Home U.S DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Call time on Partygate and let us all move...

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Call time on Partygate and let us all move on 

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It’s a rare day indeed when Sir Keir Starmer, his deputy Angela Rayner or Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey don’t call on Boris Johnson to resign.

In their implacably adversarial world it’s the default position.

So it was hardly a shock when they rose in a synchronous chorus of indignation yesterday, after £50 fines were announced for the Prime Minister, his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak over Partygate.

Mrs Rayner (famous for believing all Tories are ‘scum’) was naturally the most hysterical, describing the fines as evidence of ‘widespread criminality at the heart of Downing Street’.

Mrs Rayner (famous for believing all Tories are'scum') was naturally the most hysterical, describing the fines as evidence of'widespread criminality at the heart of Downing Street'

Mrs Rayner (famous for believing all Tories are ‘scum’) was naturally the most hysterical, describing the fines as evidence of ‘widespread criminality at the heart of Downing Street’

Really? A misjudgment, yes, and one which shouldn’t have happened. But this isn’t Watergate. Nor is it like taking the country to war on a pack of lies, as one of the PM’s predecessors did.

Let’s take a quick look at the facts. On June 19, 2020 – Mr Johnson’s birthday and two months after he almost died from Covid – he and a number of aides were in the Cabinet room preparing for an important meeting.

Unlike most of the rest of the country, Downing Street staff were working long days in the office, coping with the worst health crisis in a century.

As they spoke, Carrie Symonds, as she was then, arrived with their two-month-old baby in her arms, a cake was produced by a special adviser and the assembled workers sang Happy Birthday.

The ‘party’ lasted nine minutes and the cake never came out of its Tupperware box.

As they spoke, Carrie Symonds, as she was then, arrived with their two-month-old baby in her arms, a cake was produced by a special adviser and the assembled workers sang Happy Birthday

As they spoke, Carrie Symonds, as she was then, arrived with their two-month-old baby in her arms, a cake was produced by a special adviser and the assembled workers sang Happy Birthday

Yet not only have the PM and his now-wife been fined, but also Mr Sunak, who had entered the room belatedly, unaware of what was going on.

If this had been a deliberate flouting of lockdown rules, a fine could well be justified. As it was, all the people present, with the possible exception of Mrs Johnson, would have been there anyway – cake or no cake. So what on Earth was the difference?

The Daily Mail understands the anger felt by many that rules made in Downing Street were not observed there. Some of the gatherings were clearly far more questionable than this one, so there are probably worse revelations to come.

However, the fact that the Cabinet Secretary and the senior civil servant in charge of ethics and discipline attended some of them suggests they didn’t believe they were doing anything wrong.

Misguided though they might have been, they saw the meetings as extensions of the work bubble, involving people who had been working together during the day.

Equally, their condoning of these functions convinced Mr Johnson no rules were being broken.

Yet not only have the PM and his now-wife been fined, but also Mr Sunak, who had entered the room belatedly, unaware of what was going on

Yet not only have the PM and his now-wife been fined, but also Mr Sunak, who had entered the room belatedly, unaware of what was going on

Even senior aide and de facto chief of Downing Street staff Dominic Cummings, source of many of the Partygate leaks, was photographed at one of these contentious gatherings. If they so appalled him, why didn’t he speak up then?

We must also look at what motivates Scotland Yard to dribble out these fine notifications in such a piecemeal fashion. How many more tranches will there be? Will the PM be fined again?

The police should never have been involved in the first place but now they are, the least they can do is get their chin-stroking over with and get out.

The PM has apologised for his error, taken responsibility and made changes to tighten up the previously lax Downing Street operation. Unless the delayed Sue Gray Cabinet Office report throws up some truly damning new information, it’s surely time to move on.

With Ukraine in turmoil, a gathering cost of living crisis and a global energy crunch, Mr Johnson and his staff have better things to do than answer endless questions about cheese and wine.

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