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UK politics

Partygate has “debased” Britain’s establishment

Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Partygate has “debased almost every part of the British establishment”, says Bagehot in The Economist. Take the civil service: it might think of itself as a “Rolls-Royce institution”, but its behaviour has been more “Morris Minor”. Martin Reynolds, Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, is supposed to be a “cunning bureaucrat”, but he managed to email 100 people about a “booze-up” during a national lockdown. Sue Gray, the official investigating the parties, is “a backroom fixer notorious among transparency campaigners for blocking freedom-of-information requests”. The Metropolitan Police, whose enforcement of Covid rules has always been “erratic”, trampled over yesterday’s report by saying that publishing the full details would hinder its own investigation into the events.

Then there’s the PM himself. In Parliament yesterday, he lashed out and baselessly accused Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, of failing to prosecute “notorious paedophile” Jimmy Savile. Johnson’s MPs have yet to find the courage to chuck him out – instead, they “soberly declare” that he should resign if he has misled parliament and violated the ministerial code. He will do no such thing: “legally, the code is little more than a PDF on a website”. The unfortunate truth is that “British politics relies on shame to function”. The PM has none. In our “Good Chap” system of government, “a bad chap can go a long way”.

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