He stumbles from one fine mess to another. It is hard to know when there was worse custodianship of national affairs
Another triumph for Boris Johnson’s Houdini act. Partygate appears over with today’s announcement that the Metropolitan police has closed the file on Downing Street parties, with 126 penalty notices and reportedly no more for the prime minister. Rumours are that Sue Gray’s separate report on the parties will be published next week, but it is hard to see what it is likely to add, or what will come from the continuing inquiry into whether the prime minister “misled parliament”. Johnson’s tactic of devolving judgment to a dilatory police force has worked, albeit at the cost of £460,000. What appeared last December to be a resignation issue has been kicked down the road so many times as to disappear from view.
Like all high-profile political sagas, Partygate looks like one of those transient Westminster storms more seismic at the time than in retrospect. It stands with other “affairs”, such as Profumo, Westland, Formula One and Cheriegate in the canon of moments when the strictures of Westminster seemed to usurp those of the electorate. They display De Tocqueville’s truth about British politics, that its ethos is that of a club not of a mob. Leaders are at most short-term risk when they offend the club, not the people.
Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist
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