The war in Ukraine might just have dealt Boris Johnson a very lucky hand

No, Boris Johnson is not the first PM to break the law, he’s the first PM to be caught breaking the law, which casts serious doubt on his ability to do the job. When news broke that he and Rishi Sunak were to be fined for attending a party that Boris insists he didn’t instigate and Rishi says he wasn’t invited to, the broadcast media reacted like OJ Simpson was on the run.

A camera focused on the door of No10. A helicopter broadcast live above Chequers. What did they expect the two of them to do? Attempt a high speed getaway down the M40? Rishi was playing it cool, the one thing we’ve learnt in the past few days is that he could afford to pay the penalty, but poor Boris is rumoured to be “on his uppers” and probably spent those panicked few hours trying to bum a few quid off No10 staff. At least Lloyd George always made sure he had some money in the bank.

But would he stay or would he go? Did you ever doubt the answer? Westminster pundits giddily imagined him seeking asylum at the Ukrainian embassy, but the Boris formula is cast-iron: ignore, persevere, survive. And if you’re stubborn enough, and lucky enough, a war might break out that saves your skin.

“I understand the anger that many will feel,” said Boris at his press conference with one journalist, “that I myself have fallen short” by breaking laws that the rest of us, I might add, at least made a fist of pretending to follow. 

“I accept in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better”, but despite the temptation to resign, he felt “an even greater sense of obligation” to stay in his job (how he must have wrestled with that one) – after all, he still has to get on with fulfilling his manifesto pledges, including making sure that “Putin fails in Ukraine”.

Did he feel responsibility for the “culture” in Downing Street that led to dozens of fines being imposed? Well, it is a very big street, observed the Prime Minister, with many people working on it, and “I couldn’t be everywhere at once”. He reassured us that Downing Street has now been “radically transformed”, suggesting it had been, perhaps, turned into a motorway offramp, which is good news because 50 fines in a street just 660ft long must give it one of the highest crime rates in the country. If Priti Patel could cut only that figure in half, she might keep her job, too.

Is our long national nightmare of ‘partygate’ finally over? Perhaps, and though many voters are furious to see the PM get away with it yet again, I think there’s something marvellously egalitarian about knowing that no one in Britain is above bending the law. Every child, from an angelic choir boy to a repeat offender in juvenile detention now knows that the old adage really is true: anyone can grow up to become prime minister someday.

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