Voices: ‘You’ve got this’: inside the mind of the Downing Street suitcase carrier

·4-min read
‘This feels wrong. This must be wrong. I shouldn’t be doing this. Oh, shut up’   (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
‘This feels wrong. This must be wrong. I shouldn’t be doing this. Oh, shut up’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Oh, to have heard the internal monologue. As the miniature wheels of the suitcase clattered their way up Whitehall to the 24-hour Co-op, what thoughts whirred in the three-quarter-cut brain of its carrier?

This feels wrong. This must be wrong. I haven’t seen my parents for over a year. I shouldn’t be doing this. Oh, shut up. Stop being such a loser. Just get the three hundred quid’s worth of malbec and Doritos and roll back in there like an absolute legend. You’ve got this.

They didn’t get it in the end though, did they? They got the emergency booze, no problem, but not – you know – “it”. Which is why, at time of typing, barely an hour can pass without yet another party to apologise for. And it’s why, today, Downing Street has formally apologised to the Queen, for having held two Covid guidance-busting parties, concurrently, the night before her husband’s funeral, at which she diligently followed the rules they had made and grieved alone.

Having begun his premiership by lying to the Queen, Johnson has now also had to apologise to her as well, not 48 hours after his second apology to the House of Commons in as many months, the second one having been a direct consequence of the first one being entirely untrue – as was the second.

If we return to the first Commons apology, of last month, it was then that Johnson said he was entirely unaware of any lockdown-breaking parties having occurred in Downing Street. The second time he apologised, it was because it turned out he was at one of them, but it’s fine because he didn’t know it was a party.

Now it emerges that, on the night of 16 April 2021, when London was in tier 2 restrictions and indoor household mixing was banned, but Downing Street had become a twin-scene nightclub with booze literally being wheeled in, Johnson’s little baby Wilfred’s swing was broken.

Johnson has never exactly troubled the jury at the Father of the Year Awards, but if we allow ourselves to assume – perhaps wrongly – that he was at least aware that his son’s swing was broken, is it reasonable to imagine that he may have, at least for a second, wondered how it had come to be so?

Sorry. We’ve got ahead of ourselves again. These are not questions anyone has the right to be asking. We must, of course, wait for the investigation by Sue Gray. It’s very important to wait for the investigation by Sue Gray. Until she’s done her investigation, Johnson is sadly trapped in only being able to apologise to anyone who thinks he’s done anything wrong, because, despite being the prime minister, he can only know if he’s done anything wrong once a senior civil servant has decided for him.

Oh, and as I type this paragraph it turns out there’s been another party. 17 December 2020, this time, another leaving do, the day before the cheese and wine party that Allegra Stratton didn’t go to but did laugh about, and so is, at this point, the only person to have resigned over any of it.

Kate Josephs, the director general of the Covid Task Force, the very group of people, in other words, who came up with the rules for lockdowns and regional tiers and so on and so forth. She’s issued an apology and she too, is “waiting for the results of the investigation”.

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It is arguable that she should have known – having written the rules that made work leaving dos impossible for hundreds of thousands of people – that she maybe shouldn’t have had one herself, in the middle of lockdown. But again, the difference between right and wrong is apparently going to come out via the internal investigation, and so it would be wrong to prejudge its findings.

All this follows the standard pattern, of course. There’s never an appropriate time for a politician to comment on anything. First you must wait for the investigation, and once that happens, now is immediately the time to “move on.” It’s a path so well trodden that arguably Liz Truss can be forgiven for getting a few steps ahead of herself.

On Friday morning, she found herself telling the BBC that it is “time to move on” but that we must also understand that it’s right to wait for the outcome of the investigation. Why ever could she be in such a hurry?

Trouble is, people aren’t really swallowing it. They’re just laughing. And when it’s time to move on, don’t be surprised if they decide to stay right where they are. If Johnson wants to move on, he might find he has to go, quite literally, all by himself.

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