Boris Johnson can run from the latest “partygate” allegations, but he can’t hide.
This is no longer about junior and middle-ranking Number 10 officials breaking COVID rules but about the prime minister’s own personal conduct.
From the moment Mr Johnson failed to deny that he attended the now notorious “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden, it was pretty obvious that he and his wife Carrie WERE there.
That places him under enormous pressure now.
He is often accused by political opponents of lying. Okay, so he didn’t dishonestly deny attending the party on 20 May, 2020, first revealed by his sworn enemy Dominic Cummings last Friday.
But his opponents will claim he has not been honest about what happened and has been attempting to conceal the truth. They will claim his conduct has been reprehensible on two fronts.
Firstly, he could have said on that day that it was wrong to hold the party, but he didn’t. Mr Cummings claimed in his blog on Friday that he and another special adviser said the party seemed to be against the rules and should not happen, but they were ignored.
Secondly, the prime minister and his wife attended the party, just hours after the-then culture secretary Oliver Dowden said at a Downing Street news conference: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor public place, provided that you stay two metres apart.”
It is also worth recalling that the Metropolitan Police tweeted that day: “Have you been enjoying the hottest day of the year so far? It’s important that we all continue to stay alert. You can relax, have a picnic, exercise or play sport, as long as you are:
• On your own
• With people you live with
• Just you and one other person
Yes, one person outside your household, not the 40-or-so we understand attended the party. And, while we don’t know if the PM and Carrie took their own booze, it’s pretty safe to assume someone was pouring their drinks and it’s difficult to pour drinks from two metres away.
Besides the bombshell email from Martin Reynolds, the civil servant who sent the invitation and who now looks like the fall guy, the other remarkable development is the blistering comment from a “senior government source” throwing him under a bus.
In an explosive riposte, the source told Sky News:
• Mr Reynolds failed at his job of protecting Downing Street staff from the spread of COVID in Number 10
• The public are right to be outraged
• One rule for them, one rule for us
• He didn’t think through the consequences
• He has to be held accountable for it
Wow! That makes Mr Reynolds’ position untenable, surely, assuming that astonishing attack was issued with the authority of the prime minister.
Earlier, the PM’s spokesman said Mr Reynolds isn’t going anywhere – an ambassador’s job had been suggested – but that has all changed now. The PM and his inner circle had obviously been hoping the Reynolds email would remain secret. Bad luck!
Much more than any previous “partygate” or “wallpapergate” allegations, these dramatic developments have put the prime minister on the run. It now looks as though he won’t be able to hide much longer, however.