2022 – Boris Johnson, the party animal, transcends the standards of public life | Andrew Rawnsley

sImagine the vile scene the cleaners faced the next morning at night earlier and witnessed the drunk and perverted Downing Street residents. Wine stains on the walls. pools of sick people. Empty containers spilled. Piles of party waste on the floor. The heart of the government, the place where one hopes most for sobriety amid the pandemic, has been turned into a nightclub strewn with vomit. The only heroes in Sue Gray’s investigation into the Partigate are the security guards who were mistreated while trying to break up illegal gatherings and the cleaners who had to clean the wound.

Now try to imagine scenes of late-night drinking, vomiting, fights, vandalism and lawbreaking ranked tenth under every other prime minister. You can not. There was nothing like it in the era of the predecessors of Boris Johnson. The personality of organizations is greatly influenced by the example of the person at the top. When this person is Mr. Johnson, a selfish, arrogant, low-key, immoral, rule-breaking narcissistic culture emerges that combines arrogance and arrogance in the true spirit of Bullingdon Club.

During his tenure, not only the building was destroyed, but also the reputation of the high position was plundered. Tory MPs understand this much more than the minority who have called for his resignation. Ask them why, then, they don’t use their power to remove it, and some will tell you it was because Gray’s report was “lack of a powerful weapon.”

Hey guys seriously? How many Smoking Guns do you need? Partying in Downing Street was plentiful during some of the pandemic’s deadliest waves, when lockdown rules were at their most stringent. They were often initiated or accompanied by elderly people in the building. We have a picture of the Prime Minister standing beside a table full of bottles of wine and spirits at one of the parties he pledged over and over before Parliament ever convened. I challenge him to try his last silly argument that part of his “leadership” role was to participate in drunken farewell letters to departing staff in front of anyone forbidden to hold the hand of a dying family member. 83 people have admitted to breaching lockdown rules in Downing Street. A total of 126 fines have been imposed, making number 10 the most banned Covid address in the country.

Not only did they break the law, the Gray Report provided enough evidence that they knew they were doing so. An official advised Christmas party attendees to walk out the back door to avoid being detected by the paparazzi. A special advisor warned colleagues not to see them “walking around, waving wine bottles etc” in front of a gathering, as it was due to come right after a televised press conference urging the public to abide by Covid rules. Another Downing Street worker sent an email saying “Your drinks are not drinks”. One of the Spin doctors on the premises worries that the infamous “bring your own booze party” poses “some contact risk”. The organizer of that gathering, Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s private secretary, later sent a WhatsApp message saying “it looks like we’ve gotten rid of that”.

There you have the spirit of Downing Street under the filthy administration of Mr. Johnson. See what you can get. His motto in life became the decadent dogma of the number 10.

Gray’s report is also a sharp indictment of the officials involved. Mr. Reynolds, nicknamed ‘Party Marty’, is said to be lining up to be our next man in Riyadh. Sending him to Saudi Arabia, which takes a hard line against illegal drinking, would show the State Department’s sense of humor. Many others wonder why he continues to work in public service. The same question is asked of Simon Kiss, Cabinet Secretary. This role traditionally requires the ability to “tell the truth to those in power,” warning ministers, including the prime minister, when they cross a border. But either Case was too weak to defy such disgusting infractions, or he was an accomplice in the corrupt culture that the Gray Report so rightly denounces. Sure enough, the only reason Case and Reynolds are still on taxpayer-funded salaries is this: they can’t be fired without making it all the more infuriating that Johnson is still in the job.

No matter how long he has been in this position, we can already be sure of one of the defining legacies of his prime ministership. It is the history trash of the good man theory of government. This phrase was coined by Peter Hennessy, the eminent historian, to describe the belief that Britain could surmount unwritten conventions about how politicians should act, rather than hard and fast rules, because our politics was filled with honest people who could count on doing the right thing. If this theory is at all true, it has been tested by the villain who still sits in tenth place, despite being a lawbreaker who has repeatedly told Parliament the lies. We must now adopt the “bad government theory,” which posits that some politicians will behave repugnantly unless they are prevented from doing so by aggressively enforced laws.

I don’t have the space to list all the things that need to be done to purge our public lives once the Johnson regime is gone. Today I will highlight three particularly important reforms. Ministerial regulations and civil service regulations should be tightened and their oversight placed in independent hands. The special investigations that were made to avoid pressure and that were conducted by the officials were unsatisfactory.

As a civil servant, Gray could not assess whether the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary, and her chiefs, were fit to continue in their positions. The Independent Adviser to Ministerial Interests, occupied by Christopher Gedet, is also ineffective. He can only investigate violations of the law with the permission of the prime minister, who can simply ignore the chancellor’s rulings, as Johnson did when former chancellor Priti Patel was found guilty of bullying. Evidence can be withheld from the Counsellor, as Lord Gedet discovered when he attempted to investigate Wallpapergate. The remedy is to implement the proposal of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, when it made 34 sound recommendations to improve the integrity of the government. We need a true independent regulator of ministerial conduct, with the power to initiate investigations, require that evidence be presented and the findings be fully published without the intervention of Number 10.

Money talks in politics. The Owen Patterson stigma, the Greensall affair and the Covid contract scandal show that rules on influence and conflicts of interest are very flimsy and that there is little transparency about who is in government. There are guidelines on what jobs politicians and civil servants can take after they leave government, but the Guardian is toothless. This moderator should be given legal authority and meaningful penalties against those who break the rules.

MEPs must reaffirm the basic principle that ministers who intentionally mislead Parliament must resign. The House of Commons has only gone part of the way by referring Mr Johnson to the Concessions Committee. Even if the Tory majority finds him guilty of lying to Parliament, there is no guarantee that he will not try to hold out.

Tougher laws and enforcement will help rid our policies of unethical behavior. The cultural change is the most important, so that the guiding star does not pass through parliamentary and ministerial life, but honesty. This has to be managed from the top, so obviously it will never happen while Johnson is still around. MPs have waited to leave Westminster for recess before issuing a rewritten and watered-down version of the Ministerial Act, removing from the preamble the previous injunction on members of government to act with honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability. Just when you think he can’t lower the standards of public life any further, that rude prime minister goes and proves you wrong.

You can wipe wine stains off walls and vomit off carpets. It’s our government agencies that need a deep cleaning once the party animal finally gets lost at number 10.

Andrew Rawnsley is the Observer’s chief political commentator