Levelling up hopes shattered by Boris Johnson’s lies, breakdown of trust over ‘partygate’ and Jimmy Savile smears – Tom Richmond

THERE has been much made about the ‘cut and paste’ presentation of parts of the so-called Levelling Up White Paper – and 12 new national ‘missions’ to counter regional inequalities.

Boris Johnson's leadership continues to be called into question.
Boris Johnson's leadership continues to be called into question.

I’m more concerned about the absence of a final target: “A Prime Minister who lies less frequently, particularly to the North, and disowns smear tactics.”

And the reason is this – any good intentions, and there are some despite it taking the Tories 12 years to devise such a plan, are overshadowed by the breakdown of trust emanating from the Downing Street’s ‘partygate’ scandal.

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Not only did Boris Johnson, and his inner circle, break the lockdown laws that they set, but then repeatedly lied about the existence of these parties.

Boris Johnson's leadership continues to be called into question.

Deceitful contempt that would not have been out of place in the White House under President Donald Trump, the limitations on senior civil servant Sue Gray’s update led to totally unedifying exchanges in the Commons.

This saw SNP leader Ian Blackford ruled out of order for calling Johnson a liar; Johnson permitted to make a slanderous slur against Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Ministers effectively dismissing the Gray report as ‘fake news’ in the bizarre view that the Met Police’s decision to investigate 12 parties was a good news day.

And so it goes on with the party of government thinking it is appropriate for a Prime Minister to ‘gaslight’ debate, and deliberately spread false smears and slurs while hiding behind the defence of Parliamentary privilege, marks a desperate new low in British politics.

This was clearly too much for Johnson’s closest policy aide Munira Mirza who quit after the PM’s clumsy non-apology during a levelling up visit to a vintage Blackpool tram – the irony – made matters even worse. “It’s not too late for you, but, I’m sorry to say, it’s too late for me,” she concluded at the end of her resignation letter.

Boris Johnson boarded a vintage tram in Blackpool to showcase the Levelling Up White Paper.

As such, it’s important to acknowledge those Tories who have submitted letters of no confidence in Johnson and said so publicly. It’s also to be hoped that those extremely critical of their leader, like Skipton MP and former chief whip Julian Smith who advised the PM to withdraw the Savile smear, now have the courage to follow suit on the record so a government that rules by deceit, deception and deviousness can be put out of its misery.

And then the country can, once more, turn to the important issues like rebuilding trust and implementing levelling up with meaningful targets and public accountability. For, at present, the dozen mission statements smack of bluster from the House of Lies at 10 Downing Street where the tenant remains one Boris Johnson whose concept of levelling up is refilling the wine glasses at illegal soirées.

FURTHER evidence about the disintegration of standards in Boris Johnson’s London Government was provided by Chris Philp, supposedly a rising star. He’s the Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy at the DCMS – Johnson’s ‘spin’ ministry since the odious Nadine Dorries became Culture Secretary.

And it was his misfortune to appear before the Digital Culture, Media and Sport Committee a day after the PM’s update on Parliament over Sue Gray’s report ‘partygate’ where he slandered Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s integrity over the non-prosecution of the paedophile and TV personality Jimmy Savile.

After establishing Philp was responsible for “online harms”, and, in turn, countering the spread of “fake news”, the SNP MP John Nicolson pointed out that Johnson’s baseless slur was “online disinformation entering the offline world”.

Nicholson went on: “The Culture Secretary (Nadine Dorries) chose to defend the Prime Minister last night and this morning we had the Justice Secretary (Dominic Raab) choosing not to disassociate himself from this completely unproved allegation. As disinformation minister, will you do so now?”

That Philp declined, saying he was not preseent to “debate contentious matters”, was disingenuous because a minister with integrity on this issue would have denounced the PM. Or even resigned.

PERHAPS this is a timely weekend to reappraise Theresa May’s premiership after her withering question to her successor Boris Johnson about his failure to follow lockdown laws.

She came to power, to put it bluntly, on the back of the false promises that Johnson and his Brexiteer cohorts made during the 2016 EU referendum.

And while she did not help herself, like calling a rash election in 2017, she was undermined by Johnson and those who thought implementing Brexit would, to use current parlance, be a piece of cake.

How ironic that David Davis, whose resignation as Brexit Secretary in July 2018 prompted Johnson to follow suit as Foreign Secretary, harbours regrets. “I’m to blame too. I voted for him,” he told broadcaster Andrew Neil when asked about his endorsement of Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest. It’s too late now.

AT least Chancellor Rishi Sunak criticised Boris Johnson’s ‘Savile’ slur against Sir Keir Starmer. “I wouldn’t have said it,” he said. He then wrote in The Sun that the Tories have “always been the party of sound money” and that is the only party that “he’s interested in”.

But why hasn’t he resigned? Two words – James Purnell. He was the Cabinet Minister who quit in 2009 in the hope that others, like David Miliband, would follow him out of the door in a bid to bring down Gordon Brown.

They did not, Labour lost power in 2010 and have been in Opposition ever since, and Purnell soon disappeared from politics. It’s a salutary lesson as Sunak calculates his own options this weekend.

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