Boris Johnson is guilty of misleading the House of Commons and, even more seriously, of putting “the lockdown laws on the statute book in the first place, framing them in such a way as to criminalise everyday interactions”. That’s the damning verdict of the Spectator, a publication the Prime Minister himself once edited, in its leading article today.
The Prime Minister remains guilty – most explicitly of misleading the House of Commons when he denied that any parties took place. He has shown a serious failure, too, in not learning from his mistakes. It is no use him or anyone else in Government complaining about the triviality of the charges. His Government put the lockdown laws on the statute book in the first place, framing them in such a way as to criminalise everyday interactions.
Now the Prime Minister’s allies plead for clemency. It is in human nature, they say, to gather to bid farewell to a departing friend or colleague, to offer friendship and succour. Quite so. Johnson’s allies further argue that, as he raised his glass in a toast, he did so in a work capacity – as evidenced by the presence of his red box. This Jesuitical defence would be more plausible if the Government’s laws had not seen ordinary people dragged to court and found guilty of far milder offences. Let us consider his defence for the leaving party: “I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service – which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership. Particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions had been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible.It is a damning – and accurate – charge against the Prime Minister that he is no man of principle
Does he realise, even now, that he made it illegal for anyone to do this during lockdown? Where, in his lockdown rules, was the exemption for the ‘essential duties of leadership?’ Where was the clause allowing those outside the ruling elite to have a regular ‘wine-time Friday?’ Does he realise that he personally used the powers of his office to send the police after anyone else who would have attended a gathering to salute a departing colleague? Or, for that matter, to console a friend, visit a dying relative or even attend a funeral in numbers greater than stipulated by the staff of No. 10.