Some might call it the closing chapter; others might call it the endgame; some perhaps rather optimistic souls have prematurely begun to refer to it as the epilogue. But those of us old enough to have borne witness to the collapse of administrations gone by recognise what we are now witnessing as the “rats in a sack” phase of this Conservative government.
Consider the sudden appearance of not one but two new factions, holding separate fringe conferences within a few days of each other – the “Conservative Democrats”, who are of course neither, and the “National Conservatives”, who obviously always knew that this could easily be abbreviated to “the NatC’s” and absolutely did that on purpose. Consider, too, that human breach of the ministerial code herself Suella Braverman, and others, now openly campaigning for the not-strictly-vacant-yet post of Tory leader.
It has therefore become plain that, with admirable efficiency, the Conservative government has decided not to wait until catastrophe strikes, but rather to get the post-defeat schisms and recriminations out of the way BEFORE the election.
One thing that will NOT happen before the election is the conclusion of Lady Hallett’s Covid inquiry; that is not expected to report until 2025. Nonetheless, the government, having both set up the inquiry and pledged to give its fullest cooperation, seems to be getting the jitters now it’s under way. In particular, the prospect of former PM and priapic haystack Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages being submitted as evidence is causing terror in the Cabinet Office, with Johnson insisting he’d already turned it all over to the office for them to pass on to the inquiry, then chortlingly sending it in himself when the Cabinet Office proved reluctant to do so.
There is, of course, no truth in the theory that Johnson did this as an act of petty vengeance when the Cabinet Office lawyers he’d engaged (at our expense) to represent him found a new batch of previously unmentioned lockdown-busting shindigs in his diary and duly dobbed him in to the coppers (none of which would have happened if he’d paid for his own representation – it’s genuinely difficult to find ways of satirising this stuff).
From this, it would seem that whatever Johnson has just submitted contains information that is at least as damaging to his successors as it is to him. The government’s measured and in no way panic-fuelled response was to take the unprecedented step of ordering a judicial review of its own inquiry (almost certainly while ordering an industrial-sized shredder on Amazon).
The government’s current pretext for not handing over all Covid-era communications is that it reserves the right to withhold that which is “unambiguously irrelevant”, which is a bit like a homicide suspect saying “I will cooperate fully with the investigation as long as you don’t ask me where I was on the night of the murder.” But if this cunning plan fails, here are…
SOME MORE EXCUSES THE GOVERNMENT COULD COME UP WITH FOR NOT COOPERATING WITH THE COVID INQUIRY
1) All our files have been corrupted by the 5G chips Bill Gates hid in our world-beatingly rolled-out vaccine (did we mention how world-beatingly our world-beating vaccine rollout beat the world?)
2) We can’t possibly turn over the files until Jacob Rees-Mogg has finished hand-calligraphing them onto calfskin vellum for his personal archives.
3) Blame Matt Hancock! Everything is Matt Hancock’s fault! We always knew he was a useless idiot, which is why we made him health secretary.
4) Matt Hancock himself, meanwhile, has said he’d be delighted to hand over all his messages once he’s finalised the sale of the movie rights (Jude Law is said to be “very interested”).
5) Michael Gove was collating all the data but he went out and got completely coat-hangered on Friday, and left his laptop in an Uber.
6) When Liz Truss was asked for a complete communications record from her time as prime minister, she replied, “Wait – I was prime minister?! I thought I dreamed that.”
7) Lee Anderson has refused to take part in the inquiry as he’s fairly sure he was still a Labour councillor at the time (and he’s not far wrong).
8) Kwasi Kwarteng tried to send his WhatsApp archives to the inquiry, but accidentally sent the Treasury’s bank details to a Nigerian phishing operation.
9) Nadhim Zahawi will be delighted to help with the inquiry if Lady Hallett can make it worth his while. Shall we start the bidding at £50K?
10) Dominic Raab is on holiday again and will be for the foreseeable future, so go away, you ghastly little oiks.
POEM OF THE WEEK
In the dark days of lockdown, young Rishi Sunak
Is ordered to bring the economy back
From the brink of destruction, but where to begin? “Er…
“I’ve got it!” he cries, “We must go out to dinner”
“Eat Out To Help Out’s the name of my scheme”
“We’ll subsidise dining, it’ll work like a dream.”
“But the virus…” the scientists wail.
Rishi scoffs: “It’ll all be OK, long as nobody coughs.”
But alas for poor Rishi, his programme did suck
The economy tanked, the disease ran amuck
To save hospitality he meant to inspire us
But the only thing eating out helped was the virus