Currently in the UK, the big scandal that has the attention of the newspapers is “Partygate,” and the Times wrote about it on Saturday:
The mood on the Conservative tables in the Commons tearoom on Wednesday resembled something between a wake and a mutiny. Tory MPs had watched Boris Johnson get pummeled by Sir Keir Starmer at prime minister’s questions over No 10’s lockdown-busting party in December last year, when the rest of the country was banned from having social gatherings.
Tory is the same thing as Conservative; the Conservative Party is also called the Tory Party, and Conservative politicians are often called Tories.
That morning a video had come to light of Allegra Stratton, then Johnson’s spokeswoman, doing a mock press conference in which she and other Downing Street aides discussed the “Christmas party” and joked they would have to present it publicly as “a business meeting” to get around the rules. The video sank No 10 claims that “there was no party”.
That same day in Portcullis House MPs were seen brandishing letters they were planning to send to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, demanding a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. Fifty-four letters are needed to trigger a vote.
Wow. They actually care about this kind of stuff in the UK.
And that was just the beginning. Next week Johnson faces the biggest rebellion of his premiership, with more than 60 Conservative MPs poised to vote against the imposition of extra Covid-19 measures.
The rebels include 58 who have already publicly indicated their opposition to the new restrictions — the subject of a vote on Tuesday.
In addition, more than half a dozen parliamentary private secretaries may be prepared to resign from the government rather than back the prime minister’s plan B to combat the Omicron variant.
It has also emerged that close allies of Theresa May may submit letters of no confidence in the prime minister if the Tories lose the North Shropshire by-election to the Liberal Democrats on Thursday.
One former minister who served under May confirmed they would oppose the government on Tuesday, a move dubbed “Operation Revenge” by Johnson’s allies.
The former minister also predicted a ratcheting-up of backbench discontent if the Tories lose the by-election. A vote of no confidence will be triggered if 54 letters — representing 15 per cent of Tory MPs — are submitted.
A vote of no confidence is like an “Impeachment-Lite.” It doesn’t have to be over a criminal matter as it does in the US (or a made-up criminal matter, like we saw in 2019). If a vote of no confidence is triggered and then subsequently passes by majority vote, it’s curtains for the Prime Minister and his government. Everyone in leadership is obliged to resign, and a new general election is called.
The last time a British Prime Minister was sacked by a vote of no confidence was in 1979, when Labour’s James Callaghan was ousted from power over the “Winter of Discontent,” which was basically the UK’s name for the stagflation of the late 1970s.
Theresa May, the last Prime Minister, successfully overcame a vote of no confidence in 2019, but was ultimately forced to resign over her failure to oversee Brexit.
May herself became Prime Minister in 2016 after then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the Brexit vote. Cameron had staked his political future on the Remain side winning the vote, but when the Leave side won, he honored his promise to the nation and resigned.
Cameron would have failed a vote of no confidence but resigned before it even happened.
There is no evidence that May, who has publicly opposed Johnson from the back benches on a range of issues, is co-ordinating the effort. But friends of the former prime minister are still smarting at the way she was forced out by Brexiteers.
The former minister proclaimed Johnson’s government “a shitshow” and added: “Something has to change. I’ll vote against the government this week in the hope that he listens. But if we lose on Thursday, letters will go in.”
Internal canvassing data shows the Liberal Democrats on 39 per cent in North Shropshire and the Tories on 40 per cent with four days to go. The Conservatives held the seat with an almost 23,000 majority in 2019, but the by-election was triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson after his Commons suspension for lobbying.
A politician resigning over lobbying?! Imagine that!
The by-election comes a week after the cabinet secretary launched an investigation into claims of a party at Downing Street last December. Local Tories are worried about the impact of the scandal and have said the election could be won by as few as 500 votes.
In a further headache for Johnson, the backbench rebel Steve Baker will announce today that he is taking over the Conservative Way Forward group to campaign against Covid restrictions and for low taxes. “The Conservative Party is in the wrong place and is headed in the wrong direction,” Baker said.
David Davis, Esther McVey, Liam Fox and Greg Clark are among former cabinet members to have voiced concerns about the scaling-up of Covid restrictions.
Last night the whips were calling rebels in a desperate effort to shore up support before Tuesday’s vote.
