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KEZIA DUGDALE: Sue Gray report just made it harder to get Boris Johnson out of Number 10

Boris Johnson isn't ready to bid farewell to Downing Street just yet. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Shutterstock.
Boris Johnson isn't ready to bid farewell to Downing Street just yet. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Shutterstock.

What’s the point in being angry? Where did it ever get you? The publication of Sue Gray’s report has told us what we already knew, that rules were consistently broken by the people who made them.

More than 120 times by more than 80 different people. All of whom work, live, or do both things in the most powerful building in the country.

They partied long in to the night. A night which became the morning of the day the Queen mourned her husband, with no one by her side.

They excused drinks during working hours because work never ended. Something every nurse, doctor and hospital porter scarred by the pandemic must baulk at, knowing they were counting bodies – not empties – before they went home at night.

They drunk so much that one person threw up and others ended up in fisticuffs.

Someone broke a swing in the garden.Others socially distanced on each other’s laps while they sang karaoke.

They laughed long into the night, mostly at us.

The Sue Gray report means we know that for sure now, but we expected as much long before.

‘The only way to get him out of office is to beat him’

This Partygate story has dominated so much of our political debate in 2022.

We may not like how it has concluded, with the Prime Minister just apologising again, before moving on to the next item of business.

Boris Johnson speaks at the press conference in Downing Street following the publication of the Sue Gray report. Photo: Leon Neal/PA Wire.

But at least it’s over, freeing up more time to spend on the tide of poverty that’s set to overwhelm millions of our fellow citizens.

Sir Keir Starmer was keen to make clear in his response to the Prime Minister that not all politicians are the same.

He said: “When the dust settles and the anger subsides this report will stand as a monument to the hubris and arrogance of a Government that believed it was one rule for them and another for everyone else.”

The cost of living crisis that’s bedding in right now and set to worsen, is a chance for him to prove it.

The only thing that will see this Prime Minister removed from office is him establishing himself and his party as a credible, popular alternative to this Government.

Nothing else will. Not the Sue Gray report, not the Standards Commission, not the PM’s front bench, back bench, nor even his own sense of integrity.

He’s staying put.

The only way to get him out of office is to beat him. And all of his opponents need to focus on that and only that.

Public anger has damaged all the parties

It won’t be easy for Keir Starmer, because he will need to craft policies that don’t just deal with the worst of the poverty, inequality and insecurity is faced with.

He will also have to offer a sense of hope, prosperity and opportunity.

People don’t want to hear how hard life is just now, they know that all too well.

They want to know and believe that tomorrow can and will be better.

And that job just got harder.

Labour leader Keir Starmer responds to Boris Johnson’s statement following the publication of the Sue Gray report. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire.

It will take good ideas, good policies and good leadership, but that alone is not enough.

Because the evidence suggests that most of us have long concluded that they are all largely the same.

Early polling suggests Partygate is damaging for all parties. And regardless of the conclusion of Durham police, Keir’s curry reaffirms the conclusion the public have already arrived at.

Yes the public are angry, but they are also not that surprised.

And because they are not that surprised, it’s hard to see how this period of controversy will materially change how people vote in the next general election.

Disengaged voters suit the Conservatives

There are two Westminster by-elections coming up, both caused by the inappropriate conduct of Conservative politicians.

One is in jail tonight and for the next 18 months, the other has quit to spend more time with his tractor porn.

Each of these electoral contests will be dominated by the Partygate pictures we see today.

But by-elections are unique events that capture a moment in time.

There’s every chance the world will have moved on by the time of the next general election.

The opposition’s ability to beat this UK Government just got a whole heap harder, because the most likely outcome now is that people will just disengage from the political process.

Disengagement – not apathy – will drive turnout down and that favours the status quo.

The Conservatives have long known that and are pretty comfortable with it.

It partly explains why they are not clamouring for the PM’s resignation tonight.

Boris Johnson: the man who got away with it

It’s wrong to call it apathy, because people do care, they just don’t think they can change it.

Rehabilitating the belief that they can is the opposition’s first and foremost task.

And it’s one I don’t envy.

In one of the many emails published in Sue Gray’s report, the PM’s Principal Private Secretary, Martin Reynolds, writes after one party: “We seem to have got away with it.”

It’s arguably the story of the Prime Minister’s life.

And it’ll likely be the story of the next election without a gargantuan shift in fortunes and focus.


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