“I think that Boris Johnson is finished anyway."
After Boris Johnson’s disastrous appearance before the Privileges Committee yesterday, where he tried desperately to convince MPs that he did not deliberately mislead the House over lockdown breaking parties in Downing Street, a number of Tory MPs think any chance of a comeback for the former Tory leader is now dead.
When confronted with the evidence yesterday of Downing Street parties while strict lockdown rules were in place, Johnson tried to claim that boozy leaving drinks were an essential pandemic activity.
In what was an excruciating appearance for the former Prime Minister, Johnson tried to claim that the 2-metre rule could be reduced to one – with mitigations: screens, masks and the like.
Questions were then asked as to why he was less than 2 metres away from colleagues without such mitigations. His reply: “You don’t see Perspex screens there, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t sanitiser and efforts to restrict the spread of Covid.”
The Committee and most of the public will not be convinced by his answers. Johnson made matters worse for himself when he tried to claim that the events were all work-related. “I will believe until the day I die that it was my job to thank staff for what they had done,” he said of a leaving do.
Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin finished off Johnson’s flimsy defence in methodical detail, asking whether he would’ve said at a Covid press conference that “unsocially distanced farewell gatherings could be held in the workplace”.
At one point Jenkin told Johnson: “The guidance does not say you can have a thank you party and as many people as you want”.
Reacting to Johnson’s appearance, Tory MP Caroline Nokes told ITV yesterday that his hopes of a return to Downing Street are in ruins.
She said: “I think that Boris Johnson is finished anyway.
“I think there was a very clear message from his own ministers back in the summer that they didn’t want him to carry on.
“He didn’t choose to stand against Rishi Sunak back in the autumn when we had the second leadership challenge.
“As far as I’m concerned, Boris Johnson is not coming back as prime minister.”
One Tory MP told Playbook after the hearing: “330 of us were only reminded why we never want him back” and another said that “Boris has torched his future.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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