For the rapidly unravelling winter caretaker of Downing Street, it has been another paranoia-inducing few days. What with leaked pictures y leaked videos y leaked accounts of various gatherings, we have to ask: is there any party this lot weren’t a? I’m just peering at a 1921 photo of the Overlook Hotel’s July 4th Ball and … why yes. Will you look at that. There’s Boris Johnson, right in the middle, with half a wheel of brie jammed in his mouth. And there’s Dominic Cummings behind a palm, tucking away another vat of wine while considering himself better than all this.
As with the final image of The Shining, the picture of the “business meeting” in the Downing Street garden during lockdown last year does rather make you question everything that has gone before. Ordinary people’s own stories of that time, so many of them shared on social media, are frequently utterly heartbreaking. Set against the mother who buried her 14-year-old boy at a tiny graveside funeral, with no wake, there is something viscerally repulsive about cabinet ministers characterising this cheese-and-wine garden social as perfectly understandable given that Downing Street staff work in “gruelling conditions".
Yet again we see the truest conviction of the Johnson-era lieutenant: that nobody works harder than them. Talk about metropolitan elitism. But this isn’t even a moral lecture, really – their own sense of any debt to society is a matter for them. Bastante, it is an object lesson in professional efficacy. Why – WHY – were these people not even professionally self-interested enough to realise that as the setters of the rules in a deadly pandemic, it was mission-critical that they adhered at all times to both the letter and spirit of them? What a stunning failure of the imagination. Maybe they just thought they’d never get caught. De todas formas, as we await the known unknowns of the Omicron wave, it’s wild that No 10 staff have done as much to undermine trust in vital public health messages as mad conspiracists on YouTube. These Downing Street geniuses have yet again dealt a body-blow to longterm levels of trust in politicians and the political class in this country – and with the odd exception, they all still work there. Forgive me; they all still work “for us”. Have they finally now caught on that careless cheese and wine costs lives? I wouldn’t bank on it. They evidently didn’t learn the lesson even after discovering that careless automobile-based eye tests cost lives.
De todas formas, speaking of work meetings, weakling king Johnson is now reduced to holding two-hour-plus cabinets at which the decision is not to make a decision yet. Missing around the table yesterday was erstwhile Brexit minister David Frost, who seems to have tired of trying to renegotiate his own terrible deal with the EU. To appease Johnson’s flat-Earth backbenchers – hey, they’ve done their own research on the internet – the prime minister was reportedly considering installing Iain Duncan Smith in Frost’s place
Increíble. Would you like someone crackers with your cheese? This is like asking the stupidest end of the Marvel fandom which character they’d most like to see given more to do. Duncan Smith is basically Star-Lord. As for Johnson, reckoning IDS might be a good idea to sub on now has identical energy to former England manager Graham Taylor going: “We’ll put Wrighty on, shall we…? It’s made for Wrighty to come on and score.”
En el final, he went for Liz Truss. But all this points to some vintage Christmas telly. On the BBC, I’m looking forward to David Tennant’s Phileas Fogg; and on the rolling news channels, I’ll be watching the Brexit revolution continue to devour its children. Also looking forward to the Easter schedules, when leadership hopeful Truss resigns from the Foreign Office because Johnson’s Brexit isn’t hard enough for her. (Liz is a former remainer, por supuesto, but five-and-a-half years in to the easiest deal in human history, who’s counting?)
De todas formas. Back to the “work gathering”, which took place on Friday 15 Mayo 2020. It was Dominic Raab who farted out that “gruelling conditions” line in defence of the prime minister on Monday, though it should be stated he himself wasn’t there. (Raab checks his lock-ups on Friday nights, adjusting the freezer dials if necessary.) I do enjoy how stratified the photo is. At top table, we have our endlessly self-styled first-class minds, including Dominic Cummings (historia, Oxford) and the brilliant 4D strategist to whom he would go on to lose a power struggle, Carrie Johnson (history of art and theatre studies, Warwick). In this snap, Cummings is lolling about with a big glass of red, though exactly a week after it was taken, he’d have been able to spend his Friday evening reading the first news stories about his lockdown-breaking trip to County Durham, which – until all these revelations of Downing Street parties emerged – was the single biggest blow to the government’s own public health message during the entire pandemic. As you may be aware, Cummings has now been preposterously retconned as some kind of heroic Cassandra who was always rushing about trying to get lesser humans to listen to him.
Moving down the patio, we have our business-class seats, and on to the lawn for a premium economy table which includes people reported to be James Slack and Jess Seldon (government communications) and Dilyn the dog (leg-humping, furniture chewing, and running the PPE contracts VIP lane). Standing on the grass, in economy/the hold, are a group reportedly including Matt Hancock, who that very afternoon had been explaining to the nation that they were only allowed to meet up with one person not in their household, and only if they kept two metres apart outdoors.
So that’s where we are at time of writing. No – hang on – I forgot about placeman cabinet secretary Simon Case, who accepted the job of investigating a few other Downing Street parties, even while knowing that his own team had held an event last Christmas with drinks and snacks, which he had “walked through”. Only when this was found out did Case recuse himself. However small it may seem to some, this is in some ways the biggest story of all. The head of the entire civil service agreed to “investigate” something in which he knew he could be regarded as compromised. This isn’t so much something being rotten in the state of Denmark, as absolutely everything being rotten in the state of Denmark.
Por supuesto, the one thing of which we can be sure is that Johnson will be infinitely more concerned with finding out which person or persons are leaking all this stuff about how he and his people behave, rather than the behaviour itself. He’s got to be allowed his fun in peace, hasn’t he? Por supuesto que ella podría. All work and no play makes Boris a dull boy.