Nothing to see here
While the PM is on a visit to Northumberland Downing Street suggests there is no need for further scrutiny of his flat refurb.
For starters, why was Johnson absent from today’s debate on the Paterson fiasco and independent scrutiny of MPs' behaviour? A previously-arranged visit to a hospital apparently — how very convenient! But, hang on, couldn’t he have got back to London in time to participate in the debate? Well, no, you see, erm, because the train timetable wouldn’t get him back in time. Ah, but he flew back from COP26 in Glasgow to attend a private dinner in London. Yes, and look what a fuss that caused! (At which point you begin to feel like Alice through the looking glass.)
For seconds, who the hell do Downing Street (whoever the person or persons hiding behind that synecdoche may be in this case) think they are to tell the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in the House of Commons, Kathryn Stone, what she can and can’t look into? In the case of the PM’s official flat above number 11 Downing Street, the issue of precisely who paid for what, and why, still hasn’t been satisfactorily answered. Nor has the more recent declaration, without costings, of the holiday stay in the Goldsmith family’s swanky Marbella villa after Johnson gave Zac a peerage and a junior ministerial position. Then there’s the new revelation that virtually every donor who gave more than £3million to Tory Party funds got a peerage (if I was one of the ones that didn’t I’d be seriously pissed off)*. There’s plenty to be investigated and the metonymic ‘Downing Street' should butt out and let Ms Stone get on with her job unimpeded and unharried.
With every twist and turn (or is it wriggle and squirm — as with a worm on a fish hook?) this saga gets more and more Byzantine and bizarre, and ever-less edifying. The level of ineptitude in handling this totally unnecessary and avoidable scandal has been breathtaking. These people are charged with running the country in one of its most difficult phases since the end of the Second World War, with Brexit, Covid, COP26 and climate change to deal with, along with economic recovery, inflation, rising energy costs, pensions, plus the ever-present, and as-yet unresolved, care crisis.
If you can find a whelk stall anywhere these days, please refer whoever’s running it to Downing Street urgently to arrange a swap.
*The police are now deciding whether to investigate this matter as a potential 'cash for honours' scandal