Share this @internewscast.com
Head bowed, voice sombre, Boris pleaded for forgiveness, and for time. ‘I have learned enough to know there were things that we simply did not get right,’ he told the Commons last Wednesday, before adding: ‘All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others, so that the full facts can be established.’
But there is no need to wait for Sue Gray. The facts have already been established, and they are clear. Despite a ban on social gatherings, on May 20, 2020, Downing Street threw a party.
‘It would be nice to make the most of this lovely weather,’ the invitation from No 10 principal private secretary Martin Reynolds opined, before exhorting the 100 invitees to ‘bring your own booze!’
And so about 40 of them did. The Prime Minister was there, as was his wife Carrie Symonds, who sipped a gin. They mingled for 25 minutes. ‘I believed implicitly that this was a work event,’ Boris claimed.
There is no need to wait for Sue Gray. The facts have already been established, and they are clear. Despite a ban on social gatherings, on May 20, 2020, Downing Street threw a party
It’s possible. Maybe he failed to spot the trestle tables loaded with food and alcohol. At the point Reynolds was apprised of the political dangers posed by the gathering – ‘he was rushing around in that languid, floppy-haired way he does saying, ‘Oh gosh, do you really think this is a problem?’ ‘ one No 10 official told me – perhaps he failed to pass on the warning.
When a senior aide directly questioned the wisdom of attending a bash being held 55 minutes after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden had ordered the country – from that very building – to ‘limit contact with other people’, he might conceivably have misheard or misunderstood.
But it doesn’t matter. Boris knew what the rules were, because they were his rules. Boris knew he was supposed to be avoiding unnecessary contact – both at work and socially – because he’d spent the year repeatedly instructing all the rest of us to do exactly that.
But there’s another fact that has to be faced. Whatever anger the country feels towards its Prime Minister, this morning that Prime Minister is facing a coup. A meticulously planned, brilliantly prosecuted putsch at the hands of his former adviser and now arch-nemesis Dom Cummings
And Boris knows – because he admitted and apologised for it on Wednesday – that he broke those rules. However benign or damning Sue Gray’s verdict is, nothing can now alter that reality.
But there’s another fact that has to be faced. Whatever anger the country feels towards its Prime Minister, this morning that Prime Minister is facing a coup. A meticulously planned, brilliantly prosecuted putsch at the hands of his former adviser and now arch-nemesis Dom Cummings.
Cummings, to his credit, has made no secret of his strategy. His campaign is being conducted in plain sight, via his own public blog. His ambition – to drive the democratically elected head of Her Majesty’s Government from office – is one he’s frequently expressed ever since leaving Downing Street himself in November 2020.
And the fact he is hoping to install current Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Prime Minister’s place is an open secret in Westminster.
‘Dom wants revenge,’ an ally of his told me, ‘and you can see it in how this is playing out. It’s just one blow after another. He used to say, ‘When they’re down, you have to keep hitting them.’ And that’s what he’s doing to Boris.’
While revenge is obviously a part of his motivation, it doesn’t represent the whole picture. It’s clear Cummings genuinely believes Boris is squandering the opportunities provided by his Brexit and General Election triumphs, a fear shared widely among many Tory Ministers and MPs.
He has also correctly raised concern at the influence Carrie Johnson wields over the Government. But there is another key reason why Dom thinks the man elected by the British people in the mini-landslide of 2019 should no longer be running the country. He believes he should be running it himself.
Again, he’s made no secret of this. The most telling moment from his famous evidence session to the Health and Science Select Committee was when he revealed he had sat Boris down and told him, ‘This building is chaos… but you’re more frightened of me having the power to stop the chaos than you are of the chaos.’
It’s Cummings’s hunger for power that is framing the current crisis. It’s what lies behind the blog that revealed the party of the 20th. It’s what lies behind the leaks and steers about other parties and Covid indiscretions. It’s what has so brutally but effectively brought Boris to his knees.
And to many people that’s an irrelevance. Including many Conservative Members of Parliament. ‘I don’t care why Cummings is doing this,’ one told me. ‘He’s exposed what’s going on. If a murderer goes to the police and gives evidence on a serial killer, you bang the serial killer up. It doesn’t matter where you got the evidence from.’
If Boris is ousted by his party, that will represent the third defenestration of an elected Tory Prime Minister within five years. At which point the voters will say: ‘These guys don’t think they need us. Their attitude is it’s their job to choose who governs us, and it’s just ours to rubber-stamp it’
Another said to me: ‘I can see what Cummings is doing, but we’re beyond that now. We need to act, and we need to act fast. There are already 40 names in [MPs who have submitted letters of no-confidence in the PM to the 1922 Committee]. And we have to get on with it. At the moment it’s Boris in crisis. But if we wait, it’ll be the entire Conservative Party in crisis.’
Which is fair, but overlooks a number of important truths. The first of which is a simple principle. Five years ago a referendum was held, one in which the British people decided to take charge of their own destiny. Two years ago those same people elected Boris as their Prime Minister, with an overwhelming mandate. On both occasions they were promised it would lead to them taking back control. Not handing Dom Cummings control.
Then there is the politics. If Boris is ousted by his party, that will represent the third defenestration of an elected Tory Prime Minister within five years. At which point the voters will say: ‘These guys don’t think they need us. Their attitude is it’s their job to choose who governs us, and it’s just ours to rubber-stamp it.’ And the reason they’ll say that is because it will be true.
And then there is the final issue. Which is if Dom Cummings brings Boris down now, then that will not be the end of the bloodletting, but the beginning. Cummings will be seen as the evil genius who won the Brexit referendum. He will be seen as the puppet-master who successfully delivered Boris a majority government.
And he will be seen – rightly – as the malicious Machiavelli who casually cast the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom into political oblivion when he had outlived his usefulness.
Does anyone think that at the moment – the point at which he so manifestly wields the ultimate power he has craved for so long – Cummings will just shrug and walk away? Do people honestly think he will sit on his hands through the upcoming Tory leadership election?
That he won’t deploy his talents in support of his favourite Rishi Sunak? And if they are deployed successfully, and Sunak then disappoints him as Boris did, that he won’t eventually turn on him in the same merciless way?
On May 5 the country goes to the polls in the local elections. And that is the moment Boris should face his reckoning. Perhaps he can turn opinion.
Maybe people will see his management of the Covid pandemic in the round. By then he might have found a solution to the cost-of-living crisis. Or stopped the people-smugglers in their tracks.
Or perhaps he won’t. The collapse of support currently revealed in the polls – especially in Red Wall seats – may have turned to an unstoppable flood. The nation’s anger at the spectacle of Downing Street partying as the Queen and her people mourned may not have abated.
But either way, it’s for the people to deliver the final verdict on Boris and the events of the past week. Not a faceless civil servant. Not an embittered former adviser. Not quivering Tory MPs.
There can be no Cummings Coup. If it’s to happen, it needs to be the voters – and the voters alone – who tell Boris the party is finally over.
Source: Daily Mail