IIf you’ve ever wondered what Jim Jones’ corpse would have looked like if it had spent three weeks being bleached and swollen by a Guyanese river, it floated to the House of Commons shipping box yesterday in 3:30 p.m.
Let’s start with a real discussion. The Prime Minister is under police investigation for multiple breaches of his own Covid laws. At least four gatherings or parties Boris Johnson was directly involved in are being probed by the Met, including one at his private apartment. In total, police are investigating 12 potentially law-breaking Downing Street parties that took place after the British people were told – BY THEM – to live under the most draconian peacetime restrictions. The Global Britain that Johnson promised saw him yesterday cancel a call to the Russian president, who is apparently on the verge of an invasion, so that he could explain that he must wait for the police to decide whether he went to an illicit party in his own house. Tory MPs able to make peace with all of this are looking more and more like cult members accepting the latest lies and transparent failures of a cult leader.
Suitcases full of Kool-Aid appear to have been carried during Boris Johnson’s meeting with Tory MPs last night. Two weeks ago, Birmingham Northfield MP Gary Sambrook was widely reported as one of the ringleaders of a plot to take out Johnson; last night he sent a dispatch from the precinct in which he declared the prime minister to be ‘the Boris Johnson we love and who delivered’. Sorry, Gary, but wake up. It ends with a clumsy Swat team coming through the window and finding the whole place is wired.
As for what Johnson told his followers last night, he would have compared himself to Othello, who he said ‘always saw the best in people’. Exactly. To confirm: the country is not just run by a guy who can’t even understand the plot of Othello, but by a guy who can’t even understand the plot of Othello and is writing a book about Shakespeare . It’s called giving a fuck, Gary – look at this. That said, it’s good to see the Prime Minister apologize early for buying Desdemona from the cops for his Abba party.
And yet, for someone who normally puts the I am in iambic pentameter, Johnson will still only speak in the first person plural when it comes to “taking responsibility” for what his investigator Sue Gray has found. as “failures of leadership”. What to say. As he preferred yesterday in his statement to the Commons: ‘We have to look in the mirror, and we have to learn.’ Who are we ? Admit it, Gary – he’s the least convincing man in the mirror since Michael Jackson.
In fact, speaking of pedos, the Prime Minister chose to use one as a fig leaf. Such a move from Churchill. When the time for leadership came, Johnson chose to knowingly advance a farcical and indefensible conspiratorial lie that Keir Starmer did not prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was head of the Crown Prosecution Service.
All conservatives who consider themselves decent must ask themselves if this is really such a leap between this stuff and some of the other pedophile conspiracies that are increasingly part of the dangerous backlash of global populist politics. If they are not up to it, it will continue. On past form, the Met will spend months not getting to the bottom of it. If fines are issued, I’m sure Johnson will ask a Conservative donor to set up a blind trust to pay for his. He should start running a cash line during PMQs, like a real televangelist.
At least those who remember what the past two years really looked like — that is, everyone — can be happy that Gray’s update acknowledges something crucial. Yes, she said, working in Downing Street during the pandemic was difficult. “These challenges, however, also applied to key and frontline workers across the country who worked under equally, if not more, demanding conditions, often at risk to their own health… The difficulties in which citizens across the countries worked, lived and sadly even died strictly observing government regulations and guidelines are all too well known.
It is a vital counterbalance to the frankly mind-boggling number of outstanding anonymous briefings from Downing Street workers who speak of the ‘savior complex’ some staff have apparently felt. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, nobody ended up being more elitist than the guys who rose to power promising to crush the elites, but turned out to consider themselves miles above the rules that were even followed in extremis by stupid little people like the real head of state.
It has not always been so. By chance one of my children visited Bletchley Park last week, which as you know was the epicenter of the Allied crackdown operation in the second world war, without which the war would not have perhaps not been won, and where heroic efforts are judged to have shortened it from two to four years. At Bletchley, he tells me, they didn’t start serving beer until the end of a shift in 1944. To put that into perspective, at this point there was a fourth rotor on the Enigma machine, meaning the possible combinations had jumped to really head-fry levels, and staff had worked around the clock at the facility for five years of World War II under constant threat of bombardment. Flash forward to 2020. When they got mad at 6pm in the garden in May, the Downing Street office johnnies had staged a peacetime lockdown for TWO EFFECTIVE MONTHS. I mean, if you can’t do this without intravenous prosecco, then…get your strength back?! Run and work in domestic PR? This is the same self-awareness/self-esteem ratio as people who list their profession as “film producer”.
As things stand, not enough Tory MPs are ready to wake up and smell the cordite. But not every conservative who defends Johnson and sidesteps these insults to ordinary people should feel alone in the world. Their spiritual cousins are all those cowardly Republicans who now refuse to condemn Donald Trump despite the fact that they know he is a liar and a crook, know that he only cares about himself and think that the rules are for little people, and know he regards even them with a mixture of amusement and contempt.
Supporting Johnson through it all really isn’t much different than rushing to Mar-a-Lago to pay your respects and hoping for a smile. Come on, what could be worse?
Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist