At long last Paul Holmes has made a statement in relation to lockdown parties in Downing Street, after reports first emerged towards the end of last year.
“The Prime Minister will be aware that Eastleigh was formed as a railway town and, from producing locomotives and carriages to building gliders for the D-day landings, Eastleigh has a proud railway heritage. Given that pedigree, its excellent transport links and the need to level up the south, does he agree that Eastleigh would make the perfect home for the new headquarters of Great British Railways?”
You might be wondering what that has to do with his views on government parties during the pandemic. The only relevance is that this was Paul’s contribution during Prime Minister’s Questions today, which was dominated by Boris Johnson’s admission that he had in fact attended one of the parties during lockdown after all.
Paul claims that he was merely trying to secure money, jobs and investment for Eastleigh. Even if you believe that he wasn’t just providing friendly cover for the Prime Minister during a difficult PMQs, Paul appears to be appealing to the Prime Minister to influence the new railway headquarters decision when there is meant to be some sort of competition for towns to submit bids. That’s an interesting approach on the day that the government’s VIP lane for PPE contracts was found to be unlawful.
Interestingly Paul had previously suggested to the Deputy Chief Whip that the competition should be cancelled in favour of Eastleigh. He also said this in that debate:
“I did notice, however, that I still have not received a Christmas card from him—[Interruption.] which is shocking. No doubt—I ask him to comment—that is an indication of my standing in his little black book in the Whips Office.”
I don’t think Paul need worry about his standing with the whips after today!
Anyway, I assume Paul will eventually stop ignoring the issue and actually make a statement. I’ll add a link, or the text, here when he does.
Update: Paul Holmes’ actual statement!
Paul finally got around to posting a statement on his website today!
“I know many constituents have contacted me about the recent revelations regarding events in Downing Street.
First and foremost, I want to make it clear that I have not attended any parties in Downing Street myself.”
It’s telling that he starts by clarifying that he wasn’t at the parties. He knows it was wrong.
“The reports we have all seen in the news are deeply disappointing. Not only do I understand your anger and frustration about the reported parties in Downing Street, I share that anger and frustration.”
The Prime Minister said he understood the anger back in December last year: “May I begin by saying that I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No. 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures?” We had to wait a very long time to hear something similar from Paul.
“These reports raise serious questions about the conduct of people working in Downing Street and like you, I want answers to these questions. I believe Sue Gray’s report will address these points. While I welcome the Prime Minister’s apology, I also believe he needs to address these concerns.”
Paul seems to be playing his part in Operation Save Big Dog already, deflecting blame from the Prime Minister to “people working in Downing Street”. Classy.
Paul was so slow writing his statement that the likely outcome of Sue Gray’s report has already leaked and is not expected to find evidence of criminality! Ultimately Sue Gray’s investigation is not what it’s being advertised to be.
While I welcome Paul’s statement, it’s too little too late.
“Fundamentally, there is no excuse for those who make the rules, to break the rules. Those found to be doing so should be disciplined and face the consequences, with no exceptions.”
Well Paul, over to you. Or did you mean no exceptions except for the Conservative Prime Minister?
Update: Paul’s update!
Paul has updated his email template since Sue Gray’s update.
“I appreciate and understand the ongoing anger and frustration around these matters, and I remain clear that anyone found to have broken the rules must face the consequences of their actions.”
It’s already clear that the Prime Minister repeatedly breaks the ministerial code, and has done so since before it was revealed that he broke his own lockdown law. It’s also clear that Paul isn’t interested in those rules, and doesn’t expect the Prime Minister to face any consequences.
Worse, Johnson appears to be lying in Parliament even more regularly than usual in a desperate attempt to cling on to power, and has now even sunk to repeating far-right conspiracies to score political points.
“I have said that I will make a further statement when Sue Gray’s report is published. Given the concurrent police investigation, it has not yet been possible for her to release her full report, which is why only a limited update has been published so far. I look forward to the full report in due course, as well as the outcome of the police investigation, and I will make a further statement then as promised.”
Instead of distancing himself from even the worst of the Prime Minister’s false allegations, Paul is still content to stick to Johnson’s “wait for the report/wait for the police investigation” script.
It’s worth reading Sue Gray’s limited update. The full report should be interesting if the Prime Minister actually ever publishes it.
“I understand that many are calling for decisions to be taken now, but I have always been of the view that the full facts must be known in a case before a judgement can be made. However, I want to assure you that I continue to take this matter extremely seriously as your MP, and that I have heard and taken on board your views and have made them clear to the Prime Minister and Number 10.”
The facts are that Boris Johnson is a liar, and Paul Holmes still has confidence in him.
Update: Paul Holmes’ statement (radio edit)
Paul has clarified his position further during an interview on the T&G Times Radio show (from 1h54m on 13th February 2022):
“I fully support the Prime Minister. He’s getting on with the job.”
“I have every confidence that he will be able to deliver going into the next election.”
His enthusiastic support was somewhat unexpected after he had initially claimed he was angry, but said that we should wait for the result of the police investigation.