Comment: It's hard to fathom the damage partygate has done to our politics
The grand unveiling of the Sue Gray report was as anti-climactic as was it predictable.
There would be no sudden changes at the heart of government. Boris soldiers on. He may be on the rack, and as taut as it is, he refuses to break.
Bearing "full responsibility" was the soundbite of the day. A phrase we’ve heard all too often from the prime minister in reference to partygate as its meaning progressively blurs.
We first heard this utterance when it was discovered that parties had taken place. Albeit the PM was completely unaware of their existence. It then came to light that he’d attended "some" events but had only stayed for around ten minutes. Yet still somehow managing to do this within the rules.
But this trivialisation of serious matters has been commonplace throughout Boris Johnson’s career. When the public was finally presented with photographic evidence of law breaking in the upper echelons of government, only the most optimistic, or partially deluded of us, would believe that the PM had any inclination of resigning.
It’s hard to fathom the extent of the damage this government has done to public trust in the political establishment. Countless times we have seen members of the Cabinet, and wider government, go on national TV and defend behaviour that the majority of the country’s electorate disagree with.
If the PM had come out from the very beginning and come clean about the extent of what had gone on, I imagine he would have wriggled out of the conundrum with far more of his integrity than now.
Some people (and 'some' is used very loosely) would have quite happily forgiven Boris for hosting a few ‘leaving parties’ had he admitted it months ago.
But this incessant process dragged on and on. Every time his fellow Conservative MPs discredit these events as inconsequential and argue that now is the time to "move on," it’s a further admission of complicity with a government under the illusion that the laws they uphold, and people they govern, are beneath them.
We have a PM that is immune to telling the truth and shows true disdain for those that criticise his behaviour.
It was evident on Wednesday, that although Boris takes total accountability, he is still completely absorbed in believing he did nothing wrong. He even accused Keir Starmer of a "sanctimonious obsession" with the Downing Street parties which was amplified by a ruckus of jeers aimed at the Labour leader.
This moment was a true reflection of the asinine behaviour that has become customary when the Tory benches are packed.
Parliament itself has become a far cry of the institution that was envied across the democratic world during the terms of Blair, Thatcher, or Atlee. Instead, the Bereaved Families for Justice are scoffed at for demanding why Downing Street had more similarities with the last days of Rome, than it did with a functioning government during a global pandemic.
Although the gratuitous denigration of the political establishment will have a heavy constitutional cost, the human cost is far more tangible. When the news ticker flashed that Downing Street had received a copy of the report, I didn’t think straight to the governmental repercussions of yet another scandal. I thought of the people indirectly caught up in it all.
I thought of Emmanuel Gomes, who, despite contracting Covid at the time, felt compelled under the constraints of statutory sick pay to attend his cleaning shift. He worked at the Ministry of Justice before succumbing to the virus at home hours later.
I thought to Tom Miller, a 24-year-old student of Nottingham Trent, who died after falling from the roof of a party he was attending on December 5th, 2020. He was hiding up there out of fear that the breaching council officers would arrest him.
People aren’t angry so much about the rule-breaking itself. At this point in the timeline that thought is a secondary. The public are aggrieved because the rules the cross-party political elite legislated had a direct impact on tens of millions of people.
The most emotionally charged situations of which revolved around countless families being forced to leave their dying relatives in solitary isolation due to rules drafted at the time to save others.
How can these individuals forgive a government that refused to admit guilt until "all" (some) of the evidence was out in the cold light of day? For some, it will be a scar on memories of a time that they wish they could forget.
That’s the most harrowing facet of this whole debacle. Our empathetically impaired PM couldn’t even see that his resignation would bring some solace to the grieving.
His fellow Conservatives also failed to reach this conclusion, or at least most did.
As a country we are now left in a state of purgatory as we sit on our hands and await the next scandal. If only there was enough decency left in the Conservative Party to look past Boris Johnson’s electoral cache.
Perhaps a reflection on President Warren G. Harding’s ‘return to normalcy’ would abet the Conservatives in recapturing their traditional values, much like Harding’s America did as it emerged from history’s last global pandemic.