The photographs of Boris Johnson raising a glass tell their own story

At the usual conversion rate, four pictures are worth 4,000 words, and many more words than that will be expended before the furore over lockdown law-breaking in Downing Street dies down. The photographs of Boris Johnson raising a toast to mark the departure of Lee Cain, his deputy director of communications, are damning.

Editorial www.independent.co.uk 

It does not look like the sort of gathering that is reasonably necessary for work, even though there must be some scope to argue that it was, because the Metropolitan Police have not issued Mr Johnson with a penalty notice for it.

The pictures tell their own story, however, which is that the prime minister and his staff had a party at a time when households were not allowed to mix indoors (except in specific circumstances) and when many people made great sacrifices to obey the laws passed by Mr Johnson and his government, supposedly for the benefit of all.

The photographs are proof that the prime minister doesn’t have a shred of honour, which would require him to apologise and resign; but that should have been his course of action when he received a penalty notice – for a different gathering – and admitted that he had broken the law.

Presumably Mr Johnson knew that these photographs and others like them were likely to be published, and has already calculated that if he adopts his hangdog expression and says that he understands people’s pain, and that he paused for only a few seconds to say a few words to rally the troops – who had been working very, very hard – he will get away with it again.

And he may well do. In the end, his survival as prime minister is in the hands of Conservative MPs, who are likely to conclude that now is not the right time to take a bold step into the unknown. The pictures are embarrassing, but among the thousands of words that they will generate will be enough legalistic cavilling and pedantry to keep an army of amateur lawyers busy for months.

There will be much textual analysis of Mr Johnson’s words in the House of Commons on 8 December last year, when he was asked by Catherine West, the Labour MP: “Can the prime minister tell the house whether there was a party in Downing Street on 13 November?”

He replied: “No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.” Was that “No, there was no party”, or no, he could not tell the house? What does the “but” mean? At best, it can be said that the prime minister appeared to be choosing his words carefully, as if he knew perfectly well that some reasonable people might take the view that some of the after-work drinking in Downing Street, in which he had taken part, had broken the law.

The prime minister will no doubt say that the question of whether he knowingly misled parliament is for another day, and for the Commons committee of privileges to consider.

But there are two questions that need to be addressed immediately. One is that the Metropolitan Police must explain its decisions. Perhaps the imminent report by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant, will provide a fuller account of what actually happened in Downing Street during the coronavirus restrictions, but it will not explain why Mr Johnson avoided a penalty notice for the gathering at which the photos were taken while other people who attended were fined.

Nor is it clear, for example, why Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, received a penalty notice for turning up early for a meeting, when he appears to have been literally “ambushed with a cake”. The police must, in the interests of open justice, give a better account of why some people were penalised and others were not.

The other immediate question is for the parliamentary Conservative Party. When Ms Gray’s report is published – within the next few days, unless there are further legal problems – Conservative MPs will have another chance to ask themselves if Mr Johnson can change, or if they must make the change themselves.

Police Commissioner photographed with new Tory candidate – raises questions

Tim comments:

“A Tory councillor in Neil Parish’s old patch has published via Facebook, a set of pictures celebrating the appointment of the Tory candidate for the by-election. In two of the three pictures she is with the Police Commissioner at a police station. The Commissioner is giving her usual smile at the photographer, who is the councillor who then went on to publish the pictures with congratulatory comments.

Whilst Hernandez is not quoted it seems entirely reasonable to interpret the images as a formal approval of the candidate. Is it wise for a Police Commissioner, herself a well-known Tory, to link herself with the congratulations surrounding the selection, especially using a police station in the shot? What explanations could there be for this apparent party political behaviour?

To be fair, I have asked a few questions via an FOI so as to ascertain the fuller facts. I will not use the photos as I would neither wish to condone such use, nor aid the Commissioner in her passion for selfies”.

The relevant facebook link can be found here.

And the FOI here

Two women candidates join battle for Porn MP seat

Labour and Tories announce their candidates.

Helen Hurford for the Tories and Liz Pole for Labour join the battle to seize the seat vacated by shamed MP Neil Parish – who watched pornography in the House of Commons.

Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com

The Labour Party and Conservatives have announced their candidates for the Tiverton & Honiton By Election. Helen Hurford has been selected as the Conservative candidate, while Liz Pole, who fought the 2019 election and came second, is in for Labour. The election takes place on June 23 and was called after Neil Parish quit after being caught watching pornography in the House of Commons.

Helen, a former head teacher who is currently deputy mayor in Honiton, was selected by Conservative members in the constituency on Sunday, May 22. She was selected from a shortlist of three other female candidates.

She says her campaign will focus on delivering on people’s priorities for the area including improving transport links, supporting farmers and businesses. “As someone who was born and bred here, I am thrilled to be selected as the Conservative candidate for Tiverton and Honiton,” Helen said. “I understand what it is like to live and work here and the issues people want addressing across the constituency.

“But most of all, people here want an MP to get on with the job and deliver on their priorities. And like them, I want this constituency to thrive and take all the opportunities we have here. I believe I have unrivalled experience and knowledge of the local communities, education, hospital and health services, transport, and tourism industry – this is my patch. Leading up to Thursday, June 23, I want to show I am the best candidate to represent Tiverton and Honiton and how I will improve lives for families here,” she added.

Liz is a business leader and was Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the constituency in 2019. Liz is a campaigner on rural affairs and has been a Labour Party member since she was 15.

Liz Pole will deliver for all areas of the constituency of Tiverton and Honiton and be a champion for the local community. She said: “It is an honour to be the Labour candidate for Tiverton and Honiton. Times are much tougher than they should be for hardworking people across our constituency.

“We are in a cost-of-living crisis, and in Tiverton and Honiton, real wages will fall by £1,100 this year on average because of spiralling inflation. It’s time we sent a clear message to Boris Johnson that enough is enough, because Tiverton and Honiton, and the country deserve so much better.”

The other candidates who have announced are Richard Foord for the Liberal Democrats and Andy Foan for Reform UK.

PM told by Commons committee to issue 11 corrections to false claims

Boris Johnson has been urged by a Commons committee to issue 11 corrections relating to occasions when he falsely claimed employment is higher now than it was before the pandemic.

The chair of the Commons liaison committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin, issued the effective rebuke to the prime minister after a session in March when Johnson wrongly claimed that he had already corrected the record.

The number of people in payroll employment – working for a company – is higher now than it was before the pandemic. But total employment is lower, because there has been a large fall in the number of people are who self-employed. But this has not stopped Johnson repeatedly telling MPs that overall employment is higher – despite this error being pointed out to him more than once by statistic experts.

In evidence to the committee in March, when asked about this, Johnson said that he thought No 10 had already corrected the record.

In a letter released today, responding to a letter from Johnson following up on points raised during the hearing, Jenkin says Johnson has still not said what he has done to correct the record on this point. He identifies 11 references in Hansard to Johnson telling MPs employment is higher now than before the pandemic. Jenkin goes on:

I would be grateful if you could send the committee a copy of these corrections, once they have been made.

The liaison committee is often seen as the most senior of the Commons committee because its membership comprises the chairs of all select committees. (Guardian Live).