There is always a ‘line to take’ – that is the top message ministers and proxies are told to propagate on any given subject when doing the media.
Health minister Edward Argar did a pretty good job of it this morning, managing not to sound completely ridiculous while also avoiding the unforgivable sin of committing news.
But the line in question – that the Government must wait for senior civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation into a series of parties before it can possibly comment – will not hold for much longer and is unlikely to survive PMQs.
It’s also a silly thing to say. As Chris Cook points out on Twitter, what exactly would *happen* if Downing Street commented before Sue Gray has issued her report? Is contempt of Sue a real concern?
The latest alleged party – which took place in May 2020, at a time when police were using drones to shame people taking country walks and many thousands were forced to pay their final respects to loved ones over Zoom – is damaging for Boris Johnson.
Eyewitnesses say the Prime Minister and his wife, Carrie, were in attendance. There is also criticism of the civil service, with Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s Principle Private Secretary, having sent an email to roughly 100 people inviting them to the party and to bring their own booze.
It is more grist to the mill for Labour, but you may have noticed that the party’s own line to take no longer includes the phrase ‘one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us’.
As reported in The Sunday Times, this comes after Deborah Mattinson, Keir Starmer’s highly-respected Director of Strategy, told shadow ministers that the public views Labour as part of the ‘them’, not the ‘us’.
If the economy were booming, the Tories might be getting away with it. But with a cost of living squeeze well and truly underway, there is little residual goodwill for parties, political or otherwise.
In the comment pages, our Courts Correspondent Tristan Kirk has a great piece arguing that if another lockdown is needed, it’s hard to see how Boris Johnson has the moral authority to impose it.
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