The prime minister wriggles but his repentance doesn’t go deep… and the greedy joys of Stanley (Tucci, not Johnson)

I see the Daily Mail has got on its old rocking horse to defend Boris Johnson after he was fined for attending a lockdown birthday party in Downing Street. They may have to clamber up there again as 12 such parties are being investigated by the Met, quite a few said to have been attended by their disreputable hero.

“Don’t they know there’s a war on?” grumbles the Mail’s headline, like something found in a dusty drawer last opened in 1940.

The subheading above contains the words as “the Left howls for resignations…”

Oh, get off that rocking horse you picked up at the culture wars jumble sale. This has nothing to do with left and right, and everything to do with a prime minister and his cabinet making very strict rules for everyone else during a pandemic, then being caught out having parties while ignoring the strictures everyone else stuck to, sometimes at great personal anguish, with people left unable to visiting dying loved ones.

As for the war in Ukraine, that represents an appalling afront to life and liberty, but a smaller affront is to be found in the way Johnson has grasped this conflict as a something to hide behind, another distraction in a political career littered with convenient diversions and colleagues too willing to provide alibies.

The only reason we don’t talk about the disastrous Brexit he lumbered us with is that the pandemic came along and got in the way. The only reason we don’t talk about the pandemic mistakes he made is that people grew tired, and then the war came along.

Some praised Johnson for visiting Kyiv last weekend to meet Ukrainian PM Volodymyr Zelensky. And it was good to see him there, but you can’t escape the suspicion that however grave the occasion, Johnson will be making personal calculations.

And lo and behold, as the news emerges that he and the Chancellor, Fishy Sunak, had been fined for attending Downing Street parties, members of the cabinet tweet with one voice, praising Johnson’s stance on the war and the pandemic efforts he and Sunak made.

Just like one of those Russian bots, only with a human face. Sorry, strike that – human might be pushing it a bit. But there they all were, arse-licking posts at the ready, with culture wars secretary Nadine Dorries first in line.

It’s always like this in Johnson-land, make a noise, confuse people, bluster and blow, and hope no-one remembers, hope they overlook the unnecessary deaths and the Covid-19 deals done with friends of the Tories; hope they overlook, too, that Sunak wrote off £4.3 billion in furlough fraud – just as he was cutting social benefits and staying shtum about his wife’s tax arrangements.

As Johnson becomes the first UK prime minister to be convicted of breaking the law, do we accept his apology or dismiss this latest bit of sorry-not-sorry as just another dollop of fake contrition.

Perhaps enough people will believe that there are more important matters to worry about right now. And perhaps there are, but none of this should be allowed to go away. Just imagine if a Labour government was in this mess. The hostility from the newspapers would be relentless.

I’d love to see Johnson go as his continued presence is a stain on our national life, but if people are credulous enough to swallow his endless lies and evasions, we are stuck with the dreadful man until his own MPs turn against him.

The US actor Stanley Tucci is the world’s least likely glutton, staying as slim as a whisper while he eats everything in sight, declaring somewhat theatrically “Oh my god!” as he takes another mouthful of Italian grub.

Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy is on the BBC iPlayer and I am doubtless late to the party, but it’s a great programme, a foodie travelogue like those Rick Stein Cornwall programmes or the Hairy Bikers chomping their way through the north.

The scenery is lovely, the food looks amazing, and Tucci charms everyone he meets while tucking into everything in sight. My wife is a big fan. She likes Stanley as he reminds her a little of the man she is married to, being small, bald, and devilishly attractive (well, two out of three isn’t bad).


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