The Daily Telegraph

The PM buys time at cost of public mockery by admitting he’s an idiot

- Juliet Samuel

So which is it to be, Prime Minister: are you a criminal or an idiot? Faced with the choice, Boris Johnson made the only choice he could: he pled the fool. What other conclusion can we draw from his explanatio­n of what happened on May 20, 2020?

He was apparently unaware that his entire department was throwing what appears to be an illegal lockdown party, and when he did spy the kerfuffle in his garden, popped out to say hello and then bumbled back inside none the wiser. If this account is true – which is unlikely – it only raises questions about his competency to govern.

Yet there is a cynical rationale behind playing dumb: Mr Johnson’s statement to Parliament was not just a PR move. It was the testimony of a suspect trying to make it hard for the police to nail him.

As Mr Johnson must realise, admitting that he knew his chief civil servant Martin Reynolds was hosting a

party could make him an accomplice to a crime and getting fined for breaking his own lockdown rules would surely (surely?) be a political extinction event. So he chose to claim ignorance, in the hope that he can ride this out.

It is to be his last line of defence, as all the others crumble before him.

Determined­ly, the truth has marched past the Schrödinge­r’s party defence, in which an event may or may not have happened, depending upon Sue Gray’s observatio­n of it. Forthright­ly, it has breached the second line, in which Mr Johnson did not know about any event that may or may not have happened.

Heroically, it has ploughed through the third line, in which the Prime Minister was assured that any event

that might have happened must have been within the rules. And at last, it has reached the castle keep – Mr Johnson’s own private thoughts – where it is revealed that he did indeed observe an unknowable event, but did not know what it was he saw. And though this may hold the police at bay, it cannot obscure the bleedin’ obvious from everyone else. The obvious answer is that Mr Johnson knew what was going on and thought little of it, because he knew his own laws were so ridiculous that they ought to be ignored.

The question for him now is not what happened, but how long his ministers and MPS can stand the humiliatio­n of having to pretend that something else happened instead.

Perhaps some great new success or national emergency will arrive to relieve the pressure. Or perhaps he’ll be hit again soon by the revelation of yet another quantum gravity-defying drinks party that both did and didn’t happen.

The damage, however, is done. His claim to ignorance might get the Prime Minister out of legal trouble, but to the public, it only invites mockery on top of rage.

‘Though this may hold the police at bay, it cannot obscure the bleedin’ obvious from everyone else’

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