Opinion | 'Partygate' just keeps getting worse for Boris Johnson – The Washington Post

April 9, 2022
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Not for the first time, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been unmasked and his true identity revealed: BoJo the Clown.
An official report released Monday confirms that while Britons were locked down under severe covid-19 restrictions, largely confined to their homes and prohibited from holding social gatherings, Johnson and his staff at 10 Downing Street were having alcohol-fueled parties. As far as Johnson is concerned, evidently, rules are for suckers.
“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify,” said the report, compiled by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant. “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.”
Gray listed 16 events between May 2020 and April 2021. She issued the interim report on Monday, with most specifics and details omitted so as not to interfere with a separate criminal investigation into the gatherings that London’s Metropolitan Police is conducting.
The scandal, inevitably called “Partygate,” would be deeply embarrassing to Johnson — if he were less clownish and more capable of embarrassment. “Firstly, I want to say ‘sorry,’” he told Parliament shortly after the report was released. But he defiantly resisted calls, including some from within his own Conservative Party, that he resign.
To become prime minister, Johnson stabbed his Conservative predecessor, Theresa May, in the back over Brexit. On the floor of the House of Commons she got to return the favor, telling Johnson that either he “had not read the rules, did not understand what they meant and nor did others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to No. 10. Which was it?”
Brian Klaas: Why Boris Johnson’s ‘Partygate’ scandal has Brits in a rage
Johnson had denied for weeks that any pandemic rules were broken, at one point categorically assuring Parliament that no parties were held at Downing Street on a specific day — Nov. 13, 2020 — when Gray’s report says two such events were held. One convened in the upstairs apartment where Johnson lives.
Regarding a staff gathering that featured alcohol, Johnson has said he didn’t realize it was a party and thought instead that it was a work event. Gray’s report notes dryly: “The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time.” As for a surprise party to celebrate Johnson’s birthday in 2020, one of his allies last week offered the meme-worthy excuse that Johnson was “ambushed with a cake.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, demanded that Johnson step down. But of course he won’t. As Starmer noted, Johnson is “a man without shame.”
Indeed, that is a fair reading of his record. He began his public career as a journalist and was fired by the Times of London for fabricating a quote.
His agenda as a reporter was not to tell readers the truth but to make himself a star, and he did so by playing to the “little England” sympathies of those skeptical of E.U. membership. By the time one of his stories would fall apart under scrutiny — such as his ridiculous claim about a planned demolition of the E.U. headquarters — he was already on to the next tall tale.
As mayor of London, he donned the persona of a likable, boosterish buffoon — the purposefully tousled hair, the ever-ready grin. And when, in Parliament, he saw the opportunity to use the Brexit question as a catapult to power, he seized it. While the beleaguered May was trying her best to negotiate an orderly British departure from the E.U., Johnson made her life miserable and her position, ultimately, untenable.
He got what he wanted — he became prime minister — and he delivered on Brexit. The fact that Britons have seen none of the promised benefits has been obscured by his government’s erratic performance on quelling the pandemic. Which has now been overtaken by “Partygate.”
Johnson has always managed to stay one step ahead of the law. But now the actual law — in the form of the police — is after him about the rule-breaking parties. He can keep running from the facts, but there appears to be no place left for him to hide.
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