The partygate debacle has put Conservative MPs under pressure on camera as they attempt to defend the beleaguered PM and add some justification to the whole sorry affair.
Here’s a run-down of the most excruciating interviews with Tory politicians on the scandal that has shaken British politics, dominated the headlines for weeks, and put Boris Johnson’s premiership on the rocks.
1- Nadine Dorries: ‘Am I bovvered?’
It is quite something when one person’s actions result in another person – fictional or otherwise – trending on Twitter.
Nadine Dorries’ painful interview with Channel 4 News, whereby the culture secretary struggled to defend Boris Johnson, resulted in Dorries being compared to Catherine Tate’s stroppy teenage character, Lauren. The disastrous interview with presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy focused on the PM’s attempt to distract from the partygate controversy by accusing Keir Starmer of failing to prosecute paedophile Jimmy Saville.
Dorries’ bumbling response, whereby she repeatedly shook her head and rolled her eyes, insisting that she didn’t “know the details” and that the “prime minister tells the truth,” resulted in the interview going viral and Tate’s much-loved character, Lauren, and her famed “Am I bovvvered” catchphrase, doing the rounds on social media.
2- Rachel Maclean: Describes the PM’s actions as a “lapse in judgement” and the outcry an “opposition-led campaign”
Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Live show in the immediate aftermath of PMQs, in which Johnson apologised for spending 25 minutes at a garden party and claimed he thought it was a work event, the home office minister came under fire for her attempts to defend the PM.
Despite widespread public outcry to a leaked email published by IVC News inviting staff to the party and telling them to “bring their own booze,” Maclean claimed the issue was an “opposition driven campaign.” The Conservative MP for Redditch downplayed suggestions that Johnson should resign, saying: “No of course I don’t think he should resign. This is clearly an opposition-driven campaign.”
The excruciating interview sparked an embarrassed response, with former Tory MP Anna Soubry chiming in, tweeting during the interview: “Could someone tell Rachel McClean she’s making things worse and should stop digging now – she’s embarrassing herself.”
Mclean’s comments were made worse when she suggested the prime minister should follow his own laws, saying:
“The law of the land applies to everyone. Including the prime minister. The people that make the laws are also subject to the laws.”
3- Paul Scully: Struggles to defend Johnson over the Sue Gray report
Business minister Paul Scully clashed with Newsnight presenter Emma Barnett over the findings in Sue Gray’s partial report.
In another awkward interview over the scandal, Barnett refused to accept the faults lay solely with No. 10 and not Johnson, citing the words of Gray’s report that there was a “failure of leadership.”
Scully somewhat desperately asserted that No. 10 was a “big organisation”, saying: “I know it’s really frustrating – it’s frustrating for me, it’s frustrating for you in the media.”
To which Barnett interjected: “I’m not frustrated. We just know that parties were happening at 10 Downing Street – we know it now.
“How can the prime minister expect the people of this country to trust him when there were parties going on in Downing Street where the man lived and worked?”
People took to Twitter to share their approval of the interview.
“You won’t see better scrutiny of politicians than @EmmaBarnett’s demolishing of Tory minister Paul Scully tonight.
“Outstanding journalism,” read one tweet
4- Dominic Raab: Downing Street is a “cockpit for people working phenomenally hard under phenomenal strain
Raab caused upset when, in yet another car-crash interview by the Tories, he described the environment at 10 Downing Street as a “cockpit for people working phenomenally hard under phenomenal strain.”
The deputy prime minister’s attempts to offer some sort of justification to the partygate chaos, were made during an interview with Sky News.
Amongst the most peeved about the comments were NHS workers, who, in response, shared gruelling stories about the people under phenomenal strain during the pandemic.
5- Boris Johnson: Nobody told me it was a party
One of of the most agonising car-crash interviews of recent weeks has to belong to the PM himself.
In an interview with Sky News, Johnson was asked whether he had lied to the public and parliament in relation to a party that he thought was a work event. After an apologetic start to the interview, the PM proceeded to attempt to defend himself by saying “nobody told me what we were doing was against the rules,” later repeating that “categorically nobody told with it was a breach of rules.”
The interview naturally sparked a mix of anger and ridicule, with mock memes, songs, comments and other parody content circulating online, deriding the prime minister’s pathetic attempt to defend his actions.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward.
As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.
We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.