Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Boris throws his staff under the bus

(Parliament TV)

What possible lines of defence could the Prime Minister come up with after the leaking of footage showing his Downing Street aides joking about a party he has spent the past week insisting didn’t happen? From the moment ITV broadcast the clip, the No. 10 Christmas party was a dead cert as the sole topic at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Almost as much of a certainty was that Boris Johnson would respond by getting other people to take responsibility for him.

This is precisely what he did, using a question prior to his exchanges with Sir Keir Starmer to try to get out in front of the matter. He told the chamber he was ‘also furious to see’ the video, and ‘I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives’. A change in stance from the Prime Minister: he hoped that the story would just fizzle out if he toughed it out with denials. What he then said followed the pattern Johnson has always stuck to when in deep crisis: to get someone else to carry the can. He said: ‘I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken. And that is what I have been repeatedly assured.’

It is worth remembering that this leak would not have emerged had the Prime Minister been able to tell the truth from the outset

So the Prime Minister would rather claim to the Commons that he has no idea what is going on within No. 10 and that his own staff could have been lying to him. In order to find out whether the latter is the case, he has asked the Cabinet Secretary to launch an investigation, and promised the chamber that necessary disciplinary action would be taken.

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