There are two parts of the Christmas Downing Street parties scandal that I find particularly striking. First, there is the entitlement in holding the parties while swathes of the population diligently followed the rules at the cost of loneliness and heartbreak. Second is their utter condescension now that the behaviour last year has been found out. We are actually supposed to believe that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, doesn’t know when parties take place in his own residence and place of work. And we are supposed to accept that he was assured by people there was no party but, in case this information happens to be wrong, he has triggered an investigation into the matter. And at the very same time, we are being asked to trust that those assurances are definitely correct when it comes to the other Downing Street parties alleged to have taken place before last Christmas.
The scorn with which everyone out of their circle is treated makes it feel as if those at the heart of government are actively trying to humiliate the public by testing the boundaries of what people will withstand. We all know the parties happened. Not only are there enough sources saying so, but there is now a video of No 10 staff rehearsing their lies about one of the law-breaking events. Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson who never actually presented the televised press briefings for which she was hired (and you can see why), tearfully resigned yesterday. She had to go because her laughter in the leaked video sums up the government’s attitude towards us all so accurately. Of course, her departure is far from sufficient.
The Metropolitan Police has said it will not investigate the Covid rule breaches due to “an absence of evidence”. The idea that the police cannot find out who is in Downing Street and when stretches credulity. Their other reason is that they have a policy of not retrospectively investigating alleged breaches of coronavirus laws. We all laughed when Dominic Raab said the police don’t investigate things that have taken place a year ago, but it looks like he was spot on. Then again, a policing source has told The Guardian that this ban on retrospective probes does not exist. Sticking up for that old principle, the rule of law, Labour has described the ‘lack of evidence’ justification as “simply implausible”. Keir Starmer asked Johnson at PMQs to hand over everything he knew about the parties to the police. “We expect him to follow through,” a spokesperson said.
The small matter of Covid restrictions being reintroduced must also be mentioned. ‘Plan B’ is here: the return of working from home guidance, the extension of compulsory mask-wearing and the NHS Covid pass becoming mandatory for some settings. See the details unveiled by Johnson at the press conference here, and the reactions of education unions here. In other news from yesterday, Priti Patel’s nationality and borders bill, which creates a “second tier category of citizenship” and breaks with international refugee law, was approved by MPs. No Labour MP voted in favour, but that didn’t stop it being passed by the Commons. Elliot’s write-up, specifying the detail of this horrifying piece of legislation, is worth a read.
Breaking news! Just as I’m about to send this email, it has been confirmed that the Downing Street flat refurbishment broke electoral law. It really is so difficult to keep up with all the illegal activities…Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.