12 January 2022, The Tablet

Another week, another crisis

Boris Johnson’s government


Sometimes it is the smaller things that can bring down the mightiest people. Boris Johnson, facing a daunting host of political challenges ahead and with his own troops restless behind him, his attendance at a garden party or two might seem a disproportionate threat to his position as prime minister. Yet that is what it is becoming. And in a certain way, “partygate”, as the tabloid press calls it, stands for all the other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, most of them self-inflicted, that his government now suffers.

A cost of living crisis is about to overtake it, hitting the poorest hardest. Before Christmas 100 Tory MPs rebelled against relatively minor restrictions on personal liberty designed to contain the spread of the latest Covid variant. The supposed benefits of Brexit have been postponed indefinitely. Johnson’s personal popularity has sunk so low it is almost off the scale. In the midst of all this, it emerges that on 20 May 2020 his principal private secretary, a hitherto anonymous civil servant called Martin Reynolds, had circulated an email to a hundred colleagues inviting them to a social event with drinks in the garden of 10 Downing Street that same evening. It seems clear that Johnson and his wife were among the 30 or so who accepted the invitation. Indeed, the invitation said “we”, implying that the secretary was acting on behalf of his boss.

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