“When the Partygate saga first broke, with the footage of Allegra Stratton joking at the mock press conference, the Westminster rumour-mill went into overdrive. For weeks leading up Prime Minister’s Questions on the 8th of December there were growing mutterings of other parties and gatherings at the heart of our democracy while the country was in lockdown, with suggestions that the Prime Minister – the man who wrote the rules we all followed in the public interest – had been among those taking part in outrageous rule breaking.In our system it is rare for MPs to have chance to directly question the Prime Minister, with the weekly PMQs heavily subscribed, and I knew going into the Chamber on that day that I had one chance to get the Prime Minister on the record about the partying which had been rumoured to have taken place. The rules of Parliament are very strict, and Members must not lie from the despatch box.
While I waited for my turn to ask the Prime Minister, Twitter was alive with specific allegations about the 13th November, and I knew that was the hook I had to use. I asked the Prime Minister – clearly and specifically – if he could tell the House if there had been a party in No 10 on the 13th November.
“No, but I am sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed, and the rules were followed at all times”. That’s how the Prime Minister – from the despatch box, in front of a full House of Commons and watched by all the political journalist you can muster, knowing full well the rules of Parliament forbade him from lying – answered my clear question. I didn’t know then that the question would be replayed repeatedly some six months on, with the Prime Minister’s future being so tied to the answer he gave that day.
But with these new leaked photos showing the PM raising a glass, surrounded by empty bottles, that answer is now coming back to haunt him and the question is at the heart of Partygate. I even gave him another opportunity to come clean when Sue Gray’s initial report revealed not one but two parties that night. Instead, he doubled down. “I stick with what I said”.
He is a liar. He lied to Parliament and he lied to the British people. Every day that he stays in power he undermines the office he holds. He needs to go
While the country suffered in a second national lockdown, those who designed the rules routinely broke them. The heart of government became the centre of unprecedented Covid-rule breaking – flouting the laws 126 times according to the Metropolitan Police.
And the Prime Minister – the man who many looked to for national leadership in the darkest of times – was snapped surrounded by empty bottles, raising a toast during a leaving party.
Some will say that this doesn’t matter, that the events took place years ago and the country has moved on.
But it does matter. It matters because Boris Johnson was the man who made the rules. It matters because he told Parliament and the British people that the rules were followed. How could he possibly understand the impact those restrictions had on struggling families when he himself so utterly disregarded them?
And it matters because it goes to the very heart of Johnson’s character. A man who has made a career out of lying to save his own skin.
Johnson relies on people running out of energy to be angry anymore. But I am still angry. Because the country needs leadership and as long as he is at the helm we will not have it. Tory MPs need to show a bit of backbone, put the country first, and get him out.