When Boris Johnson parted company with Dominic Cummings at the end of last year, it was inevitable there would be trouble further down the line. To pick a fight with one of Britain’s most formidable campaigners and his allies was always going to have consequences. It’s now becoming clear what they are.
Some of the revelations from Johnson’s enemies are quotable: for example, the allegation that he said in private he’d rather let ‘bodies pile high’ than allow a third lockdown. But what he said in anger, or what he considered doing, matters a lot less than what he actually did. That’s why the most serious question he’s facing is about the financing of the renovation of the Downing Street flat. The Electoral Commission has launched a formal investigation, on the basis that ‘there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred’. The Commission will want to know if Johnson asked the Tory party to pay before he personally refunded the £58,000. Were the rules broken?
The other question, of course, is how many more allegations are to come. The Prime Minister’s partnership with Dominic Cummings was one of the most productive and consequential in recent British politics: neither Brexit nor the 2019 general election victory could have been achieved without them working together. The pair have now turned on each other with the brutality that only those who were once the closest of allies can muster. Johnson, as the elected politician, is the one with far more to lose.
It would be reasonable to expect such accusations would put the Prime Minister in grave electoral peril. But there is a striking confidence among Tories about next week’s local election results — in England at least. One ministerial ally of Johnson is even bullish about the Tories winning Hartlepool, a seat which has always been Labour.