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Since it was revealed that the prime minister had turned Downing Street into a frat house during the pandemic, he and his loyal foot soldiers have jumped from one excuse to the next to deflect blame.
According to them, we must wait for Sue Gray’s report, the Metropolitan Police or an invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin to suddenly see the error of his ways before we can fully judge the situation.
This is no coincidence: every time Boris Johnson has kicked the can down the road, he has bought himself more time in office. Instead of coming clean, he has hatched a calculated plan in an attempt to quell the anger felt by the British public, allowing the electorate only to digest small tidbits of information in the hopes make it will make Partygate an easier pill to swallow.
But this has backfired. Rather than lessening the impact, the prime minister’s plan has only served to intensify it. Maybe not amongst the public, as they have rightfully maintained a steady level of anger throughout, but definitely among Conservative MPs.
For them, the prime minister’s behaviour has caused months of vitriol. It has forced them to parrot ridiculous lines that make not just the prime minister look too stupid to know his own rules or too brazen to follow them, but also them. You can see this pain on the face of Conservative MPs. You, dear reader, may not feel sorry for them. But I do.
The process has been going on for what seems like a lifetime. I even joked in parliament that I could have got pregnant and had a baby in the time it has taken Boris Johnson to apologise for one of the parties – and, let’s face it, giving birth would have been less painful than witnessing this farce.
This week, to add even more insult to injury, Mr Johnson tried to force Tory MPs to vote against a parliamentary inquiry into whether he lied and misled them. Clearly the money spent on his fancy education was wasted, as he seems incapable of learning a lesson.
I have to hand it to him: he hides in plain sight as the least caring, least loyal and most selfish man in Britain. By all accounts, what happened was that a handful of usually loyal MPs and ministers made pretty clear to the chief whip that this wouldn’t wash, and that it was too much to ask. This was reasonably brave on their part.
The prime minister then reverted to the only tactic he knows: kicking the can down the road. How? He once again tried to use the Sue Gray report to put off what was fast becoming inevitable. Poor Sue. She has fast become the prime ministers favourite plaything, a scapegoat to use whenever anyone mentions Partygate.
Of course, the Sue Gray report is finished, but we can’t read it because her findings have to wait until the police inquiry concludes (not sure why − facts are facts). And the Met enquiries are finished, but they have said they will wait until after the local elections.
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Round and round we go, while Boris kicks his can and complains that the noise around Partygate is a distraction. Which, ironically, is his way of distracting people from the fact he broke the law and lied about it.
All the while, the faces of Tory MPs and councillors grow more and more ashen. Boris Johnson could end all this pain today. He could tell the complete truth, take the consequences of his actions and stop the degradation of his party and our democracy. But he won’t. Boris Johnson is only interested in Boris Johnson. Other people’s pain simply does not reach him.
This week, the prime minister has sought cover from his ministers, his MPs, the people of Ukraine, refugees, and those suffering from the cost-of-living crisis. It is as shameful as it is unsurprising. I have no idea why his MPs continue to tolerate the way he treats them; I guess they are coerced and controlled. It’s a real shame because many of them are good people with lots to offer to the country. Instead of being allowed to do so, they’ve been forced to serve a man who doesn’t serve them or anyone else in return.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding