It is perfectly true that I supported Boris Johnson- in these Columns and elsewhere - as PM and Leader of my Party, as the Commanding Officer of my Battalion, as the man who secured a record majority in 2019, who delivered on the people’s clear instruction to leave the EU, who fought the Pandemic, and supported the brave resistance of the Ukrainian people amongst many other great achievements. But I always did so with a caveat- that that support was unless and until I heard evidence to the contrary from Sue Gray or from the Privileges Committee.
I am not one of those who will now attack Harriet Harman, Sir Bernard Jenkin or the rest of that Committee nor their report. You don’t shout at the referee just because he has awarded a penalty against your side. They are the properly appointed body tasked with investigating complaints that the PM lied to Parliament; and in one of the clearest reports I have ever read they concluded that he did -on many occasions; and they accordingly handed down a penalty second only to that meted out to Keith Vaz for offering drugs to prostitutes. They are the properly constituted referee and so any lover of our Parliamentary democracy must now fully accept the conclusions to which they came.
Yet widening our gaze a little, we have the last Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn banned from his own party for apparent anti-semitism; we have the longstanding First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon arrested presumably on suspicion of corruption (which makes the current SNP leader the only one never to have been arrested- so far); the last President of the United States faces multiple court cases, at least some of which might result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years, despite being the current hot favourite for the Republican nomination for the next Presidency; the last President of France is in deep trouble and President Berlusconi of Italy (he of the Bunga bunga parties) is dead, and apparently universally mourned across Italy. Tumultuous times on the International political scene indeed.
But beyond all of that we have a full-scale ground war within the borders of Europe and one of the most unstable international landscapes for decades; we have resultant food price inflation, sky-rocketing interest rates, and a world economy struggling to recover from that and from the after effects of a Global Pandemic; we have 1000 people including many children drowning in a desperate attempt to reach the EU for economic sanctuary; we have a host of domestic problems in need of urgent attention (as there always will be.)
So do we really care whether or not Boris ate a birthday cake; are we really fussed about whether or not he should get a pass allowing him access to the staff cafeteria? Are we concerned about someone called Nadine Dorries throwing her toys out of the pram because she failed to get the honour she (and only she) believed she deserves. Are the finer points of the honours system - baubles for princely acolytes - our main topic of breakfast table controversy; are we really bothered about the finer details of Harriet Harman’s report; are these the things that people care about in the real world? I think not. Personality politics of this kind get us nowhere.
So I will most certainly not be voting against the Report on Monday; but nor will I be taking part in the childish playground party politics of name-calling and hero destruction in which the anti-Boris camp are engaged. After much thought I have therefore decided on a principled abstention - not through a lack of decisiveness; but because both sides of the argument -the mud-slingers and the Boris acolytes alike- are bringing the body politic as a whole into disrepute. There is too much going on in the real world for us to be engaging in such childish naval gazing.
I hope that this will be my very last Column on the subject of Boris. His new platform- as a vastly paid Columnist in the Daily Mail- means that we have not heard the last of him; but he will not be back in Parliament. So we say ‘good bye’ to one of the most turbulent, dramatic, dynamic and exciting series of political episodes in our lifetimes. Some will do so with a feeling of ‘good riddance’; others with a deep nostalgia, and a regret for what could have been.