Does anyone else feel uncomfortable with the idea of the police investigating the elected government? I have laughed and fumed at partygate as much as the next upstanding citizen of the United Kingdom. I’ve moaned to mates about the PM partying on the same day I sat in a park with one other person and several tinnies. I’ve shared all those memes featuring Boris looking dishevelled as he ‘comes down from another house party’ or showing bright nightclub lights blaring inside Downing Street as cops stand nonchalantly at the door.
But the Metropolitan Police snooping around the seat of political power? The unelected armed wing of the state poring over the antics of the executive wing, led by a man voted into power by 14 million of us? I think it’s safe to say partygate has gone too far. What started as a legitimate media query into whether government officials broke their own rules has morphed into something more authoritarian, more vengeful, and more threatening to the democratic process than an illicit cheese-and-wine party could ever be.
It is very clear now that partygate is no longer a neutral, cool examination of what the folks in Downing Street did or didn’t do on those long lockdown days and nights. No, it has become something more akin to political skulduggery, a knife-flashing act of establishment revenge against a PM who many of these people love to loathe.
It isn’t a plot per se. The Boris-bashers of the cultural and media elites, of the BBC and the Twitterati, of the Corbynista and Guardianista sets, did not get together in a smoky room to mastermind the downfall of Mr Brexit, the ‘hard right’ loon who stalks their fevered nightmares. But they know an opportunity when they see one. And they spy in partygate an unmissable chance to do what they failed to do at the ballot box.
Ulterior motives abound in this jumped-up scandal. We have Dominic Cummings behaving like a mad spurned lover, doing the political equivalent of cutting up your suits with scissors and hurling them from the window while screaming about how you broke his heart. Look, I don’t mind Dom – politics needs more people who aren’t quite all there – but if you think he’s in this for the good of the nation then I have a monkey NFT you might be interested in.
Then there’s the Beeb. What kind of public broadcaster spends more harping on about a Zoom quiz that took place a year ago than it does reporting on looming war in Ukraine, the already arrived energy crisis here in the UK, and, you know, the fact that vast swathes of the world are still reeling from two years of pandemic, lockdown and an unprecedented halt on travel and trade?
Nick Robinson says it would be ‘absurd’ for the BBC to ignore partygate. Sure. It is equally absurd, though, to obsess over it so fanatically. We know what’s motoring this: BBC bigwigs’ out-of-touch animosity towards one of the most enthusiastically elected PMs of modern times.
And how about diehard Remainers, our very own version of those Japanese soldiers who carried on fighting the Second World War in remote forests into the 1970s? If it turns out Boris was lying about the parties then that would ‘prompt questions’ over the Brexit campaign too, says Michael Heseltine. ‘If Boris goes, Brexit goes’, says Lord Adonis.
Horrified as I am by this hostility to Brexit, I almost admire their zealotry. Oh Lord, give me something to feel as committed to as these people are to the overthrow of the largest democratic vote in the history of our nation.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland spelt it out in black and white. ‘Brexit is the virus. Boris Johnson was only ever its most visible carrier’, he says. There you have it, folks – politically they want to kill Boris, but it’s the ‘virus’ he is carrying that is really in their sights: Brexit, our vote to leave the EU.
Can we take a moment to reflect upon this description of an act of democracy as a virus? I can’t be the only person who finds such brazen 19th-century elitism, such naked contempt for the people’s faithfully expressed democratic wishes, far more repellant than the sight of a hypocritical Downing Street staffer chugging wine with friends while the rest of us sat with one mate in a tiny garden.
Partygate has been utterly corrupted by the machinations of media types, political activists and sections of the middle classes who are still smarting from the 2016 referendum and the 2019 General Election. Many of them may well be lockdown squares, but their partygate motivation is not to uphold ‘the rules’ – it’s to take down the elected leader of this country and the fairly voted for break with the European Union. And now the cops are sticking their beaks in, turning the heart of power in Brexit Britain essentially into a crime scene.
Enough. This has to stop. Did government officials break the rules? Sure. Whatever. Who cares? The media and activist obsession with breaking Boris, Brexit and our democratic wishes is far more offensive and dangerous.