Gale`s View – 'Partygate'
April 19th 2022
The Prime Minister has paid a fixed notice penalty arising from an impromptu birthday party in Downing Street. It is highly likely that more such finds will following as more breaches of Covid regulations are revealed. To be pedantic the Prime Minister does not have a `criminal conviction`: Fixed penalty notices do not result in a criminal record. It is clear, however, that he broke the rules that he set himself and that he expected others to abide by at huge personal cost . He is the first Prime Minister to have been handed such a penalty while in office. I fully appreciate the hurt and paid that the Prime Minister`s thoughtless actions have caused to the many, including my own constituents, who have lost loved ones without being able to say a final farewell during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister has also, on not one but several occasions, misled the House of Commons from the despatch box. Whether he did so knowingly or inadvertently is a moot point that may yet be clarified but either way that, in itself, is a matter that under normal circumstances would lead to immediate and honourable resignation.
But circumstances are not `normal`. We are facing the most serious challenge to the future of the free world since 1945 and arguably the most potentially dangerous threat to the future of mankind ever. The outcome of the war in Ukraine will affect not just the future of that Country but the future of democracy world wide and the lives of every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom for generations to come. It really is that serious.
I have said very publicly and I stand by my belief that while the Prime Minister has behaved appallingly and must, in due course, be held to full and proper account for his failings. I was, I believe, the first to submit a letter calling for a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister immediastely following the `Barnard Castle Affair` in 2020 and ordinarily I would be pressing the case for that vote immediately.
I do not, however, believe that the middle of an international crisis is the time to seek to destabilise the Government of the United Kingdom and, potentially, the coalition in which Britain is playing a leading role in supporting the people of Ukraine against the war criminal that is Mr. Putin and those who support him.
While the Home Office response to the displaced people of Ukraine has, I believe, been lamentable and a source of shame the UK`s support through training, the provision of lethal aid and humanitarian support on the borders has been a shining example and has shown a lead to the NATO alliance and others. We must not undermine that position.
The next few weeks will, in the Donbas in Eastern Ukraine – an area that I know quite wellk – be critical. It is highly probable that we shall witness scenes and war crimes the like of which will make those already shown on our screens seem modest. The use of chemical weapons of a kind that Russia deployed in Syria is by no means unlikely and if the Ukrainians are able to resist as bravely as they have done to date then even the use, by Putin, of battlefield nuclear weapons cannot be excluded. At that point NATO will have to become engaged and leads to the prospect of a full-scale war in Europe.
It has been said frequently that “We changed Leaders during the Second World War” and that “John Major replaced Margaret Thatcher during the Gulf War”. Both those statements are, of course, true but neither of those conflicts involved a major nuclear power. In this context a leadership election in the United Kingdom is a distraction that we must, if we can, avoid in the greater interest.
A vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister would take at least a week to organise once the necessary fifty-plus letter are submitted to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee (and for the record my own remains upon the table for future use). There is no candidate for the Premiership in line for a `coronation` so there will then have to be a contested election, votes of the Parliamentary Conservative Party, hustings and a vote of the Party membership in the Country. That process will take three months during which candidates will inevitably be distracted from the vital business of the conduct of a war. Those candidates might well include the Foreign Secretary (Liz Truss), the Secretary of State for Defence (Ben Wallace), The Secretary of State for Levelling Up (Michael Gove), The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister (Dominic Raab) and the Health Secretary (Sajid Javid) as well as possibly in spite of his recent difficulties the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, other cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State. To take all of those eyes off the ball at such a crucial time internationally and domestically would surely be irresponsible?
It saddens me that people who have placed their trust in my judgement when I was – as indeed I still am – critical of the Prime Minister should withdraw that trust when I do what I believe to be in the interests of the Country that I have served fin Parliament for thirty nine years but that is the nature of politics and I have to live with that. I believe that my decision, for the moment, is right. There will come a time, hopefully sooner rather than later, when we have to return to “the Johnson issue” but for now the absolute priority has to be to support the coalition with Europe and the United States, give every possible help to the people of Ukraine ad defeat the evil that is President Putin.