EIt wasn’t his first “sorry” and this time it went like this: “I apologize for the things we just didn’t do right and also for the way the matter was handled.” Boris Johnson said again on Monday in the House of Commons that he could understand the anger at the Downing Street parties. Because there are now lessons to be learned from the investigation report, he will redesign the organizational structure in the government. “I get it and I’ll fix it,” he said, adding, “Yes, we can be trusted.”
Shortly before that, the long-awaited report from the Cabinet Office had been published. He notes a “failure of leadership and judgment” at Downing Street. A number of gatherings over the past two years “should not have taken place or developed in the way that did happen,” wrote investigator Sue Gray, but refrained from making explicit reference to legal violations. Also, no responsible persons were named. She nevertheless stated that the behavior of those involved was “difficult to justify” and criticized the “excessive consumption of alcohol” in the workplace. All of this does not meet the standards of the Civil Service, nor those that the public applies to it.
Johnson presents himself as busy
Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, called Johnson a “man without shame”. He has fooled the British public, insulted their intelligence and discredited the many sacrifices made during the pandemic. Now he is hiding behind a police investigation instead of resigning.
Gray only released a stripped-down version of her investigation report after police urged that only “minimal disclosures” be made about the cases she is investigating. These are twelve cases of alleged violations of Corona regulations. Scotland Yard’s intervention was criticized over the weekend. Some, including Libdem chairman Ed Davey, even spoke of a “set game”. Without evidence, it has been speculated that Johnson may have encouraged police to press for a watered-down version of Gray’s report, thereby delaying the release of potentially incriminating facts. The police investigation could drag on for weeks. It is possible that at the end of the day there will be nothing more than the sending of a few fine notices, the recipients of which remain unknown.
Johnson presented himself on Monday as a prime minister who hardly has time to deal with questionable parties at his official residence. In the morning he had visited Tilbury Docks in Essex, one of the new free ports being built after Brexit. At the same time, he was preparing a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a trip to Ukraine. His ministers will present a whole series of new draft laws in the next few days.
His appearance in the House of Commons had more the character of a compulsory exercise. He had always promised to comment on the “Partygate” investigation report before the deputies. Johnson now has valuable time to bring the rebels in his faction back into line and steer public debate in new directions. “Operation red meat” had already begun in mid-January to draw attention away from the affair. The government announced headline-grabbing measures on migration policy and the BBC fee schedule. Now the public is experiencing a new series of initiatives in which critics are likely to see raw meat.
More construction sites
Johnson announced on Sunday that he would further increase military engagement in Eastern Europe after anti-tank missiles had already been delivered to Ukraine. At the same time, Secretary of State Liz Truss announced a legislative initiative to make it easier to impose sanctions on “Putin’s oligarchs”. Criticism from Washington had been voiced in the past week. Sanctions threatened to come to nothing as long as the oligarchs could invest their money in the British capital.
Two other advances are of a domestic nature. Johnson plans to introduce a “Brexit Freedoms Act” later this week. This is intended to simplify the dismantling of EU regulations that are still in force. While the government has broken new ground in areas like migration, farm subsidies and data protection, thousands of EU rules still apply. Many Tories have criticized this. They accuse Johnson of not exploiting the “opportunities of Brexit” enough. With the new law, changes, such as reducing taxes, could be made by ministers without Parliament having to be consulted.
The white paper on leveling up is also expected this week. Equalizing living conditions in the north of the country is one of Johnson’s main promises. Housing Minister Michael Gove has been working for months on a report that will decipher the project. It is expected that not only magnitudes and priority areas will be identified, but goals and possibly even benchmarks for mission success and failure.