Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is Guilty of Misleading Parliament and, Worse, Imposing Lockdown Restrictions in the First Place, Says Spectator

Boris Johnson is guilty of misleading the House of Commons and, even more seriously, of putting “the lockdown laws on the statute book in the first place, framing them in such a way as to criminalise everyday interactions”. That’s the damning verdict of the Spectator, a publication the Prime Minister himself once edited, in its leading article today.

The Prime Minister remains guilty – most explicitly of misleading the House of Commons when he denied that any parties took place. He has shown a serious failure, too, in not learning from his mistakes. It is no use him or anyone else in Government complaining about the triviality of the charges. His Government put the lockdown laws on the statute book in the first place, framing them in such a way as to criminalise everyday interactions.

Now the Prime Minister’s allies plead for clemency. It is in human nature, they say, to gather to bid farewell to a departing friend or colleague, to offer friendship and succour. Quite so. Johnson’s allies further argue that, as he raised his glass in a toast, he did so in a work capacity – as evidenced by the presence of his red box. This Jesuitical defence would be more plausible if the Government’s laws had not seen ordinary people dragged to court and found guilty of far milder offences. Let us consider his defence for the leaving party: I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service – which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership. Particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions had been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible.It is a damning – and accurate – charge against the Prime Minister that he is no man of principle

Does he realise, even now, that he made it illegal for anyone to do this during lockdown? Where, in his lockdown rules, was the exemption for the ‘essential duties of leadership?’ Where was the clause allowing those outside the ruling elite to have a regular ‘wine-time Friday?’ Does he realise that he personally used the powers of his office to send the police after anyone else who would have attended a gathering to salute a departing colleague? Or, for that matter, to console a friend, visit a dying relative or even attend a funeral in numbers greater than stipulated by the staff of No. 10.

The Prime Minister said it was ‘right’ to salute former colleagues in a leaving party. He’s quite correct in that it is a decent, humane thing to do. But consider the childminder in Manchester who was fined for delivering a birthday card to a child in her care: was it ‘right’ for her to do so? Of course. Did this help her, when police intercepted her to enforce the Prime Minister’s rules and took her to court? Not one bit. His needless, draconian lockdown rules were enforced by police upon millions of people, with tens of thousands taken to court. No one – not the pensioner in his allotment, not the mother celebrating her child’s birthday with two friends – had the chance to argue before the magistrates that what they were doing was ‘right’.

When police went after two women in Derbyshire for the crime of walking through a park with takeaway coffee, one might also ask: was it ‘right’ for them to seek each other’s company and avail themselves of the basic liberty of a free country? Of course. Did Johnson’s laws prohibit this? Unforgivably: yes. And this is the point.

So to hear him now talk about what was ‘right’ and ‘decent’ is hard to swallow. This magazine argued for him to decriminalise lockdown rules, to offer guidance and leave people to judge what is ‘right’ – as was being done with much success in Sweden and several states of America. But Johnson refused to do so, preferring to turn Britain into a police state. While having every intention of flouting the laws when he considered it opportune to do so.

How ironic that in the November 2020 photograph of Boris Johnson raising a toast to the spin doctor he had forced to resign, a copy of The Spectator can be seen resting on the table. This magazine had argued against that month’s lockdown and its needless criminalisation of everyday life. By then, the logic for lockdowns had collapsed. But, thanks in part to a supine opposition, No. 10 pressed ahead anyway. Those leaving drinks took place when all other social gatherings had been banned under pain of huge fines.

Lockdowns involved the passing of the most damaging, illiberal laws in British postwar history. The social and economic cost is still being counted. Johnson is guilty not simply of breaking his own rules, but of failing to assess if those rules even worked. The sheer scale of the law demanded a rigorous assessment of the policies behind it, but no serious cost-benefit analysis was conducted. Nor were studies commissioned to ask why infections seemed to have peaked before the previous lockdown. And no one is now asking why, if lockdown was the only means of holding back a Covid wave, Sweden has done so well without ever imposing one.

One thing the editorial omits is that the current Editor, Fraser Nelson, himself threw his support behind the third national lockdown in January 2021, as well as having supported the first. I’m not aware he has apologised for that, but perhaps in light of this blistering editorial he will.

Worth reading in full.

Even if the Government Can ‘Move On’ From Partygate, the Public are Stuck With the Consequences of Lockdown

“Let’s move on please, there are more important things to deal with.” This is what we often hear in relation to ‘partygate’. I don’t think sceptics are in such a hurry. We all want to move on in life but that is not easily achieved when we have been misinformed, taken for a ride and then taken to the cleaners.

