Play your part, urged Boris Johnson… as the nation threw its Rich Teas at the telly: HENRY DEEDES watches the under-fire Prime Minister announce new Covid curbs
Boris Johnson had his sorrowful face on, the one where his lower jaw hangs open like a drawbridge and the eyes droop with a cuckold’s self-pity.
Oh goodie. Only one thing that could mean. More rules, more nannyish restrictions for the Prime Minister to make and his team to break and so on ad nauseam.
With cases of Omicron on the march, Boris announced he was moving us to Plan B. Covid passports would now be a thing.
As of Monday, we are instructed to work from home again where possible. Or as civil servants refer to it these days: ‘business as usual’.
We were back in the Downing Street briefing room, that same one where the PM’s former press secretary Allegra Strat-ton was filmed making light of lockdown restrictions and giggling coquettishly.
Poor Allegra. Just a couple of hours before, she’d announced a blubbery resignation over the incident.
Boris said it was a ‘sad day for her’ and she would be ‘missed’. After taking the hit for the rest of the aides involved, Miss Stratton may deem his remarks rather scant.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a press conference at Downing Street on Wednesday evening amid rising cases of the Omicron variant in Britain
Stratton gave a statement to reporters from her doorstep in North London on Wednesday, announcing she was handing her resignation to the Prime Minister
How did people watching at home feel as he yanked away our liberties once again, knowing what we do of Downing Street’s ‘cheese and wine’ soirees? Miffed, I would say.
Certainly Boris urging everyone to ‘play your part’ will have had a few throwing the Rich Teas at the television.
It’s even not clear the PM will get his own party to swallow these plans. Over in the Commons, Health Secretary Sajid Javid was having a heck of a job selling it to Tory backbenchers.
‘Can he give me any reason at all why I shouldn’t tell my constituents to treat these rules in exactly the same way that Number 10 Downing Street treated last year’s rules?’ pondered Philip Davies (Con, Shipley). He wasn’t the only one.
There was a similarly mutinous flavour on those benches at PMQs earlier, where Boris got a predictable monstering.
Even the friendly cheers which greeted his arrival felt contrived, like canned laughter on a TV comedy show. Adulation at its most orchestrated.
For the true mood among Tories you just had to look at their expressions. Lips were pursed, arms tightly folded.
Die-hard football fans who’ve reluctantly stayed to witness another 5-0 drubbing to the bitter end.
Boris Johnson (centre), Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance (right) as the Government introduced further Covid measures
A leaked recording from Downing Street showed staff laughing about a party allegedly held at Number 10 amid lockdown restrictions last Christmas
There was something synthetic, too, about the Prime Minister’s apology for the footage of Stratton revealed the night before.
He, too, was ‘sickened and furious’ he said. He still denied any party took place but announced Cabinet Secretary Simon Case would be launching an investigation.
How confident should we feel about Case’s sleuthing skills? As memory serves, he was charged with hunting down the so-called Downing Street ‘chatty rat’ and unearthed precisely nothing. He’s possibly more Clouseau than Columbo.
Presented with such a plethora of attack lines, even Sir Keir Starmer couldn’t stuff this one up.
Six times he berated the PM about the party. Six times he sent Boris’s middle stump cartwheeling. It was like watching Rory Burns’s golden duck in the Ashes earlier that morning on repeat.
Labour’s benches delighted in seeing the PM squirm. Starmer’s new favourite autobot Wes Streeting, his setting stuck permanently on auto-slave, waved his arms and pumped his legs excitedly.
The Prime Minister has pushed the button on Plan B coronavirus curbs amid fears that Omicron could be causing 1,000 hospital admissions a day by the end of the year
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had to advise him to power down a bit. Jess Phillips (Lab, Birmingham Yardley) made little cheerio gestures. Deputy leader Angela Rayner had even got a special Bet Lynch hairdo.
Respite for the PM finally arrived when Ian Blackford heaved himself to his feet. Blackford’s stun gun oratory nullified the braying atmosphere.
He called upon Boris to stand down which didn’t produce the stir he might have hoped. Perhaps because he makes the same demand every month.
The real lemon in the wound came when the PM’s own backbencher, William Wragg (Con, Hazel Grove), angrily suggested the idea of Covid passports was a ‘diversionary tactic’ from the Camembert and claret hoo-haa.
Around the chamber there came gasps and a collective sucking-in of breath. Mr Wragg’s arrow had been aimed directly at the PM’s heart. It struck bullseye.
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