JUST WILLIAM: A Failure of Leadership
“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time. “
Those 73 words from Sue Gray’s update yesterday left no-one in any doubt as to the conclusion reached by the senior civil servant on all of the gatherings both she and the Met have been investigating.
In a frenzied sitting of Parliament – where the Prime Minister used Jimmy Savile as a political attack on Keir Starmer, a previous Prime Minister asked if he ‘had not read the rules or did not understand what they meant’ and two other party leaders called for him to resign – it felt like once again, Parliamentary anger had reached a crescendo against Boris Johnson.
The evening – and this morning’s – media rounds haven’t been any better either. I could write an essay on them, but the evidence speaks for itself.
Nadine Dorries calling Sam Coates a liar, getting nasty about it
— kerry ✊💙🇺🇦 (@hewitson10) January 31, 2022
“I can’t substantiate that”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is challenged by @bbcnickrobinson over Boris Johnson’s unsubstantiated claim that Keir Starmer failed to take action against Jimmy Savile as Director of Public Prosecutionshttps://t.co/kRw5HwWEzK pic.twitter.com/MI67OED6uM
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) February 1, 2022
“68% of people don’t trust the PM or the Government to deliver” according to a new poll. Deputy PM Dominic Rabb MP admits it’s been a rough patch but says it won’t be the only thing people will remember this Government for.
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) February 1, 2022
So where does this leave us? Ahead of PMQ’s tomorrow – and another episode of The Polling Station covering the latest developments, which will land at some point in the next two days – here are three big takeaways (everyone loves a political take, right?)
This is the worst long-term outcome for Boris Johnson
The way this set of events has unfolded had arguably brought Johnson a short-term reprieve – a short update from Gray didn’t give the smoking gun that many MP’s would have been looking for ahead of sending letters into the 1922 committee.
And whilst there haven’t been a flood of letters, everything else has gone wrong for Johnson and his team.
The delay to Gray’s report has confirmed that – no matter what else happens – partygate is going to be a long running issue that will at some point rear its full head. The Prime Minister is under police investigation about events that took place at Downing Street. MP’s from all parties, and senior ones, are demanding the report be published in full – a call echoed by the Daily Mail – and there are 300 pictures which have been handed over to The Met.
To add to that, the nation will supposedly be told if Boris Johnson broke the law. The plan that Downing Street had to use Sue Gray’s report to draw a line underneath the allegations of further parties has been well and truly blown out of the water – and even then, large parts of the public won’t trust the findings.
This includes 49% of 2019 Conservative voters
Full breakdown & other results on the show tomorrow night
— Peston (@itvpeston) February 1, 2022
The electoral advantage that Johnson had is gone
This might seem an obvious takeaway, but it has long term consequences for the Conservative Party too as well as Boris Johnson. The next general election is still more than two years away – and who knows what it’ll be fought on primarily – but the Tories either have to find a new leader or go into electoral battle with a man who is just manifestly unpopular with the general public.
🚨NEW PARTYGATE SNAP POLL🚨
🎉65% do not accept PM's apology today
🎉69% want him to resign
🎉68% don't trust him and govt. to deliver
🎉80% want PM to publish full, unredacted report
🎉66% say he doesn't care about the hurt caused
1,128 UK adults, 31 Jan (post statement)
— Savanta ComRes (@SavantaComRes) January 31, 2022
Such anger may subside, but it is impossible to imagine the public forgetting these events – and the longer this goes on, the more damage done to the Conservative brand. And that can be a tricky fix….
A new leader won’t magically make everything OK for the Tories
A new leader – if/when elected – will surely making drawing a line under this story a top priority, but they’ll have their own issues to deal with.
A cost-of-living crisis is already underway, with the biggest hit set to come this summer, coinciding with a rise in National Insurance that both the PM and chancellor have committed too. That could well set the tone for the rest of the year at least –
As I write this, the government’s Levelling Up White Paper is set to be published tomorrow – and any progress made on that front will be absolutely pivotal for Conservative chances at the next election.
And in any case, it’s not as if all Tory MP’s can avoid a bad story dropping now and then…..
EXCL: Rishi Sunak sat in a packed Commons on Monday despite a close family member testing positive for Covid – and against official guidance.
Treasury insiders denied the PM had set a precedent by holing up in Downing Street when his daughter had Covid.https://t.co/uTWnL4V0fT
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) February 1, 2022
Moving on from this will be difficult
Again it may seem obvious here, but a long running investigation and a Prime Minister who’s determined to stay in post mean that the early spring is sure to see more leaks, condemnation, and round the clock negative press without many positive subjects for the Government (remember Operation Red Meat?) to focus on. Not great days for Number 10….
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