The presumption of innocence is one of the most sacred principles of English Law. The very distinguished and impartial civil servant Sue Gray is currently finding out the facts about the alleged Downing Street parties. It is just as wrong to come to some kind of conclusion (or verdict or sentence) during that process as it would be to publicly punish an alleged criminal before his trial. So I will not be tempted to do so. The Prime Minister is the Prime Minister – duly chosen by the Conservative Party to be our Leader; and by a record majority by the whole electorate to be our PM only two years ago. So Conservative MPs continue to support him.
However, without prejudging the outcome of Sue Gray’s investigation, there are a few principles which it is worth reiterating.
First, the Lockdown rules were very plain, and very strictly enforced. Any breach of them by No 10 civil servants or politicians is unacceptable and would have to be punished in the most stringent way. As I very well know from my constituents, people went through all kinds of terrible tragedies and awful discomforts during Lockdown; yet most people adhered to the rules pretty rigorously. So if proven, it would be simply unacceptable for those who make the rules simultaneously to be ignoring them.
Second, the public are - perfectly reasonably - demanding clarity and transparency on all of these events. The PM has apologised for attending what he describes as ‘a works event’ on the 20th May. We know no more details of the way in which that event was organised nor whether it was acknowledged to be a ‘party’. However, by the PM’s own admission, it was in breach of the Covid rules, for which he has apologised. Incidentally, and before you ask, I knew nothing about any such party, and spent Lockdown in Wiltshire recovering from my hip replacement operations. If they happened, these parties seem to have been for civil servants, and perhaps politicians who work in No 10. They were not ‘Tory Party’ events as some have suggested.
Third, democracy and the rule of law; respect for Parliament and government, demand honesty and clarity to a higher level than any other public or private bodies. People in power must lead by example and must be wholly honest and straightforward in doing so. Dissembling to Parliament or the media or elsewhere is unacceptable. The truth must be the disinfectant of our Augean stables.
So all we can do for now is wait. I will not join the kangaroo court posse; nor will I criticise someone about whose misdeeds I have no knowledge or evidence.
But you can be certain that if any of these allegations are found to be true, and if the PM or other senior people are shown to have been involved, then our support for them will, without doubt, disappear.