Boris Johnson is not simply having a wonderful Christmastime. Scandal has dominated the run-up to his festivities, from a fine over the No 10 flat refurbishment donations to revelations about Christmas parties last year. The latest illegal Covid activities story is from The Guardian, which has released a photograph of a Downing Street cheese and wine social in May 2020. On Friday, the civil servant leading the investigation into the Christmas parties scandal was himself alleged to have joined a couple of gatherings and had to be replaced by another civil servant.
After initially denying that such events took place, ministers’ defence now appears to be that everyone working in government was having a tough time and needed a way of unwinding at the end of the work day. They apparently forgot to include this exemption in the legislation. Presumably workers on the frontline of the pandemic would have been covered by it.
Before Simon Case was taken off the Christmas parties probe, they appeared confident of the outcome: Oliver Dowden had predicted on BBC Radio 4 that it would “vindicate” Johnson. The situation has now changed and will drag on. ConservativeHome reckons the report of Sue Gray, his replacement, could topple the Prime Minister.
Another destabilising force: Lord Frost’s resignation over the weekend. This is a close ally of Johnson who shares the same hardline approach to Brexit – or at least did, until it seemed differences emerged over the handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Frost cited concerns over the “direction of travel” on the economy and over Covid measures in his resignation letter. Liz Truss, who is already Foreign Secretary and equalities minister, and widely seen as a future leadership contender, replaces Frost.
Finally, we come to the Covid situation. The Prime Minister’s ‘boosterism’ gave the impression to the public that the vaccines would mean no more lockdowns. Being jabbed three times in one year and then being told not to see any friends or family indoors would be a huge ask, especially after so many reports of rule-breaking within government.
On the Sunday shows, Sajid Javid would not rule out another lockdown, even during the Christmas period. But having promised to recall parliament for such a move, how would that even work, considering the more-than-100-strong Tory rebellion we saw last time? “Sajid Javid looks like a hostage – the good news is that the Labour Party is here to rescue him from that situation,” Wes Streeting declared on Sky News.
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