The author is a Conservative politician and was Chief of Staff of Downing Street 2017–19
It has been a disappointing day for anyone who cares about standards in public life.
First came the news that the Metropolitan Police “PartyGate” investigation had identified 12 illegal incidents, in which a total of 126 fixed penalty notices were issued. Six of these events were attended by the prime minister himself, although for reasons that are not entirely clear, he was fined for only one.
Three Downing Street employees interviewed by the BBC revealed that the parties took place “every week” and that the prime minister knew everything about them. “He wasn’t saying ‘Can everyone break up and go home?’ “He was holding a glass to himself,” said one. were partying while the rest of the country was under lockdown.
Sue Grey’s report, when finally published, set out evidence of behavior that you might expect, not at the heart of the government, “the lack of respect and the many examples of poor behavior of security and sanitation workers”, and evidence That some of the Prime Minister’s most senior advisers knew what they were doing was wrong. His principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, emailed a colleague boasting “looks like we’ve got away” while having drinks in Downing Street Garden.
I spent two and a half years working at No 10. I care deeply for the institute and it is very disappointing that its reputation has been largely eroded due to the lack of seriousness of the present occupant. During those two years—working a daunting task under the most extraordinary pressure—I felt nothing but pity from those who opened the door every morning at some ungodly hour, cleaned their office, and brought food to me. There was no time for Go down to the cafeteria. I cannot believe that some people brought in by the Prime Minister misbehaved with these decent, hardworking people.
People ask me if this would have happened under Theresa May. Not at all Nor under David Cameron, Gordon Brown or any other modern prime minister. But this prime minister does not believe that the rules apply to him. They have created a culture where others were allowed to behave as if the rules did not apply to them either.
We’ve heard a lot of apologies, but the prime minister isn’t really sorry – it’s clear he still doesn’t think he’s done much wrong. Hours after the latest apology, he was telling us that he thought it was right to say goodbye to him when he dropped the drink. While he was raising the glass, people were prevented from going to the bed of relatives who died.
Disappointingly it looks like he is going to walk away from it, as predicted by his senior staff. Few Conservative MPs have the guts to speak. Most people think that being fined by the police for breaking the harsh law you’ve introduced isn’t serious enough to resign – even if about 60 percent of the population Think Johnson should go. Business leaders should be watched with distrust. If they had been caught overseeing this behavior, they would have been out overnight.
And don’t let anyone tell you that it’s time to move on, that it’s all trivial. It’s not about a few drinks after work or a birthday cake. It is about whether our law makers should follow them or not. It is about whether telling the truth to Parliament matters. It is about culture and the prestige of Britain at the center of government. Call me old fashioned but these things matter.
Maybe if the Committee of Privileges confirms that the Prime Minister has misled the Commons, his MPs will run out of patience. Maybe we’ll have to wait for the general election. But whenever he is evicted from No. 10, whoever takes over has a huge task of restoring the standards from the nadir into which he has dragged him.
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