The sceptics aren’t just Daily Sceptic readers but a growing number of the public who are seeing that much of the media have not delivered a full, honest account in reporting the last two years of pandemic restrictions and enforced medical interventions. What I find interesting is that, in much of the media’s eagerness to see the downfall of Boris Johnson, everyone is getting to see a little more of the ‘bigger picture’ the media have, up until now, been trying to hide. How could those enforcing all those ridiculous mandates be indulging in so many parties and social mixing if Covid was such a deadly disease? Why were so many coerced into a trial vaccination programme for a disease that evidently poses so little threat to them?

How we have been deceived! Yet much of the media focus on the minor detail of whether a particular event was a party, what certain photos show, whether Boris Johnson actually knew he was attending a party, whether he should have received more fines etc. They want to know if there is enough evidence to show that the PM misled Parliament because convention dictates that, if that were the case, he should resign – the big news story. The news story for me is whether the Government misled the public, not Parliament.

The scandal that lies before us is one demonstrating how those in power, who determined the rules and directed the hardships of the last two years, are more concerned about themselves and whether they have misled their colleagues than us plebs. The deception has severely affected many of us, the younger generation in particular. There are now increased hospital waiting lists, deaths from delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment and rampant economic inflation – true wrongs that deserve more than a token fine. It is this mendacity and betrayal that have consequences and will continue, possibly for decades, to have grave ramifications from which some may never be able to ‘move on’.

Dr. Mark Shaw is a retired dentist.

Why Has Boris Johnson Appointed an NHS Manager With a Questionable Track Record to the Top of the Civil Service?

Sue Gray’s report into Partygate is coming out soon and the PM is announcing a big shake-up of the structure of the Civil Service by way of a pre-emptive defence against criticisms of chaotic management in 10 Downing Street, as the Guardian reports.

Under the shake-up, the Government announced changes that will “enhance the support that is offered to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet”. The Cabinet Office will be split into two, with domestic policy oversight, national security and legislative units handed to No 10 under Jones. The remaining Cabinet Office functions including Whitehall changes and Civil Service administration will remain under the Cabinet Office permanent secretary, Alex Chisholm.

This raises the question: ‘Who is Jones?’ In April 2021, Samantha Jones was appointed the Prime Minister’s top adviser on NHS transformation and social care. 

It is perhaps unsettling news that an NHS management guru is now suddenly a permanent secretary under the beleaguered Simon Case, based in 10 Downing Street. She is the second most important Government official in the state, with a brief covering national security. As the Daily Mail reported:

She began her NHS career as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital but quickly realised life on the wards was not for her. While still a trainee, she went to see the Chief Nurse at the London Children’s Hospital and declared she wanted to go into management. She later recalled: “I said, ‘I don’t know why I want to be a manager, but I’ve got four brothers. I’m too stroppy. I have to stand by my beds while the consultant does his ward round and I’m not allowed to speak until I’m spoken to – and I’m not having any of that.’”

Are All Britain’s Current Woes Traceable to a Group of Entitled ‘Tory Toffs’ at Oxford in the 1980s?

I’ve reviewed Simon Kuper’s book Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the U.K. for the House Magazine. I say it’s an entertaining, highly readable book that contains some great anecdotes, but it’s core thesis – that the Brexit project was shaped by the class interest of a group of grievance-mongering Tory toffs who resented the transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels because they regarded the exercise of that power as their birthright – is laughably chippy. Here are the first few paragraphs:

It has become a commonplace of Islington dinner parties that the reason Britain is in such a mess is because of its wretched class system which has condemned us to being ruled by a bunch of incompetent Tory toffs. Not only are they lazy and amoral, believing the rules don’t apply to them, but for the most part they’re innumerate and scientifically illiterate, thanks to the humanities bias at Britain’s elite public schools and Oxford University. Little wonder, then, that they’ve made such a hash of governing the country, culminating in the disastrous decision to leave the European Union.

This furious critique of our current political masters has been given its clearest expression yet by the Financial Times journalist Simon Kuper. In Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK, he traces Brexit back to a group of straight, white, ex-public schoolboys at Oxford in the 1980s and blames it on their elite backgrounds, their gargantuan sense of entitlement and the cult of the gentleman amateur.

“Ruling Britain was the prerogative of their caste,” he writes. “They didn’t want outsiders in Brussels muscling in.”

The dramatis personae of this story will be familiar to anyone interested in contemporary British politics and it is genuinely remarkable how many students who attended Oxford between 1983 and 1993 – that was the critical 10-year period, according to Kuper – now dominate public life. They not only include the architects of the Vote Leave campaign – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings, Daniel Hannan and Jacob Rees-Mogg – but also some of the main protagonists on the other side – David Cameron, George Osborne, Jeremy Hunt, Hugo Dixon, Rory Stewart, Nick Boles and Roland Rudd. Also at Oxford at the same time were many prominent Labour politicians, including Keir Starmer, David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper.

