RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: This tedious Toytown witch-hunt

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: This tedious Toytown witch-hunt proves there’s nothing so ridiculous as the political class in a fit of morality

Filmed from behind in pitch-black silhouette, the young woman recalls the full horror of her night of shame. ‘There were about 30 people if not more in the room… some people on each others’ laps.’ 

The earnest interviewer can barely contain her disgust. ‘People were sitting on each others’ laps?’ 

‘Yes.’ 

How often was this vulnerable woman subjected to these degrading ordeals? 

‘They were every week.’ 

Other victims, their evidence voiced by actors, spoke of their involvement. ‘We started drinking in the basement… there were people dancing around. Some stayed the night there.’ 

They were led astray by evil older men, including a Mr Big figure who lived in the flat upstairs. And although they believed they were doing nothing wrong, they now found themselves being blamed for the drunken debauchery while the real culprits escaped scot-free. 

To the casual observer, this could have been an exclusive TV investigation into the Rotherham child abuse scandal, or one of those Netflix-style real-crime documentaries about sex trafficking. 

‘They present No.10 Downing Street under Johnson as if it were the British headquarters of the Branch Davidian in Waco, Texas, under cult leader David Koresh’

But no, this was a BBC Panorama special on what has come to be known as Partygate, illicit ‘gatherings’ in Downing Street during the Covid lockdowns. 

The presenter/investigator was outgoing political editor Laura Kuenssberg, soon to take over on Sunday mornings from Andrew Marr, who has defected to commercial radio to ‘get his own voice back’. 

On the evidence of Tuesday night’s Panorama, Kuenssberg has already rediscovered her own voice. If you watched it all the way through — which I did so you won’t have to — Laura would have left you in no doubt that she believes Boris is guilty as sin.

But it’s worth checking out the short trailer which the BBC put up on social media to publicise the programme. Never mind Andy Marr MkII, Laura looks like she’s auditioning for the part of a glammed-up DCI Jane Tennison, Helen Mirren’s trailblazing female detective, in a modern remake of Prime Suspect.

I’m ready for my close-up now… 

Panorama once produced serious, flagship documentaries, exposing real villains such as IRA murderers and paedophile priests protected by the Vatican. 

These days it’s reduced to investigating who ate all the crisps and drank prosecco at No.10, in breach of social-distancing rules. 

‘As for Keir Starmer, it defies credibility to hear him call for Boris’s resignation when the Labour leader and his gobby deputy are also being investigated by police, after being caught bang to rights at a beer and biriani bash in Durham’

In a desperate attempt to paint this overblown farce as an unprecedented political scandal, it is reduced to using absurd television techniques such as treating junior civil servants, caught glugging Pinot Collapso after hours, in the same fashion as kidnap victims who have been kept locked in a basement for the past five years. 

Kuenssberg is by no means the only broadcaster to blow Partygate out of all sane proportion. The helicopter-scrambling news channels have gone stark, staring bonkers in their determination to Get Boris. 

They present No.10 Downing Street under Johnson as if it were the British headquarters of the Branch Davidian in Waco, Texas, under cult leader David Koresh. 

Sky, which was once pretty even-handed in its coverage of politics, is even worse than the BBC these days when it comes to anti-Tory hysteria. 

Reporters stand outside Downing Street screeching at ministers leaving Cabinet meetings and ambushing Boris on visits to primary schools and community centres. 

‘When are you going to resign, Prime Minister?’ is the constant refrain from the songbook of Sky’s Sam Coates, yelling from across the road like an escaped madman warning that the end of the world is nigh. 

Change the record, son. 

Do these people really expect the PM to break off from his official engagements to wander over and say: ‘You’re absolutely right, Sam. You’ve got me bang to rights. I am an utter disgrace and I intend to jack it in immediately.’ 

And you have to wonder where Sky’s gorgeous, pouting political editor Eleanor Rigby gets the chutzpah to cross-examine Boris over Partygate, given that she herself was suspended from work for six months — along with presenter Kay Burley — for breaking lockdown rules at, er, Burley’s birthday party. 

Dear Kettle, Love Pot. 

‘If Boris lied, how would you categorise Starmer pretending dishonestly for months that Angela Rayner wasn’t in Durham until mobile phone video emerged proving the precise opposite?’

So Boris was well justified in having a pop at Rigby when she tried to monopolise his Press conference yesterday afternoon. 

The Boys (And Girls) In The Bubble aren’t entirely to blame for this tedious, storm-in-a-wine glass feeding frenzy. They are only reflecting the cabin fever which has infected virtually everybody at Westminster, to the exclusion of practically all else. 

To paraphrase the 19th-century Whig MP and historian Thomas Babington Macauley: There is no spectacle so ridiculous as the British political class in one of its periodical fits of morality. 

