You say Partygate, I say Beergate – let’s call the whole thing off

artygate should be declared over, done with, expiated, 소비. All known “criminals” who consumed a can of beer or glass of prosecco at the wrong time or place should be amnestied. 예, it was outrageous. It was hypocritical and sickening to millions. Sinners sinned on all sides. But as the pandemic passes into history, let history be its judge. There are critical issues now on the political agenda. Will Westminster never grow up?

To outsiders it is incredible that the fate of both Britain’s prime minister and its opposition leader should seriously be hanging in the balance, at the pleasure of scandalously dilatory local police forces. The relevant offences were not trivial, but they do border on it. Everyone knows enough of what happened with Boris Johnson’s parties and Keir Starmer’s curries. The former were clearly a more blatant breaking of the rules than the latter. But for the parties to be subject to six months of police inquiry and a top secret Whitehall investigation is absurd. As for Durham’s police, what might merit half an hour of questions and a slap on the wrist has become a colonial outpost of the Mail on Sunday.

Johnson has paid the penalty for his Downing Street staff being out of control. He has been punished by the electorate for lying about it. Starmer should have been canny enough not to demand his resignation as his did. He was foolish and is also being punished. These days the partisan press converts public opinion into a howling mob that makes a court of law seem like a warm bath.

Britain’s political theatre has virtues. Its binary nature highlights accountability. Policies are scrutinised and mistakes shouted to the winds. Over the years it is possible that, as a result, British policies may have been sounder and less corrupt than those of other democracies with less rigorous parliaments.

That may be possible, but no longer self-evident. Parliamentary ritual is archaic and, time and again, ineffective in scrutinising the executive. The failings of Brexit implementation, the present chaos in Northern Ireland, Priti Patel’s Rwanda gimmick and the soaring cost of living all merit parliament’s undivided attention. Instead we are asked to fume over what time exactly was a Durham curry ordered, and whether the prime minister’s wife went downstairs to the party or the party went upstairs to her.

다시 말해, point-scoring has taken over from what should be the content of political debate. All sense of proportion has evaporated. If the Commons really are shortly to vacate the Palace of Westminster for renovation, a citizens’ uprising should never allow them back without a total reform of their work, purpose and procedures.

As for now, Johnson and Starmer should issue a joint statement admitting that under lockdown there were failings on all sides. It was a difficult time for everyone, bad examples were set and sincere apologies due for any offence caused. If anyone wants penalty charges dropped or returned, they can apply. As Lewis Carroll’s Dodo may have said, everybody has lost and all must have amnesties.

지금, 부디, let’s get on.

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