Letter to a Tory MP who is being uncharacteristically silent over Big Dog’s antics.
I have held off from writing to you so far about the latest controversy concerning our Prime Minister because I do understand that you are a busy man and there are many other issues which should be taking precedence.
However the issue of the Prime Minister’s probity is one which it is no longer possible to ignore. You will note that now an increasing number of your colleagues in the Parliamentary Conservative Party are understandably calling upon the Prime Minister to resign and it is rumoured that 30 have so far written to Sir Graham Brady requesting a vote of no confidence. I note that you have so far remained silent on the matter. I’m asking you to break your silence and add your name.
We have a Prime Minister who is mired in controversy and is unable to act on the pressing issues of the day because his main focus has been on self preservation. There is now very clear evidence of large-scale breaches of coronavirus regulations on the No. 10 Downing Street estate. This has had the effect of undermining public confidence in those regulations and has made many ordinary citizens, who made major sacrifices during that time, including not being able to see their dying relatives, feel angry and cheated.
The Prime Minister has admitted in Parliament that these breaches took place, and in his statement last Wednesday he admitted that on at least one occasion he was aware of this and participated actively. He made this admission reluctantly and only when there was no alternative. The clear implication of this is that his previous denials in the House of Commons that he was aware were attempts to mislead the House. This is a resignation matter under the ministerial code. It does not stand in isolation. It comes on top of a large number of equally egregious lies to Parliament, of which at least four have been counted in his answers to Angela Rayner during PMQs on Wednesday week. And should you wish for more examples of such breaches of the ministerial code, I would refer you to Peter Stefanovic’s widely viewed video.
I know that you will respond by saying, as the Prime Minister has done, that we should await the outcome of Sue Gray’s inquiry. This is simply not good enough. As Tim Lawton pointed out this morning in his statement, the facts are very clear and the outcome of her inquiry is irrelevant. Furthermore, as Lord Kerslake has told us, the inquiry was set up to investigate a much more restricted set of events then have now come to evidence. Although at her remit has been extended, Lord Kerslake points out that the inquiry would have taken a very different form has it been tasked from the start with investigating alleged serial breaches by the prime minister. Sue Gray is directly answerable to the prime minister and, while she may well be a person of the highest probity, she could not be seen as impartial for this very reason. She can make findings of fact and can make recommendations, but it is within the gift of the prime minister to accept or reject them.
Mr Johnson knows exactly what happened, he does not have to be told by an inquiry. It will therefore be said that his only objective in awaiting its results is to decide on the boundaries of plausible deniability, in other words he is thinking “how much can I get away with?”. This should not be the function of an inquiry. If it is made clear to him that irrespective of the inquiry’s findings he has lost the confidence of the party because of what he has done, then perhaps it will create an opportunity for everyone to move on.
It is now being reported (‘Operation Save Big Dog’) that the Prime Minister’s planned response to Sue Gray’s report will be to identify some hapless individuals at No. 10 Downing Street who can be held responsible and be used as scapegoats. I hope such rumours are wrong. However they are sadly plausible, given the precedent that he has already set with the departure of Allegra Stratton. Such behaviour would be entirely in character and would of course be wholly inexcusable in the circumstances. It would demonstrate yet again that we have a PM who does nor understand, or pretends not to understand, the meaning of the word Accountability.
There is an additional aspect of this which I’m sure is on your mind too. Both ministers and Tory backbenchers have been required to cover for the prime minister, in effect publicly to repeat his lies, or at the very least his distortions of the truth. I have no doubt that this is causing you and others serious discomfort and that you are feeling the time has come for this to end.
The alternative is to face the many other crises currently developing, including the current economic situation, increasing tensions with the EU, the USA, Russia and China, all while being led by a Prime Minister who is holed below the waterline and is no longer fit to govern. I would urge you to take the initiative and break your silence. History will respect those who lead rather than merely follow.
PS: To those like Liz Truss who would say that it is time to ‘move on’, then that is prejudging Sue Gray’s inquiry, precisely the opposite of what the PM is asking us all to do.
Ed: This piece first appeared on the website of Oxford For Europe, www.oxfordforeurope.org. The opinions expressed are those of the author.