Partygate continues to rumble on. There are very few new details that can be analysed of the actual substance of the story. Most people have already made up their minds about whether Boris Johnson, the staff and residents of No. 10 broke their own lockdown rules to hold multiple celebrations, gatherings, parties or other events during the pandemic. The loyalist government line of waiting for Sue Gray’s report has worn very thin over the past couple of weeks.
There have been several twists and turns in when that report was going to be published with some concerns that it would be released after a several month Met Police investigation. Fortunately, the report has finally been completed and was expected to be released at some point this week. Now though, we have been hearing that it has been delayed again to next week.
Most people expected Boris to finally resign if her report explicitly says he knowingly broke the rules – meaning he would have misled Parliament on several occasions. Indeed, he finally made a commitment to that in the House during questions. It is much less certain if he will go willingly if the report instead finds the “parties” were an unknowing breach. After all, he has faced many crises and “scandals” already without showing any signs of being close to considering resignation.
It is clear though, that many Conservative MPs believe that Boris Johnson’s time is finally up. There are reports swirling of MPs on the payroll telling journalists and colleagues that they would not back the PM in a confidence vote, MPs on the backbenches are openly calling for his resignation and several MPs are clearly preparing the ground for a leadership contest.
It is also fairly obvious that many Conservative politicians are on manoeuvres to try and put themselves in the best position for a future leadership contest or securing a more senior position in government, Cabinet or otherwise. Dividing lines on Boris’s tenure and policies have been drawn, certain members have been suspiciously quiet in the face of the most prominent news story of the day, and other members have suddenly become rather noisy when previously they had very little to say.
This brings us the real issue of the moment. While Boris and his Government continue to function in limbo – waiting for Sue Gray’s report – and all the time that they have been firefighting the various stories about parties and gatherings they been completely incapable of focusing on the serious issues of the day: the underlying domestic policy areas that need addressing. This could be the end of Covid as a serious pandemic, rising inflation and the subsequent cost of living implications and the energy crisis. We can then add foreign policy areas that the Government is facing such as Brexit, Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and Chinese aggression in Asia.
This administration is currently incapable of acting and has been for some time. Some of this has been due to the pandemic, but that is clearly not the only reason that important policy areas are simply not being tackled or considered effectively. The Commons is consistently adjourning early. Sue Gray’s report needs to come out as soon as possible so that government can move forward effectively, either with Boris in charge or not.