“There was no party.”
Some scandals are no more than Westminster village gossip. Entertaining for political observers and obsessives but wholly irrelevant to those with more sensible interests. The Number 10 Christmas party is the antithesis of that.
People are understandably calling for heads to roll. Focus will inevitably turn to staff who attended the party and Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary who has watched on as Boris Johnson has made repeated denials.
Yet these revelations go far beyond some cheese and wine gathering in Downing Street. It pulses straight to the heart of this Government, one that seems not only prepared to break the rules, but to mislead when it gets found out, and laugh about it.
It aligns almost comically well with Keir Starmer’s central critique of this administration — that there is one rule for those at the top and another for everyone else. This appears to be literally true.
As millions of people were unable to see their families last Christmas, as too many suffered the trauma of losing loved ones without even being able to say goodbye, No 10 threw a party.
From the unlawful prorogation of Parliament to the “specific and limited” breaking of international law to the Owen Paterson affair, it fits a pattern of disdain for the rule of law.
And what if Omicron proves to be worse than feared and the Government is forced to bring in further restrictions over the winter? On what basis would this Prime Minister be able to enforce such rules, either morally or logistically? The Government appears to be hiding, with no minister willing to even talk to the media this morning.
Irrespective of what happens at next week’s by-election in North Shropshire, the Government cannot dismiss its position as the usual mid-term blues. Nor can it necessarily expect the public to believe any future denials that it might make.
Trust in Boris Johnson, and his government as a whole, is on the line. A few resignations from those behind the scenes may be forthcoming, but the fish, as the proverb says, rots from the head down.