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Boom. Boom. Two horrific blows, one after the other. Both on their own would be enough to knock out a man with even a nanogram of shame left in his body, though we shall doubtless see that Boris Johnson will carry on regardless.
Even for a liar of Boris Johnson’s prodigious industry, though certainly not talent, Tuesday was shaping up to be an extremely difficult day. Two epic lies had to be styled out.
The first had become increasingly difficult. There had been a full week of lies about the Downing Street Christmas Party, which was, apparently, “in line” with Covid regulations — but as this couldn’t possibly be even theoretically true, the party at which more than 50 people attended has now been upgraded to “never happened at all”.
The second is a much younger, fresher lie. This one is Boris Johnson maintaining it was “complete nonsense” that he had intervened to have Pen Farthing’s dogs and cats evacuated from Afghanistan, when actual Afghan humans, some of whom had fought with the British army, were abandoned, and one of whom, having been left behind to be murdered by the Taliban, drowned in the Channel two weeks ago.
Staff at Pen Farthing’s charity for rescue dogs have claimed, on the television, that Johnson personally intervened. A whistleblower at the Foreign Office said the same, in evidence given to parliament.
And then, in the early evening: Kiss Kiss. Bang Bang. First, an actual signed letter, from Boris Johnson’s own parliamentary private secretary, Trudy Harrison, emerges courtesy of LBC Radio. In this letter, Harrison writes personally to Pen Farthing, to let him know that he and his staff and his animals have all been cleared for evacuation.
If it’s “complete nonsense” that Johnson was involved, there is absolutely no credible explanation as to why his own parliamentary private secretary would be. Any such explanation would itself be complete nonsense.
And then, twenty minutes later: Wallop. You might recall that around £3m of public money was spent on a White House-style press briefing room that was never, in the end, used for press briefings. But it turns out they did have some rehearsals.
And ITV have got hold of some of the footage, specifically from 22nd December 2020, four days after the Christmas party that apparently never was. And there is Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s spokesperson at the time, being asked by the prime minister’s special advisor Ed Oldfield, who is pretending to be a journalist, about “reports of a Christmas party on Friday”.
Stratton’s response is one for the ages. Remember, this concerns a party that 50 people attended, that the actual prime minister is currently trying to pretend didn’t even happen. First she laughs. “I went home,” she says. Then she laughs some more. Then she laughs again and adds, “This is recorded!” Some people off-camera mutter about cheese and wine and whether cheese and wine is allowed. Someone shouts, “No!” They all laugh some more. Stratton then says, “This fictional party was a business meeting.” Then she laughs some more and adds that “it definitely was not socially distanced.”
ITV have also spoken to someone who as at the party that the government continues to pretend didn’t happen, who told them the following: “We all know someone who died from Covid and after seeing this all in the papers I couldn’t not say anything. I’m so angry about it all, the way it is being denied.”
And the response from 10 Downing Street, to all this? “There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times.”
They can surely not be stupid enough to expect anyone to believe this. There is, of course, a phrase, about the tangled web that must be woven by those who get too deep into the world of lies. But it’s not sufficient.
This government regularly gets compared to outrageous, corrupt, extreme regimes from around the world and around history. Such comparisons are usually far-fetched. But one wonders if they are any more. I cannot readily think of many a historical comparison: of a government maintaining a lie, in the face of certain evidence, on a subject so emotive. Especially when there is scarcely anyone in the country who doesn’t know someone who has died a lonely death, unable to be comforted by friends and family, while all their government can do is lie and laugh about it.
And this leaves precious little time for the other outrage, the Harrison letter. This letter was read out to head civil servant Dr Philip Barton at the Foreign Office, the person nominally in charge, alongside Dominic Raab, of the Kabul evacuation, by the MP Chris Bryant. He nodded, stared at the floor several times over, and said, “I didn’t know about the letter.” It hardly bears repeating that this letter concerns the evacuation of dogs ahead of people who risked their lives for a country that wasn’t even their own. It’s so contemptible it’s almost surreal.
It is often said that governments have the stench of death about them when their time is up. This one has stunk the place out from day one. It’s an active health hazard now, quite literally. There is no precedent for how things are meant to carry on like this.