive spot fines, and Johnson will announce that the police investigation has cleared him so there is no need to publish the Gray report in full. Meanwhile the spineless Conservatives will not remove him from office. The greased pig that is Johnson will get away to smile smugly another day on the front bench in the Commons and another bit of what is left of public trust in the institutions of the British state will wither and die.
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