The launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a month ago appeared overnight to push “Partygate” coverage down the agenda. But reports that the gears have switched to an election mode in Downing Street suggest the Prime Minister thinks anger over reports of breaches of lockdown rules at Number 10 is a matter shelved rather than closed. This, combined with the expected backlash against the rising cost of living, which the Chancellor’s spring statement failed to combat, has reportedly had some Tories bracing for an awkward round of local elections next month.
‘Partygate’ certainly appears to be coming back into the public eye, with the Metropolitan Police this week beginning to issue 20 fines following their investigation.
A cabinet minister told Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times: ‘It feels like the calm before the storm, Boris’s Phoney War. Churchill also ended in May.
In a bid to stave off that storm, the newspaper reports that Mr Johnson held a number of sessions this week to tighten up new policy proposals and get key numbers “on his side”.
He started the week by discussing next steps with his closest and most experienced advisors.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister hosted a dinner for Tory MPs at the Park Plaza Hotel, where he allegedly joked about the ‘rubber limbs’ who earlier this year called for his resignation.
It didn’t go as well as one might have hoped, with one MP replying: “He’s not out of the woods yet. Elastic has a way to roll back. It is unfinished business.
Politically, meetings have reportedly taken place where new plans for offshore wind farms have been laid out, as well as plans to allow onshore wind farms if the communities around them see their bills decrease as a result.
Other measures that are less likely to pass through the House of Commons also appear likely to be dropped from the next Queen’s Speech, “to satisfy MPs”, according to Mr Shipman.
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The numbers are expected to be even worse when more ‘Partygate’ fines are issued.
Labor seems unsurprisingly ready to jump on the issue as the campaign for the election heats up.
An insider suggested leaflets could say: ‘X number of people died of Covid in this area while Boris Johnson and his aides partied.’
The Conservative Party’s attempts to meddle in its own ‘Partygate’ scandal after Sir Keir Starmer was spotted drinking a bottle of beer in an office while certain restrictions were in place did not appear to be holding up, suggesting the party Labor will not be afraid to go full-throttle with the rhetoric around Tory rule-breaking.
Voting in the local elections will take place on May 5.