Under plan B, vaccine passports will be made mandatory for large venues from Wednesday. Facemasks will be compulsory in most public indoor settings, and people will be advised to work from home.
It is understood that the government is preparing to allow contacts of known cases to test themselves every day rather than having to self-isolate for ten days. The red list is also set to be abolished after the global spread of the Omicron variant.
Last night Downing Street insisted there were no plans for further restrictions before Christmas despite claims by the UK Health and Security Agency that “stringent national measures” need to be imposed by December 18 to stop Covid hospital admissions passing last winter’s peak.
Wow. In the UK, there is actual, genuine disagreement in the government over Covid restrictions. Imagine that!
People in the UK who don’t like the government’s policies on Covid actually have somewhat of a say in the matter, and there are actually some politicians who genuinely agree with them.
That is mind-blowing stuff from an American perspective.
Lord Geidt, who oversees the ministerial code of conduct, is considering whether to resign after WhatsApp messages emerged on Thursday suggesting that Johnson had misled him about what he knew of the Tory donors who helped to fund the renovations on his Downing Street flat.
This toxic brew of scandal and chaos has left Johnson facing the greatest political crisis of his premiership and prompted one longtime associate to predict: “I think for the first time that it won’t be him fighting the next election.”
MPs say that a significant number of voters are beginning to think the same. A former minister and the chairman of a select committee were out together on Friday night. “People were purposefully stopping us and telling us that Boris has to go,” one of the MPs said.
Let’s get into more details on this party:
In the dog days of 2020 members of the No 10 press team met after work every Friday evening. Wine was opened, gallows humour shared. Jack Doyle, who was then deputy director of communications, was in the habit of giving awards for those who had gone above and beyond the call of duty.
December 18 was different. Emails and WhatsApps were sent out by junior civil servants in the press team urging people to attend. One of Doyle’s colleagues phoned special advisers in other departments to invite them.
About 40 people gathered in a foyer outside the main press office room. “Everyone was packed shoulder to shoulder,” said one who attended. “If it looks like a party, sounds like a party, stinks of booze and goes on until 2am, it is a f***ing party.”
Doyle and Stratton left the bash to join late-night meetings about new and frightening data showing that the Alpha variant of Covid, first found in Kent, was 70 per cent more transmissible than the one that first swept the country. Doyle sat in his office to join a Zoom meeting chaired by Johnson, who was in the cabinet room. That was where it was decided that the government had to ban Christmas gatherings in the worst-hit parts of the country. “Boris’s mind was on coronavirus,” said an official.
The same weekend the Brexit talks were coming to a head in Brussels before Johnson and the European Union struck a deal just before Christmas.
When, earlier this month, the Daily Mirror revealed that the party had taken place, No 10 decided to brazen it out. Officials told Johnson that the gathering was an extension of the working day.
But the denial, in the face of growing evidence that many present were “completely rat-arsed”, led to a hunt for other potential breaches of the rules. Those present say Johnson did not visit the Christmas gathering. However, as Dominic Cummings, the former aide who is encouraging MPs to oust the prime minister, pointed out on Friday: “To get upstairs [to his flat] he has to walk past that area where he could see it.”
“Completely rat-arsed.” Britain, man. 😂😂
The leak of the video on Wednesday morning raised the affair from a Westminster squall to a hurricane that threatens Johnson’s future. It showed Stratton lost for answers when asked what she would say if asked about the Christmas party. “I went home,” she said, before nervous laughter about how it was “a cheese and wine” party or “a business meeting”.
A cabinet aide said: “People claiming they were having a business meeting when they were breaking the rules was an in-joke in that building for months. I heard it time and again.”
Johnson sought to buy time by asking Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, to probe what happened and told the Commons disciplinary action would follow.
On Thursday Stratton concluded she had to go and gave a tearful apology on camera outside her home, saying she would “regret the remarks for the rest of my days”. “She felt it had to be on camera,” said one familiar with Stratton’s thinking. “There was already one tape of her appearing to be a cackling hyena cow so the way to combat that was to give the public a different image.”
“A cackling hyena cow”! These Brits, man. 😂😂
If some were uncomfortable with this (“Does she think she’s a cabinet minister?” asked one special adviser) it also attracted public sympathy. One message that landed in the email inbox of a former minister asked: “Why did the lady have to go and not the man? Is it because Boris is only loyal to men not women?”
