Catriona Stewart: It is a scandal that I, Boris, had to face the privileges committee

·6-min read
Former prime minister Boris Johnson leaves his home in London, the day after his appearance before the Commons Privileges committee   Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Former prime minister Boris Johnson leaves his home in London, the day after his appearance before the Commons Privileges committee Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

BORIS Johnson is an honest man. For shame those who decry him.

On Wednesday as he prepared to go in front of the privileges committee he was sure the public would see from his testimony that he cared very deeply about restoring universal trust in his leadership. They should know just by looking at him how much he cares: he had, for God's sake, had a haircut.

He had a clean shirt, his tie was straight, it was more effort than he'd made for his most recent wedding. Appearance was everything, Boris didn't bother reading his notes. He felt he was best when he was winging it. Speaking from the heart, was how he liked to think of it. Open his mouth and his soul would fly out, pure and true, for all the world to experience.

Once he had explained himself to Harpie McHarperson, he was sure, they would all be on his side once again. Wasn't he the best prime minister they had?

For four glorious hours he felt like his old self in front of the cameras, where he belonged. His role is to entertain and divert, give them the old razzle dazzle and that's what he gave.

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The public, he understands, are angry because this episode goes against their sense of fairness. Again and again he hears people complain that they sacrificed the chance to comfort dying loved ones and say farewell to them at their death. He hears of people eschewing hugs and other wiffle waffle, children's birthdays, that sort of thing.

Yes, fairness is of the utmost importance, as the great Greek God Themis knows, so what about fairness to him? None of this was his fault.

Clearly he was hoodwinked. Boris understands the public's pain, didn't he nearly die. Didn't they remember this, how he nearly died? Dead, him, Boris. He knows the value of the NHS, it saved his life.

That picture of the Queen, alone at Phillip's funeral, was unfortunate. But didn't they understand the Queen was obliged to be seen to do the right thing at all times? Her purpose was to have a moral centre, uphold the rules. It was how she lasted so long. That's not a politician's lot. Not a prime minister's lot. A prime minister must boost morale.

And these Downing Street events - not parties, no, events - were a morale boost for staff working damned hard. Yes, clap clap for the old NHS workers but try being in government. That was life and death. That was truly holding the health of the nation in one's hands. Bloody tough stuff.

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He thinks of himself as a Clintonesque figure in front of a grand jury being unfairly maligned for an innocent misunderstanding. I did not make party with those colleagues, he thinks to himself with a chuckle. At least Bill had a cigar. Boris didn't even get to have a slice of birthday cake - the piggy civil servants scoffed it.

Damned civil servants. It was they who had dropped him in it with their duff advice. Anyway, it really did merely depend on what one means by party. And colleagues. And an office and a house.

Bill, he remembered, was questioned before the Starr grand jury. During his testimony of the Monica Lewinsky affair, Bill was asked about a line that "there is absolutely no sex of any kind" between himself and Monica Lewinsky. He had replied: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is".

Quite. What is the meaning of the word "party"? And what is the meaning of the word "knowingly"? Is anyone ever all knowing? A true leader can admit their flaws, a true leader is not afraid to admit gaps in their knowledge.

In saying he did not knowingly mislead parliament he was being a true leader, acknowledging his flaws. And look where it's taken him.

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Of course he didn't know these were parties. Did they think he could be so stupid as to let a photographer - an official photographer - take pictures of them rule breaking? Of course not. Some people have suggested this might be a double bluff but as if he'd be so tricksy as to come up with a double bluff. It was beyond him.

Anyway, how could they trust those pixelated pictures? It was an outrage that a photograph was deemed more trustworthy than he. An outrage.

No one had sung Happy Birthday to him, never mind the slice of cake. The damned Downing Street flat was so small, so cramped. The paltry footprint of that little apartment made a kitchen supper seem like Studio 54 at its hey day.

He had been badly let down from start to finish. Dominic had lied, Sue had stabbed him in the back. Rishi, I mean, Rishi had been there, he knew what was going on and they had made him prime minister. The hypocrisy.

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"If it was obvious to me that these events were against the guidance and the rules," Boris said, "It should also have been obvious to the current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak." Boom, as the kids say. Or at least, his latest wife says. He was pleased with that line.

"Agile as a cat", the Daily Mail called him. Rees-Mogg was on fine form too, finally some loyalty.

"He modelled himself on cucumber and was very cool," he heard Moggy tell the BBC. Moggy thinks he will win a by-election and he's surely right. No matter his flaws, Boris had had the backing of the Tory party and didn't that mean everything.

Another phrase surfaced in his mind: Britain Trump. He has been looking to America and what Donald is currently enduring.

But still, both men were where they like to be: in the spotlight. Donald has been veritably re-animated about the possibility of a perp walk past reporters had he been arrested by Manhattan police.

Across the pond the American public wait to see what's coming next with Donny. Deja vu for them: I did not have sex with that woman. Echoes of Bill and Monica but this time Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels. (Daniels: "The worst 90 seconds of my life.")

Clinton benefited from the fact that female voters and female journalists fancied the pants off him, he was protected by his charisma. The Clinton affair revealed little new: politicians lie, married men have affairs, it's easier to blame the young woman than hold the powerful man accountable. Boris thought this sounded familiar but wasn't sure why.

Clinton was the priapic president; Boris is the priapic prime minister.

While he was enjoying the spotlight of the privileges committee, Boris was becoming frustrated. He had bigger fish to fry.

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It was neat, actually. He was rebelling against his prime minister in the Commons lobby and throwing his prime minister under the bus in the privileges committee. He has his legacy to think of - will history reinvent him as the man who got Brexit done? Will he be reconstructed as the giant brought down by pygmies?

In this spirit he had a revolt to lead. He and his band of 21 fellow Tory MPs. A band of 22 brothers. He tried not to think of it as a percentage. Some might say such numbers indicated he was finished. He believes it to be a start.

He would show them: Boris Johnson is an honest man, for shame.