If anything is going to eat into whatever support is left for Boris Johnson in this country, it’s a story that combines Downing Street lockdown parties and the Queen mourning alone. For it to be an exclusive in the Telegraph makes it more toxic still for No 10. The Prime Minister’s favourite newspaper has revealed that Downing Street staff were partying the night before Prince Philip’s funeral, when indoor mixing was banned. The image of the Queen sitting alone, masked, all in black, at the funeral – one of the most symbolic of the pandemic – has been recast in a new light that will undoubtedly direct more public anger towards the government. There has been no denial that these parties took place, nor that there was music, dancing and drinking, with a suitcase full of booze involved and a child’s swing belonging to Wilf Johnson broken.
The parties marked the departure of two colleagues. One is James Slack, the Prime Minister’s former director of communications and now deputy editor of The Sun, who has apologised this morning for the “anger and hurt” caused. (Oddly enough, his paper did not get this particular scoop.) Despite such admissions about the illegal parties, the Metropolitan Police are still deciding not to investigate the breaches on the basis that they happened too long ago. The police statement adds, however, that they will consider the matter further if Sue Gray’s inquiry identifies (further?) evidence of potentially criminal behaviour. This is not an independent inquiry, remember. Highlighting just how not independent it is, the outcome has already been leaked to The Times.
Johnson’s premiership is imploding, but what’s going on in the Labour Party? Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves are headlining the Fabian Society’s new year conference tomorrow, from which LabourList will be reporting as always. Labour national executive committee member Luke Akehurst has penned a piece for us looking at what’s coming up for the party in 2022, from internal contests to preparations for the next general election.
Election preparations are being made more difficult by a recent “cyber incident” (more on that later today) and money problems. We have exclusively revealed that multiple Labour parties across London have still not selected council candidates – despite facing local elections in less than four months’ time. A Labour spokesperson said: “We will have a full [slate] of candidates in London for the elections in May.” But party organisers and potential candidates are worried about how these delays could affect their chances, with many in the dark about when selections will even begin.
LabourList has also got details of the next Labour national executive committee (NEC) meeting, which will discuss both a motion urging the whip to be restored to Jeremy Corbyn and the long-awaited Forde Report. We do not yet know whether the report will be published ahead of the meeting, on the day of it or afterwards – but it is not supposed to be a confidential document, so we should all be getting sight of it (or at least the parts of it unaffected by the Information Commissioner’s Office investigation) soon.
While Labour can be cheered by the widening gap in the polls, the party faces serious internal challenges, which are hampering its ability to take advantage of the chaos surrounding Johnson’s government.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.