OPINION - Evening Standard Comment: Partygate is about probity, but the Government must get a grip on the cost of living

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 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Boris Johnson received the red carpet treatment as he landed in Ahmedabad ahead of a two-day visit to India. He is unlikely to enjoy such a reception on his return to London.

Yesterday, following a last-minute U-turn in the face of a Tory revolt, the House of Commons agreed, without even the need for a vote, to ask the privileges committee to investigate whether the Prime Minister knowingly misled the House with his partygate comments.

This probe, alongside the decision of the Met to postpone the announcement of any further fixed penalty notices until after the local elections and the Sue Gray report, suggests there is no end in sight for Johnson. The affair is consuming Government energy at the worst possible time. The latest economic data is confirming widely-held suspicions: the cost of living crisis facing individuals is biting, and the economy is suffering as a result.

Retail sales have gone into reverse with consumer confidence in freefall in March as consumers reined in spending in response to the soaring cost of food, fuel and housing. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show retail sales fell 1.4 per cent last month.

The Government has not been on the front foot on the cost of living crisis, with last month’s Spring Statement a real missed opportunity to support ordinary people in their time of need. Probity and integrity in public life are why partygate matters.

But unless the Prime Minister gets to grip with the economic hardship facing millions of people, the Commons privileges committee will be only one of his many problems.

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