Just listing all those people points to a difficulty for Kuper. If being part of a privileged clique at Oxford from 1983-93 was instrumental in shaping the views of the politicians who masterminded our exit from the European Union, why did so many members of this club end up campaigning for Remain? And it seems a bit simplistic to reduce the Tory values of Johnson, Hannan and Rees-Mogg to a desire to perpetuate their class privilege when some of the most prominent Conservatives of this Oxford generation, such as Gove, came from modest backgrounds. Indeed, Boris wasn’t exactly to the manor born himself, being a scholarship boy at Eton. As Cummings once remarked on Twitter about this class-based analysis of the Brexit project: “If u think me Gove & Boris are posh you have literally no idea what posh is.”

Worth reading in full (no paywall).

England Has Had Lower Rate of Covid Deaths Since ‘Freedom Day’ Than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, In Spite of Fewer Restrictions

Raghib Ali, a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge and a consultant in acute medicine at the Oxford university hospitals NHS trust, has a piece in the Guardian, of all places, arguing that Boris’s decision to end Coronavirus restrictions in England has been validated.

The first Omicron (BA.1) wave, beginning in December, showed us that it was possible to get over a peak without a lockdown. The second (BA.2) wave from March to April was the first time a wave peaked in England without any government-mandated restrictions, as all legal mandates ended on February 24th.

And because England chose a different path on restrictions to the other home nations (and other western European countries) during the Omicron waves, this provides a very good “natural experiment” to assess how much difference the varying levels of restrictions made. International comparisons do have limitations, but in the absence of better evidence to judge the effectiveness of Covid restrictions, such natural experiments provide a useful guide, especially in comparing the UK home nations, which have similar populations, age structures, climate/seasons, healthcare systems and population-level immunity to Covid.

I should stress that given the uncertainty of the evidence at the time, it was perfectly reasonable for the home nations to choose different paths – and the extra restrictions outside England had widespread public support. But what will perhaps be surprising to many is that England has actually had a similar rate of infection and a lower rate of Covid deaths during the Omicron wave – and since July 19th 2021, England’s “freedom day” – than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, despite having far fewer mandatory restrictions, and none after February 24th. This “natural experiment” shows that having more mandates did not lead to better outcomes.

There was also no significant difference in overall excess mortality across the home nations to the end of 2021. And England’s is now likely to be lower as – somewhat remarkably, given the Omicron wave – excess mortality is negative in England for 2022 so far, with the lowest age-standardised mortality rates (the best comparator to previous years, as it takes population ageing into account) since the series began in 2001.

Worth reading in full.

Keir Starmer to be Investigated by Police Over ‘Beergate’

Keir Starmer faces a police investigation into his lockdown curry, after repeatedly demanding Boris Johnson should quit for breaching rules in similar circumstances. MailOnline has more.

The Labour leader is at risk of being engulfed by the so-called ‘Beergate’ row after Durham Police dramatically declared it will probe “significant new information” about the gathering. 

The force initially decided Sir Keir did not breach Covid rules when he and party aides had drinks and a takeaway in April 2021, when millions of Britons were banned from mixing indoors in most circumstances. But following intense pressure and a series of revelations – including that up to 30 people attended and shared £200 worth of food – the position has shifted.

Sir Keir maintained a stony silence as journalists threw questions about the situation on a visit to Carlisle this afternoon. Labour said the party was “happy to answer any questions there are and we remain clear that no rules were broken”. 

However, there is frustration among Tories that the decision was only taken after the local elections – when the PM’s own fine over the Partygate scandal damaged his support.

The development could raise serious doubts over Sir Keir’s future, as he trenchantly argued that Mr Johnson should resign when he was found to have broken the law. 

Sir Keir had been filmed drinking a bottle of lager with colleagues at the event at the offices of Durham MP Mary Foy in the run-up to last year’s local elections – and has been wriggling when asked about the incident all week.

Sadiq Khan risked inflaming the row earlier this week by admitting there was “equivalence” between Keir Starmer’s actions and the PM’s birthday gathering in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 – which has seen him and Chancellor Rishi Sunak fined. Mr. Khan suggested the main difference was that the Labour leader only broke lockdown once.

Tory MP Richard Holden, backed by several ministers, wrote to Durham Constabulary insisting there was now “incontrovertible” evidence Labour had “lied” about the events of a year ago, including there now disproved claim that the deputy leader Angela Rayner was not there. 

