There are the Boris-haters who will never forgive him for being the leader of the Brexit campaign to take us out of the European Union. They won’t concede that he has the slightest moral or political virtue
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Britain divides three ways over Boris Johnson.

There are the Boris-haters who will never forgive him for being the leader of the Brexit campaign to take us out of the European Union. They won’t concede that he has the slightest moral or political virtue.

Exhibit A is Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Lib Dems. He said on Tuesday that whenever the Prime Minister opens his mouth ‘you know he’s lying’. What an outrageous thing for a mainstream political leader to say about another, but it’s what millions of normally sensible people believe.

At the other extreme are the Boris-lovers. For them Boris is a hero, and will always be, largely because of Brexit. They either won’t admit that he sometimes lies or they don’t care very much if he does. They point to his achievements and ignore his failings.

There are the Boris-haters who will never forgive him for being the leader of the Brexit campaign to take us out of the European Union. They won’t concede that he has the slightest moral or political virtue

There are the Boris-haters who will never forgive him for being the leader of the Brexit campaign to take us out of the European Union. They won’t concede that he has the slightest moral or political virtue

At the other extreme are the Boris-lovers. For them Boris is a hero, and will always be, largely because of Brexit. They either won’t admit that he sometimes lies or they don’t care very much if he does. They point to his achievements and ignore his failings

At the other extreme are the Boris-lovers. For them Boris is a hero, and will always be, largely because of Brexit. They either won’t admit that he sometimes lies or they don’t care very much if he does. They point to his achievements and ignore his failings

And then there are the rest of us. We accept regretfully that Boris has told untruths throughout his life. We know he repeatedly betrayed his second wife, Marina. We can see that he is — like many journalists, by the way — a poor administrator with a short attention span. We don’t entirely trust him

And then there are the rest of us. We accept regretfully that Boris has told untruths throughout his life. We know he repeatedly betrayed his second wife, Marina. We can see that he is — like many journalists, by the way — a poor administrator with a short attention span. We don’t entirely trust him

And then there are the rest of us.

We accept regretfully that Boris has told untruths throughout his life. We know he repeatedly betrayed his second wife, Marina. We can see that he is — like many journalists, by the way — a poor administrator with a short attention span. We don’t entirely trust him.

Appalled

Nonetheless, we believe he has a spark of political genius. We admire his brio and energy. Most of us are grateful that he led us out of the EU. We think that when he sets his mind to it — as with Ukraine and the Covid vaccine rollout — he can be a force for good despite his managerial shortcomings.

   

More from Stephen Glover for the Daily Mail…

This third group comprises millions of people in all walks of life. He will need our support if he is going to win the next general election. The question is whether he has forfeited it as a result of his behaviour over Partygate.

Many inveterate Boris fans scoff at the idea. They say that, when the election comes, the shenanigans in No 10 will have faded from the public memory and people will only care about tax and the cost of living. I don’t agree.

Admittedly, Sue Gray’s report was on the face of it good for Boris. Despite its graphic accounts of parties — of vomiting, a bust-up, empty wine bottles left lying around, late nights and spillages — the allegedly fearsome civil servant, who is supposed to take no prisoners, barely laid a glove on the PM.

She criticises the culture and leadership of No 10 without picking on the Prime Minister. The person who comes worst out of the report is his former principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who is revealed as a party organiser.

Yet many reasonable people will reflect that it was Boris Johnson who presided over these Bacchanalian excesses, and must therefore bear ultimate responsibility for them.

Mr Johnson himself yesterday took responsibility for the goings-on, whilst in the next breath disavowing any knowledge of them, and describing himself as being ‘appalled by some of the behaviour’ described in Sue Gray’s report.

Granted, No 10 — as the PM was anxious to remind us — is much bigger than it looks. It is ‘a building that is 5,300 metres square across five floors, excluding the flats’, where ‘hundreds of staff are entitled to work’.

