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Boris is a hostage to his own MPs

Johnson: trying to please everyone? Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

So far, 20 government staff have been fined by police for attending lockdown parties, says Camilla Cavendish in the FT. One rulebreaker was the head of “propriety and ethics”. Another ran the task force that drew up Covid restrictions. Boris Johnson, we’re told, was given the wrong information by staff about whether parties were actually held – so he didn’t mislead Parliament, despite having attended some of the illicit bashes himself. “You couldn’t make it up.”

Despite all this, “Johnson will survive Partygate”. His staff don’t even think he’ll get a fine. The real consequence is that a leader with an 80-seat majority, “who could use that power to do almost anything, is now a hostage to his own MPs”. Desperate to shore up support, he has gone on a “charm offensive” within the Conservative party. “You can get almost anything,” one MP told me, “as long as you’re the last person to speak to him.” That’s why we’re now debating those “old Tory chestnuts”: the BBC’s licence fee and the privatisation of Channel 4. It’s why there were no onshore wind turbines in the new energy strategy, and why the PM changed his stance on gay conversion therapy within 24 hours of announcing it. There’s nothing wrong with listening to your MPs. But you can’t please all the people all the time. “If to govern is to choose, a prime minister who keeps dodging is not really governing.”