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Evening Standard Comment: No 10’s irresponsible culture is set at the top – by Boris Johnson

By
14 January 2022
T

he Covid-19 pandemic has been filled with dramatic and memorable images, from packed intensive care units to deserted central London streets.

Yet perhaps the most iconic picture — for its poignancy and stoicism — is that of the Queen, sitting all alone, dressed in black, at the funeral of her husband of 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was a very public display not only of grief but of setting an example to the nation. But as we now learn, on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, No 10 held two more alleged parties, complete with a DJ and a suitcase full of wine. The contrast could not be clearer.

The Prime Minister was not in attendance this time, but we know that in any organisation, culture is set at the top.

And every day that goes by it becomes more apparent that this administration displayed a systematic disregard for the very laws they were making, and for the sacrifices being made by virtually everyone else, commoner and sovereign alike.

It appears as if everyone’s lives changed dramatically in the spring of 2020 except one group of people, those working in No 10, the people who support the Prime Minister in writing the laws the British people were instructed to follow.

The Conservative Party must now stop hiding behind Sue Gray. A senior civil servant’s report is not an independent inquiry and no matter how highly respected, she should not be charged with the task of deciding the fate of a prime minister.

Power without responsibility cannot endure. It is up to individual Tory MPs — the ones who installed him because they believe he had the best chance of delivering Brexit and winning an election — to take responsibility for the situation they have created.

There is one further contrast to be made between No 10 and the royal family. Yesterday evening, the Queen took the decision to strip her son, Prince Andrew, of his military titles and use of the HRH moniker in official capacities.

This represents decisive action following the decision by a US judge to allow a civil suit to proceed regarding allegations of sexual assault, which Andrew denies.

She has read the mood of the nation and taken steps to protect an institution of the highest import. Our elected representatives could learn from this.