This latest scandal, over a whip MP accused of sexual misconduct, is just one in a long and exhausting line of self-inflicted problems that have plagued Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
And his response to this—his original claim that he was unaware of any official complaints against the official, Chris Pincher, followed by a series of agonizing testimonies and finally an admission that he had in fact known him all along—was a textbook for Johnson. .
Misinformation, omission, obfuscation, dramatization, denial, perversion, attack – his critics say the prime minister’s scheme to deal with the crisis hardly begins, and rarely ends, simply by telling the truth. Instead, he tends to start with denial, going through several tentative confessions in which his past lies are paraphrased as honorable efforts at transparency, and then ends with showing great remorse that he seems to take responsibility for what happened while pointing out that it wasn’t his fault.
Consider how Mr Johnson survived scandal before this one, during raucous parties held at No. 10 Downing Street and other government offices in violation of the strict Covid lockdown rules his government imposed on the rest of the country. Like a defense attorney who has kept all his options open in court, Mr Johnson has published a series of often contradictory statements to explain “Partygate”, as he was called.
“Those were meetings of people at work,” he said at first, when the first team photos came out. “This is where I live, and it is where I work. Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.”
When it emerged that there was a second party, in the garden, and that he had already attended, Johnson’s spokesman first said that the prime minister had not been told in advance that a meeting would take place.
Mr Johnson himself declared that he was aware of the ceremony but mistakenly believed it was a “working event”. Then, echoing Bill Clinton’s famous explanation that “I didn’t inhale” when he was accused of smoking cannabis while in Oxford, the prime minister announced that in any case, he only stayed for 25 minutes.
“No one told me what we were doing was against the rules,” he said. “When I went out to that park I thought I was attending a work event.”
Then, evidence of countless other parties began pouring into the papers so thick and fast that it seemed like not a day had passed when the staff at No. 10 weren’t partying at night. There was one in which Mr. Johnson was photographed with the staff, wearing tinsel and wearing a Santa hat, and another that turned out to be a birthday party held for him, with a cake.
Mr. Johnson continued to repeat, variously, that he knew nothing of anything, and that if he knew he would not have gone, and that people have to work and sometimes do so when wine is present, and that, as far as he knows, no rules have been broken.
He ended up paying a fine for breaching Covid regulations, along with his wife and 81 other people, after police opened an investigation into 12 of the parties.
Mr. Johnson then turned to utter remorse and seemed to believe (correctly, as it turned out) that his apology would be enough to get him off the last hard patch.
After new details emerged of a seven-hour party in Downing Street the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral – a funeral attended by his queen widow, she sat by herself Because of Covid restrictions – Mr Johnson said he was very sorry.
“I am deeply and bitterly sorry that this has happened,” Johnson told the House of Commons. He added, “I can only renew my apologies to both His Majesty and the state for the wrong rulings that were issued, for which I bear full responsibility.”