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Editorial: No time for a makeover as party season catches up with the PM

IT DOESN’T look too good for Boris Johnson.

Having outsourced the investigation of No10’s breaches of the social-distancing regulations to a civil servant, the Metropolitan Police has now decided that these might just fall within its sphere of competence.

We can expect that the investigation will be conducted with the speed and despatch for which Scotland Yard is famous when dealing with infractions of the law allegedly committed by our masters.

It is in a particularly advantageous position to conduct an investigation, given that the premises in which these breaches are alleged to have taken place are constantly under its surveillance.

It now appears that Johnson’s 2020 birthday — which fell in the first stages of the lockdown — was marked by a party, apparently organised by Carrie Johnson, in which 30 people attended, including Lulu Lytle, the fashionable interior designer responsible for the Johnson’s now infamous domestic makeover.

Infamous, incidentally, not for its elaborate designs which — in the opinion of only some constitute a gross violation of the canons of good taste — but for the opaque nature of their funding.

By any interpretation of the law, Boris’s birthday bash was an illegal gathering, and even if the Prime Minister’s attendance was limited to the 10 minutes it took to consume his portion of cake, he was no less in breach of the law than anyone else present.

The reason why these incidents are so toxic for the PM is because they speak to a sense of entitlement and a disregard for the conventions that the British people as a whole observed in what was a collective struggle to deal with an almost unprecedented threat to health and wellbeing.

For every one who lost a loved one, was unable to comfort a dying relative, forced to live in isolation, deprived of the delights that being a grandparent confers, or indeed forced to risk exposure to the virus in work and delivering vital services, these transgressions are not minor. For millions of people this has become personal.

For them, Johnson has got to go.

In a perhaps less passionate echo of the intensity with which millions wish Johnson’s departure, Sir Keir Starmer concludes that the premier has become a national distraction.

This is true enough, and Labour wants a more searching focus on the cost of living and more attention to the Ukraine situation.

With runaway price rises and, for many, falling wage rates, the cost of living would be a vote winner for Labour — if it would but formulate a convincing set of policies that would freeze prices, squeeze profiteering and raise wages.

On Ukraine, Labour has nothing distinctive to offer. Both the witless David Lammy and John Healey, of whom we might expect better, have returned from Ukraine with nothing to say beyond pious platitudes and a tin ear to the complexities of this region.

When even elements in Ukraine’s administration complain about Western outsiders ramping up tension, and the Financial Times speculates that war is unlikely, Labour might be better off distancing itself from the government’s provocative posturing.

Of course, the time in office ends for all politicians, and for prime ministers the fall is especially brutal, and entails the indignity of one’s possessions being hauled away in a removal van before the prying eyes of the nation’s media.

In Johnson’s case this means abandoning the expensively acquired wallpaper and furnishings that exposed him first to the entreaties of his wife and later the criticism of all who thought he should pay for his own furniture. For that, at least, he will be remembered.


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