And Finally…

In this week’s episode of London Calling, James and I discuss Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter; the integrity of the French Presidential election and whether Marine Le Pen’s 42% share of the vote means France is more racist than Britain; the uncertain future of Boris Johnson; Douglas Murray’s apparent reference to James in his latest Joe Rogan interview; and, in Culture Corner, Slow Horses, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, Moon Knight and The Northman.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here.

Boris Johnson Accused of “Instigating” Downing Street Lockdown Party as Tory Rebels Plot His Downfall After May Elections

Boris Johnson has been accused of having “instigated” a Downing Street party, as Tory MPs claim he could face a fresh coup attempt after the May elections. The Telegraph has more.

The Prime Minister faced accusations that an office gathering to mark the exit of Lee Cain, the former Number 10 Director of Communications, was not a party “until he arrived”.

It has been claimed that a photographer was present and captured pictures of Mr. Johnson at the event, which took place on November 13th 2020.

Downing Street did not dispute the description of the event but said it was untrue that Mr. Johnson had organised it.

The Prime Minister’s actions at the event – which allegedly included delivering a speech, pouring drinks for people and drinking himself – will threaten to derail his argument that “all rules were followed”.

Mr. Johnson is expected to receive a second fine from the Metropolitan Police, with organisers of large gatherings facing penalties of up to £10,000.

Senior Conservative MPs said that if the party performed poorly in next month’s local elections, this could provide a fresh pretext for attempts to move against the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson is preparing for one of the toughest political weeks of his time in office, as he faces MPs in the Commons tomorrow to give a statement over his “partygate” fine.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson, Carrie Johnson and Rishi Sunak Fined Over Partygate. Will They Go?

Boris Johnson, Carrie Johnson and Rishi Sunak are to receive fixed penalty notices for attending lockdown parties, having been found by police to have broken the law. Isabel Hardman at the Spectator has more.

The police fines for breaking Covid laws, which [Johnson and Sunak] created, throw everything around the Prime Minister and the Chancellor into the air. Previously, many Tory MPs had said this would be a resigning matter for a serving PM to be found to have broken the law.

A No. 10 spokesperson confirmed the fines, saying: “The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices.”

The Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson has also been fined. A spokesperson for Mrs Johnson said: “In the interests of transparency, Mrs Johnson can confirm she has been notified that she will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice. She has not yet received any further details about the nature of the FPN.”

The Prime Minister has now not only been found by police to have broken the law, but he also misled Parliament about the matter, saying he had been assured that there was no party. Now we know the police have concluded that on at least one occasion there was a party and that Johnson attended it.

What will Tory MPs do now? Parliament is in recess at the moment, which makes it harder for them to organise an immediate response. But what it does mean is that MPs will face the reaction of their constituents. Remember that it was the fury within constituency parties and among local voters that tipped many Conservatives into calling for Johnson to resign when the row reached its height. 

Keir Starmer has of course called on Johnson and Sunak to resign: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign.”

Boris Johnson Says He Will Lock Down the Country Again if it “Saves Lives”

Boris Johnson has admitted he “can’t rule out” plunging the U.K. into a Covid lockdown again in the future, despite only just releasing the nation from two years of crippling on-off restrictions. MailOnline has the story.

The Prime Minister previously promised the route back to normality was “irreversible”, seemingly consigning draconian stay-at-home orders to history. But the PM has now said it would be “irresponsible” for the Government not to keep a blanket shutdown in its virus-fighting playbook. He added: “I’m not going to take any options off the table.”

In an interview with GB News set to be aired tomorrow, Mr. Johnson added: “I want to avoid any such thing ever happening again.”

However, he insisted any decision on bringing back curbs must get the balance right between prioritising public health and saving lives. …

Speaking to Tory MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies on GB News, Mr Johnson said: “I can’t rule out something. I can’t say we wouldn’t be forced to do non-pharmaceutical interventions again of the kind we did. I think it would be irresponsible of any leader in any democracy to say that they are going to rule out something that can save lives.”

He added: “I believe the things we did saved lives. I’ve got to be absolutely frank with you, there could be a new variant more deadly, there could be a variant that affects children, that we really need to contain, I’m not going to take any options off the table. But I don’t think it will happen. We’re now in the phase where the virus is losing its potency overall and we’ve got a massively vaccinated U.K. population.”

But the PM admitted the endless cycle of on-off restrictions introduced over the last 24 months had caused the nation’s obesity rates to soar. Ministers this week brought in rules that force restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees to include calorie counts on their menu. Mr. Johnson denied the measures equated to a “nanny state”, arguing they were necessary to tackle Britain’s growing obesity problem.