Boris Johnson Changes the Ministerial Code – Now Rule-Breakers Can Get Away With It

Boris Johnson

Credit: katatonia82 / bigstock

Another day, another revelation that makes Boris Johnson’s time as prime minister read as some kind of post-apocalyptic steampunk novel.

In his latest brainwave, the PM has decided to change the ministerial code so that MPs that break the rules – such as, erm, himself – they will no longer be forced to resign.

If that sounds completely bonkers to you, then that’s because it is – although this is a parliamentary leader so lacking in self-awareness he’s probably invisible when he looks in the mirror.

Under Boris’ plans, any minister that breaks the code will now be subject to the humiliation of being forced to apologise publicly, or suffer a temporary stop to their pay (I’m genuinely not making this up).

A new edition of the Ministerial Code, which has already been published, confirms that miscreants will face the ‘remedial action’ outlined above rather than having to fear losing their job – but only when they retain the PM’s confidence, of course.

Johnson’s reasoning for the change? To ‘avoid incentives for trivial or vexatious complaints, which may be made for partisan reasons’, which in terminology used here on planet earth means he doesn’t want his party members – or himself – to be account if he believes that rival politicians are doing so for malicious reasons.

If only he’d thought of this motion before the Sue Gray Report was published, then he wouldn’t have so many people metaphorically calling for his head….

What Does the Sue Gray Report Say?

Forever delayed, the report put together by Sue Gray into the behaviour of the government during the pandemic lockdowns has finally been published.

In it, she condemns Boris and other senior politicians for their behaviour, which included hosting a number of parties – sorry, business meetings with wine and cheese – despite them being against the rules that the PM himself had signed off on.

The senior leadership team ‘must bear responsibility’ for their actions, Gray concluded. “Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of government. The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places, and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”

Happily for Boris, under his new rules he doesn’t have to resign – simply apologise, which he sort of did, and didn’t, do. Speaking after he was found to have attended leaving drinks for a colleague, the Prime Minister said: “some people will think it was wrong even to do that, I have to say I respectfully disagree,” confirming that the rules he made were absolute hokum all along.

All hail the chief!

Don’t Look At That, Look At This

The first rule of political PR is that, like 60 million magpies, the UK public can be made to forget things by dropping something shiny in front of them.

To be fair, Rishi Sunak had to make money available to people at a time of immense financial hardship, and his raft of measures to tackle the cost of living crisis will help the neediest.

The chancellor announced a number of payouts and schemes for the hardest hit, including:

  • A £400 grant to every UK household in October
  • A one-off £650 payment to the hardest-hit households
  • A £300 grant for pensioners
  • A £150 grant for those on disability benefits

Whether those payments will scratch the surface of rising energy and food bills remains to be seen, but you have to applaud the government for taking action now in readiness for the winter.

Winners & Losers

This week was a win for Rishi and a loss for Boris, you might think.

Sunak has definitely had a good week, improving his popularity with the public without needing to pay £500,000 for the privilege. His betting odds of becoming the next Conservative leader have shortened from 14/1 to around 13/2 with the major bookmakers.

As for Boris, he’s still odds on to leave 10 Downing Street in 2024 or later, although a Conservative Majority at the next General Election has lengthened to 15/8.

Once again, Teflon Johnson has come out unscathed from a week in which his position as the most powerful person in the country outside of the Royal Family really ought to have been challenged.