Two of south London’s Conservative MPs are damaging their own integrity with their floundering appearances on television to defend lying Prime Minister Boris Johnson, reports WALTER CRONXITE, political editor
Croydon and Sutton’s senior Tory MPs, government junior ministers Chris Philp and Paul Scully, have been accused of “defending the indefensible” after being wheeled out for media duties and speaking up for their party leader, the blundering buffoon Boris Johnson, following the latest low point in his premiership.
But while Philp, the MP for Croydon South, and Scully, Sutton and Cheam’s MP, are being held up as examples of how not to conduct television interviews, one of their erstwhile colleagues, Gavin Barwell, was adding his voice to the Conservative chorus of disapproval for Johnson following the publication of the Sue Gray report.
“What the Prime Minister needed to do today was to show contrition,” the “leftie” Lord tweeted last night.
“No attacks on his opponents. No more lame excuses. No more failure to answer simple questions. Instead what we got was an exhibition of every single trait that got him into this mess. He’s not going to change.”
The ex-MP’s social media offering followed Johnson’s statement to the Commons over the Sue Gray report, where from the floor of the House former PM Theresa May – Barwell’s boss when he was chief of staff in Downing Street – delivered the most cutting of rebukes to her increasingly distrusted successor.
Opinium conducted a snap poll last night which found that 64per cent of voters want Johnson to resign as Prime Minister; 83per cent believe that Johnson broke his own lockdown rules; and 75per cent of the British public think their Prime Minister is a liar.
The report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into “Partygate”, the events staged in Downing Street in breach of Prime Minister Johnson’s own lockdown laws, was published yesterday, and found “serious failure” to observe strict lockdown laws, while Scotland Yard detectives are said to be investigating 300 photos, 500 documents and 12 events at No10, including one party held in the Prime Minister’s private flat.
Johnson’s statement did not include his resignation, even though he has now been proven to have misled his fellow MPs – regarded as a breach of the Ministerial Code and therefore a resigning offence. While there has been no immediate sanction for Johnson as he clings on to power, the Commons Speaker yesterday ejected one MP, Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, for stating the bleedin’ obvious: that Johnson is a liar.
Johnson faced a wall of anger from Conservative MPs after Gray’s investigation concluded that many of the 16 parties were “difficult to justify” and condemned “failures of leadership and judgment” in No10 and the Cabinet Office.
The Commons debate had a series of flashpoints: Blackford’s refusal to withdraw his remarks about Johnson misleading the House, former chief whip and long-time Johnson backer Andrew Mitchell visibly angry as he withdrew his support for the PM, and 2019 Red Wall MP Aaron Bell recalling the covid-restricted funeral for his grandmother in May 2020, at which his family all observed the strict lockdown laws.
“Does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?” asked the visibly emotional Bell.
It was May’s clipped and withering intervention, though, which set the tone. People, May said, “had a right to expect their Prime Minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules” and “set an example”.
She believed Gray’s report was clear No10 “was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public” and accused Johnson of either not understanding the rules or believing they did not apply to his team.
“Which was it?” she said, to cheers from both sides of the House.
Yet despite this widespread opprobrium for the Prime Minister and his actions, local MPs Scully and Philp have continued to do the rounds of media studios to speak up for their boss, often with embarrassing consequences.
When Philp provided his own squirm-inducing moments on Newsnight a fortnight ago (as the video below shows), the line he took then was that the matter needed to “run its course” and wait for the publication of the Sue Gray investigation… Oh.
Scully’s appearance on Newsnight last night was described as a “car crash”, all apparently in an effort by him to enhance his ministerial credentials in the eyes of No10.
“It’s defending the indefensible,” one local Conservative Party activist told Inside Croydon today. “It’s desperate stuff, by Paul and Chris, and they have to ask themselves whether their junior ministerial salary is worth it, because it is damaging their own integrity every time they pop up to defend Johnson’s actions and his lies.”
Because of his role in May’s Downing Street administration, Barwell has become a favourite with television news producers to provide his insight into how events have unfolded in No10.
But as the Conservative Party has become more extreme right-wing under Johnson in his pursuit of Brexit at all costs, his Lordship – Barwell was awarded a peerage after May stood down as Prime Minister – has faced a backlash from the more rabid right.
He has even been accused of the ultimate crime for a Tory: being a “leftie”.
Last week, the former Croydon Central MP tweeted: “I’ve been a Conservative councillor, MP and Minister, the Party’s Director of Campaigning and Chief of Staff to a Conservative Prime Minister.
“But it turns out that because I believe Prime Ministers should obey the laws they impose on the rest of us, I’m a leftie.”
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