The same MP gave up trying to defend the government and emailed an irate constituent to say: “It is clear there was a party and they lied. I owe you an apology for believing the bullshit.”
Doyle, who as director of communications had presided over the claim there was no party even though he had attended it, offered to fall on his sword. But Johnson declined the offer. “You see it with ministers,” said one who worked closely with Johnson. “Boris is loyal to his people. He doesn’t like firing them just because that’s what the BBC wants.”
Doyle was propped up publicly by Johnson on Friday but his future remains uncertain pending the Case report.
As this tidal wave of claim and counterclaim engulfed the government, the Omicron strain created a new health crisis. No 10 was warned on Monday that infections were doubling every two and a half days. At lunchtime on Tuesday Johnson held a meeting with Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, and agreed that new restrictions, including Covid passports, would have to be introduced. The move threatens Johnson with his biggest backbench rebellion.
In No 10 the mood is described as “awful”. “It’s incredibly tense and people are barely talking to each other,” a source said. “There’s a lingering cloud of dread.” There are fears about what else is to come. Pictures exist from the Christmas party. There are also tapes of a dozen or more other mock press conferences conducted by Stratton.
At least one senior member of the cabinet has seen Johnson this week and bluntly told him he needs to change his No 10 team if he is to save his premiership. A former cabinet minister, who wants Johnson to succeed, said: “He needs to know he needs to change, he needs to want to be able to change and he needs to actually be capable of changing. I’m not very confident about any of those three.”
MPs just want an end to the soap opera and Downing Street operating as a medieval court rather than a government. “We need an end to the Tudor t****ery,” said the former cabinet minister.
I don’t even know what that censored word is. “Thievery”? Why would that be censored, though?
Twattery? That’s gotta be it.
Johnson was said by one witness to be shellshocked as events unfolded — in the week his second child with Carrie, a girl, was born on Thursday morning. “He looked a bit broken.”
But others doubt he has grasped how perilous is his position. Someone who spoke to Johnson last week said: “He hasn’t quite got the message. He keeps saying: ‘It will all blow over. It wasn’t a party, I’ve been assured of that. We need to focus on Omicron.’”
Except, the Prime Minister has completely lost his credibility on Covid as a result of the party.
While he does that, Johnson’s cabinet colleagues are increasingly focused on the fight to succeed him. Outriders for both Sunak and Truss were sounding out colleagues last week. Both have donors lined up. The foreign secretary has been inviting people to 5 Hertford Street, a private club in Mayfair, for “Biz for Liz” chats.
Johnson is not finished, but insiders say the planned big “relaunch” moment in the new year, a white paper on levelling up written by Gove and Andy Haldane, a former Bank of England chief economist, has been sent back since it has little in the way of eye-catching policy. “What they have come up with is a load of blue skies theoretical w***,” said one who has read the paper.
Johnson is facing another headache in the form of Steve Baker, the backbench rebel organiser who made life a misery for David Cameron and May over Brexit. He reveals today that he is taking over the Conservative Way Forward group, founded in 1991 after Margaret Thatcher was ousted, to defend and build upon her achievements.
Baker plans to turn it into a campaigning organisation which will oppose further Covid lockdowns, demand tax cuts and fight against the government’s net zero pledge “making people poorer and colder”. He said: “I will vote against all these Covid measures on Tuesday and I’m going to be picking up and relaunching Conservative Way Forward to chart a more hopeful course for our party and government.”
I like this Steve Baker guy.
Knives are also out for Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary, and the chief whip, Mark Spencer. “The link between Boris and the parliamentary party doesn’t work at all,” said a Johnson loyalist. “Time and again the chief whip has been caught not knowing how people were going to vote or what they think.”
On Friday Cummings said the “silent artillery of time” would do for Johnson, predicting: “He’s done, gone by this time next year, probably summer.”
There looms the prospect of a nightmare by-election that could cause events to move quicker than that. A Conservative who was telephone canvassing said: “Most people you call are talking about the Christmas party.”
But there remains also the possibility that Johnson can brazen this out. Dozens of police officers were in No 10 on Thursday for a reception for bravery awards. One staffer recalled with dark humour: “When I saw them I thought they had come to feel the boss’s collar. But he’s still a free man.”
