Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Another day, another allegation of a Downing Street Party at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, disregarding lock-in restrictions on the government’s own production. Accusations of rule violation in the heart of Westminster are now everyday, but they are no longer acceptable. Until now, Boris Johnson has somehow managed to evade the clouds of friendship and dishonesty that are emerging across his leadership and retain his party’s support as a vote-winner. The most recent scandal is different because it directly involves the prime minister. This is different because it is a scandal whose inequality voters understand and feel a lot. This is different, because hiding behind the fig leaf of a public service inquiry can jeopardize the integrity of the Conservative party, not just that of the prime minister.

20 May 2020 marked the deaths of 328 people in the United Kingdom from Covid-19. Lock-up rules at the time in England limited socialization to one other person, more than two meters apart in an outdoor public space – such as the Secretary of Culture, Oliver Dowden, reminded the nation that night. While he was speaking, boxing tables were set up for a “bring your own booze” party for about 100 Downing Street staff, invited by Johnson’s head of private office, Martin Reynolds, to “make the most of this sweet weather. “. to an email leaked to ITV News. Drinks were held in the garden of Downing Street, both the home and office of the prime minister, who had only recovered a month earlier from a coronavirus attack that required intensive care.

Defensively, Johnson declined to confirm that he allowed the party, or attended it, despite eyewitness reports he did. On the other hand, his absence – and that of most of his leading bank – was noticeable during an urgent question on the matter posed by the opposition in parliament on Tuesday. Instead, it was left to Michael Ellis, paymaster general, to confront the understandable anger – and in one case, tears – of MPs who told how in May 2020 they could not comfort dying family members, attend funerals or shake hands of a woman could not hold. labor because they chose to abide by government rules. Ellis stayed on the line that the case is being investigated by Sue Gray, a senior government official who has already investigated whether other parties on government premises have broken lock-in rules.

The matter deserves independent investigation, especially as more than 2,000 ordinary citizens in London alone have been prosecuted for violating lock-in rules, including for throwing parties. But without detracting from the seriousness of Gray’s potential findings, it does not require an investigation to determine whether Johnson attended the May 20 party, as he and his ministers should be well aware. Playing for time by refusing to “bias” Gray’s investigation before her report is published – which could be interrupted should the police decide to take up the case – is extremely cynical. Johnson can, and should, at the earliest opportunity give a full report of where he is on May 20th.

Johnson’s relationship with the truth has was tense at times during his career as a journalist then politician. Bluster is his instinctive hedge. But there is a danger that photographic evidence may appear – as in other damaged recent leaks – to support allegations that he was at the party. If he did attend, he should not waste any time apologizing in the deepest terms he could draft. Without such openness, his ministers are placed in a position where they have to defend the indefensible: one rule for them and another for everyone else, which undermines the foundation of our democracy.

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