Today
Tue 25 January 2022

The Prime Minister’s behaviour is increasingly coming under public scrutiny and he is struggling to answer questions about his conduct, reports Adam Bienkov

There are two things that we learned from Boris Johnson’s extraordinary response on Wednesday to reports that he broke lockdown rules in order to hold large parties in Downing Street.

The first thing we learned is that the Daily Mirror’s original reporting is ether mostly, or entirely, true. At no point in Johnson’s responses to questions on the subject in Parliament did he deny that the parties actually took place.

If they hadn’t happened then he would have said so. The fact that Johnson, who has repeatedly misled the House of Commons in the past, could not bring himself to deny the basic facts of this story, tells you he has been found out.

The second thing we learned is that Johnson’s administration believes it can get away with it. Over the course of five minutes of questions from journalists on the subject, the Prime Minister’s spokespeople repeatedly stonewalled the press using the same stock response that “we don’t recognise these accounts and all Covid rules have been followed at all times.”

The transcript of the briefing, which is worth reading in full below, demonstrates an obvious contempt towards the basic idea that the Prime Minister should be held to scrutiny.

After posting the above transcript on Twitter Byline Times was inundated with enraged responses from people who had been isolated at home during lockdown and separated from sick and dying loved ones due to the rules imposed on them by the Government.

Had these people instead chosen to break lockdown rules, they would have risked the shame of criminal prosecution.

When Johnson allegedly broke the same rules, not only was there no such risk of prosecution, but he was protected by a large publicly-funded staff and a phalanx of police officers guarding the doors outside.

By refusing to answer questions on any of this, Johnson and his spokespeople have showed contempt, not just to those asking them the questions, but to the public themselves.

And yet the calculation from Johnson on this issue, as with previous scandals, is that ultimately the outrage will pass, the press will move on and he will be free to continue without any consequences for his actions.

It is too early to say whether this calculation is correct. In recent weeks Johnson’s own poll ratings have slumped following a series of scandals, with the Labour party taking a lead in the opinion polls for the first time in many months.

Keir Starmer’s party, although still divided internally, is also starting to get a hearing from parts of the press that have long dismissed them. Slowly but surely, events are starting to turn against the Prime Minister in a way that he has never before experienced.

After a long career of getting away with it, Johnson’s fortunes are finally starting to turn.

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