For the past six months, most of The Bubble has been convulsed in a demented campaign to force the Prime Minister to quit. They’ll seize on any morsel, no matter how trivial, to further the case for the prosecution. Their latest gambit is to prove that Boris Lied to the House. Is he a liar? Don’t ask me, ask his ex-wives, or anyone who has ever worked with him. 

Let’s just say that, in the words of another serial Tory swordsman Alan Clark, Boris has a tendency to be ‘economical with the actualite’. Certainly he’s always had the ability to paint himself in a corner and then walk out over the paint. 

His paint-splattered footprints are all over Westminster. But, frankly, I’m not convinced he has lied to the Commons, despite the hysteria in the chamber yesterday. 

He may have put a generous interpretation on the facts, but did he lie? As they say in Scotland, not proven. When it comes to Partygate, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

For the record, the notion that there was one rule for us during lockdown and another for them what made the rules sticks in the craw. 

‘For the SNP’s permanently outraged, porky pub bore Ian Blackford to compare what went on to a sordid Roman orgy is preposterous’

But so do the shroud-waving hypocrites who maintain the Prime Minister was indifferent to the suffering caused by Covid restrictions. They tend to forget that Boris himself almost died. He also lost his mum during the pandemic. 

What is deliberately overlooked is that the Prime Minister actually lives and works in No.10, a building he shares with hundreds of civil servants. I believe him when he says he only dropped in briefly to a couple of ‘gatherings’ where drink was being taken after work, particularly to say bon voyage to a close aide who was leaving.

Earlier this year, I compared Boris to Young Mr Grace in Are You Being Served? I can just imagine him making a morale-boosting appearance at a staff leaving-do, with Carrie on his arm in a skimpy nurse’s uniform, and telling his troops: ‘You’ve all done very well…’ before repairing back upstairs for tiffin. 

Certainly, the much-anticipated 37-page Sue Gray report didn’t contain any silver bullets. The ‘killer’ photos were unconvincing, to say the least. In none of them is Boris actually drinking. 

And the idea that any of these ‘gatherings’ amounted to a party is absurd.

With their cardboard sandwiches and budget vino, they looked like the end of a Friday afternoon session at a sales conference in an Alan Partridge hotel. If this was a party, you can only conclude that Boris isn’t capable of organising a proverbial booze-up in a brewery. 

For the SNP’s permanently outraged, porky pub bore Ian Blackford to compare what went on to a sordid Roman orgy is preposterous. 

Especially coming from a man who appears to be no stranger to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Can Blackford, hand-on-heart, guarantee that at no time during lockdown was he tempted to scoff a second mutton pie or raid the mini-bar at the end of a ‘work meeting’ about Indyref 2? 

Same goes for the Scotland Yard prosecco squad, which handed out 126 fixed penalty fines. During Covid, could they assure us on oath that they never cracked open a bottle of Glenhoddle from the filing cabinet at the end of a successful operation? 

As for Keir Starmer, it defies credibility to hear him call for Boris’s resignation when the Labour leader and his gobby deputy are also being investigated by police, after being caught bang to rights at a beer and biriani bash in Durham. 

Starmer has droned on ad infinitum about Partygate, knowing full well that he, too, had an elephantine lockdown skeleton in his cupboard. His shameless attempt to claim the moral high ground is nauseating. 

And if Boris lied, how would you categorise Starmer pretending dishonestly for months that Angela Rayner wasn’t in Durham until mobile phone video emerged proving the precise opposite? Any half decent barrister would rip him to pieces in the witness box. 

‘Starmer has droned on ad infinitum about Partygate, knowing full well that he, too, had an elephantine lockdown skeleton in his cupboard’

Starmer proved yet again yesterday that his confected outrage is merely designed to camouflage the fact that he has no answers to any of the big questions facing the country. 

He delivered his attack on Boris with all the panache of an I Speak Your Weight machine. There’s no accounting for treacherous embittered Continuity Remainers calling for the PM’s head. 

But wobbly Red Wall Tories need to be reminded that most of them owe Boris their seats and he remains their best chance of holding on to them. 

They should cut him some slack and get behind the Government. Voters have long since made up their minds about Partygate. 

They will judge Boris at the ballot box, not just on whether he ate a slice of birthday cake but on how he handles the alarming cost-of-living squeeze over the next couple of years. 

As for The Boys In The Bubble, and especially the BBC, a period of silence on this tedious Toytown witch-hunt is long overdue. 

Wheeling out anonymous junior Downing Street staff to complain that they were conned into boozing after work is a sign of desperation, especially as the PM was nowhere to be seen when they were throwing up in the flower beds. 

It’s time to grow up and move on. So what if some people were on each others’ laps? 

Most of us think it’s all over. It is now

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