DAILY MAIL COMMENT: After the damp squib, time to turn the page

If a picture paints a thousand words, the photographs taken in Downing Street’s Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020, are an essay in ordinariness.

Boris Johnson stands at a table thinly spread with sandwiches and juice. Rishi Sunak and officials look on. A computer screen for presentations is on standby.

It is nothing more or less than a portrait of life in No 10 as the Prime Minister and his staff battled 24/7 against the worst global health emergency in a century.

Yet this mundane scene, revealed in Sue Gray’s Partygate report, is the impromptu birthday ‘celebration’ that earned Mr Johnson a £50 fine for flouting lockdown.

The image is nothing more or less than a portrait of life in No 10 as the Prime Minister and his staff battled 24/7 against the worst global health emergency in a century

Some bash! From the self-righteous lather that Boris’s enemies had worked themselves into for months, the nation might have expected images of the PM quaffing champagne with dancing girls, like some degenerate Roman emperor. 

A smoking gun it certainly isn’t. Most fair-minded people will look at these innocuous photos and ask: Is that it?

Don’t get us wrong. After senior civil servant Miss Gray published her full report, Mr Johnson was right to show contrition and offer a sincere apology.

Her 37-page dossier makes depressing reading. There was clearly a cavalier attitude to Covid restrictions in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, with regular after-work drinking sessions taking place.

The details are lurid. Drunken staff vomiting and brawling, partying until the crack of dawn, the former principal private secretary boasting that ‘we seem to have got away with’ one drinks gathering.

And the abuse and mockery doled out to cleaning and security staff at No 10 by intoxicated officials is beyond shameful.

Miss Gray tears into the lack of serious leadership – official and political – and the failure to maintain the high standards rightly expected by the public.

For all that, however, the truth is that the report was something of a damp squib.

After the hype and hysteria, little was revealed that we didn’t already know.

To the bitter disappointment of the armies of Boris-haters, the PM was not personally implicated in any bad behaviour, beyond the birthday episode. Nor is there evidence he even knew about most parties.

Of course, the Daily Mail understands the anger felt by many that rules made in No 10 were not observed there. These soirees were wrong. The PM’s officials were misguided, and some plainly failed to respect the boundary between work and socialising.

But it took some gall for Sir Keir Starmer, with scarlet-cheeked sanctimony, to denounce Mr Johnson for presiding over a ‘culture of criminality’. Let’s not take lectures from Labour’s leader. This opportunist demanded Mr Johnson resign as soon as the Met started probing Partygate.

Yet now he is engulfed by a police investigation of his own for swigging beer with activists in Durham during lockdown – a breach far more egregious than Boris’s transgression. What a colossal hypocrite.

Despite Miss Gray’s findings, the Damoclean sword still hangs over Mr Johnson. He faces a Commons privileges committee probe over claims he lied to Parliament about No 10 parties.

And the Left and embittered Remainers, aided by the BBC (which has dropped all pretence of impartiality in its animus to the PM), are still flogging Partygate to death in the hope of staging a coup d’etat.

For the rest of us, it’s time to turn the page. This whole regrettable saga has been a gigantic waste of time and money.

Mr Johnson must now focus on issues that matter to ordinary people, from the worst cost of living squeeze in a generation to the militant rail unions threatening strikes.

The clock is ticking to the next election. It is imperative to stop Corbyn apologist Starmer winning. That should be something to which we can all raise a glass.

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