I think it is highly likely that the PM knew what was happening, and was prepared to put up with it. This was partly because, being a generous person, he wanted hard-working young people to have a good time, and partly because he is by nature a rule-breaker

I think it is highly likely that the PM knew what was happening, and was prepared to put up with it. This was partly because, being a generous person, he wanted hard-working young people to have a good time, and partly because he is by nature a rule-breaker

All the same, is it credible that a sharp-witted, experienced journalist used to observing people’s behaviour had no intimation of the rampant partying, some of which he admits to having witnessed before it degenerated? Wouldn’t someone have told him what was going on?

I think it is highly likely that the PM knew what was happening, and was prepared to put up with it. This was partly because, being a generous person, he wanted hard-working young people to have a good time, and partly because he is by nature a rule-breaker.

Rules

A former girlfriend has described in the Mail how, some 20 years ago, the two of them were driving down the motorway. They were on the way to Henley, where Mr Johnson was trying to become MP, and she had been drinking from a bottle of champagne. ‘It’s empty,’ she said. ‘What shall I do with it?’ ‘Chuck it out the window,’ he replied.

That’s Boris. We know that, on the eve of becoming PM, he spilt wine on Carrie’s sofa in her Camberwell flat — to her great annoyance. Outside the flat was Boris’s ancient people-carrier, which had parking tickets mouldering on its windscreen, and empty food cartons, crumpled clothes and plastic bags littering its interior.

Boris was neither offended by the partying in No 10, nor likely to be upset by the mess. The natural Cavalier forgot that the pandemic had cast him in the role of a Roundhead, solemnly announcing coercive rules on television which — to put it mildly — he didn’t zealously enforce on his home patch.

Boris was neither offended by the partying in No 10, nor likely to be upset by the mess. The natural Cavalier forgot that the pandemic had cast him in the role of a Roundhead, solemnly announcing coercive rules on television which — to put it mildly — he didn’t zealously enforce on his home patch

Boris was neither offended by the partying in No 10, nor likely to be upset by the mess. The natural Cavalier forgot that the pandemic had cast him in the role of a Roundhead, solemnly announcing coercive rules on television which — to put it mildly — he didn’t zealously enforce on his home patch

In other words, Partygate has illuminated a contradiction forced on Boris Johnson by Covid. In Shakespearean terms, he was the free-living, chaotic Sir Toby Belch and the puritanical, officious Malvolio at the same time.

And now, in order to survive, he has to cover his tracks, pretending to be ‘humbled’ by the whole experience, while telling us that he has learned from it, without being able or prepared to admit that — again, to put it mildly — he has run far too loose a ship.

The trouble is that it matters to a lot of people — to those millions who dutifully obeyed the coercive rules handed down by Boris, and are appalled by the lax behaviour of the inmates of No 10.

It’s not nothing — certainly much more than the storm in a tea cup that some of his defenders allege it to be. Among my acquaintance are several Brexit-supporting Tory voters who won’t easily forgive the Prime Minister, and in some cases may never do so.

There is also the unresolved question hanging over Mr Johnson, which is still to be considered by the Commons Privileges Committee, as to whether he lied to MPs last December.

When asked whether a party took place in No 10 on November 13, 2020 (it did), he replied: ‘No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’

Idiocies

Yesterday, he insisted that he did not knowingly mislead Parliament and said that it was what he ‘believed to be true’ at the time. Hard to credit, but also hard to disprove.

Boris will survive, at least in the short-term, because Tory MPs know there is no alternative leader. And sometimes, as over Ukraine, he gets the big things right. I don’t believe they’ll drop him now.

But that isn’t to say that Partygate will be forgotten, still less forgiven, by millions of people. Voters have long memories. Some will never excuse the Prime Minister for not ensuring that No 10’s employees respected rules foisted on the rest of us.

At the election, he will be judged over Partygate and his integrity. More than that, of course, he will also be judged over the Government’s competence during the approaching economic tsunami and his abilities as a leader.

Can he recover? I’m increasingly pessimistic. I hope I’m wrong. I want him to succeed. But I fear the idiocies over Partygate symbolise a wider unsuitability for office that can never be corrected.

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