So it certainly sounds as if this Christmas Party scandal is going to take down Boris Johnson.
And this is remarkable because in America, it is a given that the elites play by a different set of rules and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Politicians flouting the rules they impose on the American people is a way of life here in the States:
For the second time in the past two weeks, hundreds of wealthy celebrities gathered at a large, lavish event where the coronavirus was just an afterthought and restrictions did not apply. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the rest of the country, the lower and middle-class folks whose salaries don’t even come close to the cost of a table at the Met, were allowed to live by the same care-free standards.
But at this point in the pandemic, hypocrisy is to be expected. We’ve learned repeatedly over the past year and a half that the people who scream the loudest about the necessity of coronavirus restrictions are the same people who don’t have to abide by any of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was allowed to get her hair cut at an indoor salon without a mask while the rest of the city’s salons were forcibly shut down. California Gov. Gavin Newsom was allowed to host a fancy dinner party for his socialite friends while the rest of the state was being told to stay at home. And San Francisco Mayor London Breed was allowed to party maskless at a bar, but children attending in-person school are still told to keep distance from their peers.
The examples are numerous — the Emmys is just the latest. Pictures of unmasked celebrities posing on the red-carpet Sunday night and socializing in close proximity to one another were all over the internet, but there was hardly a hint of concern from public health officials. No warnings, or threats, or public sneers of condescension as there were when North Dakota hosted its annual outdoor Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The only reason Dr. Anthony Fauci might have been upset about the Emmys is that he didn’t receive an invite himself.
And though none of this double-dealing is surprising anymore, it should not be any less consequential because it reveals that none of this is about “the science,” or protecting others, or saving lives. All of that “we’re all in this together” talk was just theater, and every restriction still in place is just an act to make it seem like the people in charge care. But clearly, the elites don’t think restrictions are all that necessary, so why should anyone else?
The obvious answer is: You shouldn’t.
Charles C.W. Cooke, who is originally from England but now lives here in the US and writes for National Review, added further in September:
Up until this point in the pandemic, the worst examples of elite rule-breaking have been discrete. Gavin Newsom hit up the French Laundry. Gretchen Whitmer popped down to Florida. Chris Cuomo said that he was hiding in his basement, when, in reality, he was out and about in the Hamptons. Now, the habit is being ruthlessly collectivized. If, like me, you tuned in by accident to last night’s Emmys and saw a vast crowd of unmasked celebrities embracing one another, you will understand what’s changed. No longer are we talking about a hypocrite here and a hypocrite there, but about an entire cast of tartuffes. Falsity, it seems, is a highly contagious disease, and there is safety to be found in numbers.
Remember all those saccharine paeans to the common good? Those Pecksniffian appeals to do the “right thing”? Those badgering reminders that “we’re in this together”? Yeah, those couldn’t outlast a single letterpressed invitation to the Met. In one hand, our elite class had its longstanding message that masking is crucially important; in the other, it had the chance to go to a really lush party. And the party won in a landslide.
Not for everyone, of course. That would have been gauche. No, the party won for the sort of people who were invited to the party. The staff? They were masked up to the eyeballs, because these days you just can’t be too careful around people carrying trays.
In San Francisco over the weekend, Mayor London Breed explained that the video of her enjoying herself maskless at a jazz club doesn’t count when you really think about it, because, unlike you, she is really into music. “My drink was sitting at the table,” Breed said when pushed on the matter, and “I got up and started dancing because I was feeling the spirit and I wasn’t thinking about a mask.” Which is an absolutely spiffing excuse if one assumes that the mayor of San Francisco is alone among her fellow citizens in desiring to spend her evenings without a large piece of cloth strapped across her face. Exonerating herself further, Mayor Breed suggested that “we don’t need the fun police to come in and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing.” Which, again, is a ripping justification if we assume that everyone else in San Francisco is just dying for close supervision.
The fun police! The audacity of these Democrats.
They are the Fun Police! But when they get caught breaking their own rules, they accuse everyone else of being the Fun Police.
The examples are endless. Robby Soave talks about them here in this video that reinforces what I’ve been saying with visuals. Ignore his idiotic pro-vaccine boilerplate, there are good points made here nonetheless:
It seems to me that while the UK is always seen as the land of monarchy and aristocracy and Elite Privilege, the US is way worse on that front.