Monday, 20th March, 2023

[Day 1099]

So Monday morning dawned as a generally gloomy day but we thought we would get ourselves up and breakfasted before we made any more explicit plans for the rest of the morning. Eventually, as it was inclined to drizzle, we decided to make the best of the morning and a little trip out by making a visit to our local Morrisons. This is a store that we used to frequent before the arrival of the Aldis of this world and it is still worth the occasional visit for the variety of produce and household goods on sale there. Once we made our way there, we bought a few food items that we know are not stocked in our normal shopping haunts and then came home to have some elevenses at home. It was soon time for the Politics show that is broadcast on BBC2 after midday and one of the items dominating the airways was the forthcoming appearance of Boris Johnson before the Privileges committee next Wednesday afternoon. Boris Johnson has submitted a dossier of evidence and I have heard stories that it is both 50 and also 500 pages long. Assuming it is 50 pages long, it is said to contain the text of various WhatsApp messages which appear to reinforce Johnson’s claim that he was acting ‘legally’ at the various parties that he undoubtedly attended. But this claim might not be all that it seems as the context of the WhatsApp message is significant. It has been mentioned that one of the messges indicated ‘the line to take’ which is scarcely the same as the strict adherence to the lockdown policy. The Committee of Privileges has said that it intends to publish the Johnson evidence in full but this has not been done so far and may not even happen until tomorrow. No doubt, members of the committee and perhaps even the lawyers advising them, will ensure that the document is well and truly perused before they contemplate releasing it to the public. Although Wednesday’s hearing will no doubt be compulsive viewing for many of us, it is predicted that the whole hearing which is televised live may well be 4-5 hours in length altogether. This is evidently going to be quite a marathon session for Johnson who will no doubt have his legal advisor (Lord Pannick) sitting by his side but the responsibility for answering the questions will be Johnson’s alone. One of the contributors to the BBC2 Politics progrmme this morning made the observation that Johnson is notoriously poor in mastering the details of a brief. It may well be that his, by now traditional, tactics of bluff and bluster may convince some of the committee for some of the time but in the course of a 4-5 hour examination by MPs which will be quite unlike the exchanges found across the floor of the House of Commons that Johnson may well make a crucial slip or, at least, display a lack of openness and integrity. In all probability, Wednesday may well be a bit of an anti-climax unless a real ‘smoking gun’ is revealed because the committee may well spent some weeks of discussion and wrangling before a decision emerges. There are three factors that may work to the eventual undoing of Boris Johnson. The first of these is that the committee may not wish that it is guilty of some kind of whitewash, particularly after it has published an interim report indicating that there may well have been four occasions when Johnson misled Parliament (whether intentionally or not remains a matter of conjecture) The second factor is that in the country as a whole, Rishi Sunak is generally reckoned to be doing a reasonable job having secured the Windsor agreement on the application of the Brexit conditions to Northern Ireland. By contrast, Boris Johnson’s star is fading and it is probably the case that apart from fervent supporters, he is losing support for his cause overall. The third factor is one of the mot interesting. This is that Rihi Sunk is going to allow Tory MPs a ‘free’ vote (i.e. unwhipped) which means that MPs can vote according to their conscience. This factor, along with the votes of all of the opposition parties, is likely to be the undoing of Johnson.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump appears to be in more than a spot of bother. It could well be, that as he warned his supporters the other day, he will be liable for arrest next Tuesday because of payments long denied to ex-pornstar with whom he may have had a brief fling – if that is the right word. Trump’s supporters have indicated that they might surround his residence to attempt to prevent any arrest being made. There is also news on the street that Trump supporters are arming themselves with the type of rifles that would enable them to shoot down any police helicopters that may be brought in to arrest the ex-President. In view of the mob that ran amok through the Capitol building about two years ago, this seemingly mad activity might yet come to pass. The legal authorities are still to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant and how it is to be served so the news from across the Atlantic may (literally) be explosive.