Wednesday, 2nd February, 2022

[Day 688]

Today was always going to be a slightly foreshortened day because, for better or for worse, Meg and I wanted to be home in town to watch PMQ [Prime Minister’s Questions] at 12.00pm. So we ‘cut our coat according to our cloth’ and just made a lightening visit into town to pick up our newspaper before making sure that we were parked in front of the TV, coffee in hand, wondering what attacks would be made upon Boris Johnson in this post Sue Gray era. Watching Boris Johnson’s typical blustering performance, I am reminded of the expression used by Charles Falcolner who was Lord Chancellor in Tony Blair’s government. He wrote a memorable newspaper article which was entitled “‘Greased piglet’ Boris Johnson could evade justice due to the Met’s disastrous move”. This headline evidently struck a few chords because there was a brilliant cartoon illustrating just this in last week’s Sunday Times and evidently most of the political class knows what a slippery and evasive customer Boris Johnson is. Dominic Cummings is on record as alleging that Boris Johnson lies to absolutely everybody including his own wife: ‘While it’s true that I think Carrie has been a dreadful influence, and it was incredibly foolish of her to start a briefing war with me and others, it’s also only fair to point out that he lies to her all the time about stuff and she’s often operating on duff information herself. This is obviously an incredibly toxic combination.‘ Today in Parliament, Meg and were watching to see if anybody could land a blow. The most critical point here is to have an account of what happened in the PM’s flat on the night of 13th November. Boris Johnson has consistently denied that a party ever took place but even the BBC’s political correspondent, Laura Kuensberg, is convinced by all of the accounts of the party, including the loud playing of Abba tracks that could be heard elsewhere in Downing Street. Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader, specifically asked if there was a party held in the 10 Downing Street flat on 13th November 2020 and, of course, got an evasive reply in which Boris Johnson argued that he was working on COVID measures dduring the month of November (‘Greasy pig’ time again) So a well-directed and crafted question could not be landed. Incidentally, it is a very sad commentary on our Parliamentary life that Ian Blackford was thrown out of the Commons for the day when last week he specifically called the PM a liar. As this is ‘unparliamentary language’ , the Speaker felt he had no option but to suspend the SNP leader for the day. On the other hand, Boris Johnson repeated a lie about Keir Starmer that he was responsible for the non-prosecution of the serial sex offender, Jimmy Savile, whilst Keir Starmer was the Director of Public Prosceutions. This is a ‘meme’ that has been circulating on extreme far-right social media for some time now and had been comprensively refuted. Even Boris Johnson’s advisers told him not to repeat this well-known falsehood against Keir Starmer but evidently Johnson could not resist the jibe. The Speaker was in the position of having to rule that an MP who told the truth but used unparliamenty language (Ian Blackford, the SNP leader) had to be suspended for the day whilst somebody who told a lie but did not use unparliamentary language (Boris Johnson) could not be sanctioned. Meanwhile, three more Tory MP’s have publicly withdrawn their support for Boris Johnson by submitting letters to the Chairman of the 1922 committee so we are now seeing a steady haemorrhaging of support, one might say ‘drip by drip’.

The big political announcement in the Commons today was Michael Gove’s 300 page document promising the ‘levelling up’ of the UK. After a great deal of verbiage it was revealed that the whole of this agenda was to be accompanied by no new money. As Lisa Nandy was driven in exasperation to note at the of the the Michael Gove presentation ‘Is that it?’ One is tempted to retort that we don’t need any 300 page documents full of flim-flam – rather, all that it takes is a one line Excel formula in a spreadsheet which reverses (and compensates) all of the local authorities that had a disproportionate cut in the Rate Support Grant (or whatever it is called these days) during the years of ‘austerity’.

Tomorrow, I am going to try a new pattern in my weekly shopping. After a few years of pre-pandemic shopping at Aldi (followed by post-pandemic at Waitrose) I am going to try Morrisons supermarket in which I used to shop a few years ago. To prepare myself, I composed a computerised shopping list of all the items I might possibly need (some to be deleted as the need arises week by week) as to all intents and purposes I will be shopping in a ‘brand new’ (to me) supermarket. So I intend to be there at 7.00am and we will see what happens.