Ambushed by Cake
Westminster today looks like a tableaux from Lewis Carroll or Cold War Steve: a grotesque hallucinogenic scene of mild debauchery and cold contempt. There are layers of revelry and sleaze with the icing on the proverbial cake being that they can waltz through the chaos with impunity.
It was touching that it was the Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns, who told Channel 4 News on Tuesday evening that:
“It was not a premeditated, organised party,” he said. “He was, in a sense, ambushed with a cake.”
It’s almost beyond belief that the Met are now investigating evidence of “the most serious and flagrant type of breach” in Downing Street. Politics has become surreal to an extent that it’s completely disorienting. A whole population are mesmerised by a state of constant scandal to an extent that the overwhelming feeling is just, impotence. Standards have dissolved before our eyes. The police are only acting now because they’ve been shamed into action. This is a PR exercise.
It’s an often repeated line that the Tories are ruthless in dealing with their leaders and regicide is just around the corner. Not here, not now. The brazen and buoyant performance by Boris Johnson today at PMQs (he couldn’t care a less) as the inexorable scandal dragged on and on was only matched by the rank sycophancy of his colleagues. The reality is that while the Tory government is immersed in scandal and daily revelations neither he nor his colleagues really care at all. Appealing to the PM to “do the decent thing” is a waste of breath. The fetid sewer that is the Conservative party is going to do nothing about their leader despite a lot of spin and blethers.
As Marina Hyde puts it: “A vast tide of something is flowing out of Downing Street, but it doesn’t smell like history.”
The Tories defence is threefold: ‘Look Ukraine!’ – ‘He got Brexit done!’ (sic) – and ‘Vaccines! – Freedom Day!’
They attempt to make Labour and the opposition look trivial banging on about cakes, and it kind of works.
The Conservatives are frantically defending their leader and now come the big guns of the Tory Press with the Daily Mail suggesting this is all a bit ‘out of proportion.’
The Mail had become more critical of Johnson under the editorship of Geordie Greig, when it was highly critical of the Downing Street flat refurbishment scandal and the Owen Paterson debacle. But Greig was replaced by Ted Verity, who has turned the paper back into a Johnson fan sheet, much to the glee of Paul Dacre. See here.
But let’s not pretend that this tsunamic of sleaze is some kind of vindication of a mighty media. The BBC has revealed NONE of this and much of the ‘revelations’ have been drip-fed and dropped into the MSMs hands.
As Mic Wright observes:
“Partygate is not a news story but a news event, a product of tactical leaks drawn out for the maximum possible effect.”
“What brought the stories to the media which ‘brought’ them to the public was leaking by disgruntled figures in government and out of it. The newspapers and broadcasters didn’t dig up the details but rather had them dropped into their laps.”
But, as I’ve said before – it’s really not all about Boris. Angela Rayner has it right when she said: “It’s not just the prime minister playing the British people for fools. The rest of the Cabinet have spent weeks defending the indefensible when in reality, like the rest of us, they could see through the lies and deceit. It’s not good enough for them to now say, “not me pal.” They had the chance to stand up for decency in public life. Instead, they appeared on the television day after day, more concerned with trying to save their jobs than doing the right thing.”
To be clear the prospects of Tories “standing up for decency in public life” are precisely zero.
Amid all of this, and almost missed in the chaos, on Monday Lord Agnew, the Minister for Counter Fraud resigned over the government’s decision to write off £4.3bn in fraudulent Covid loans saying:
“Given that I am the minister for counter-fraud, it would be somewhat dishonest to stay on in that role if I am incapable of doing it properly. It is for this reason that I have sadly decided to tender my resignation as a minister across the Treasury and Cabinet Office with immediate effect.”
How humiliating is it to be tied to this?