You’re reading Reaction. To get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter, columnists including Tim Marshall, Maggie Pagano and Adam Boulton, full access to the site and invitations to member-exclusive events, become a member HERE.
The last remaining Covid-19 restrictions including self-isolation could end a month earlier than planned, Boris Johnson said during PMQs, as a new picture emerged of the Prime Minister with an open bottle of booze at an event in Downing Street.
Johnson told the House of Commons that it was his intention to return from next week’s half-term break to present his government’s strategy for living with coronavirus.
But moments after making the announcement, the Mirror published an image showing the PM flanked by three members of staff, one of whom was wearing tinsel and another a Santa hat, at a No 10 Christmas quiz during lockdown.
The story was shared by members across the Chamber. Labour’s Fabian Hamilton managed to squeeze in a question during the session, asking whether Number 10 would refer it to the police. Johnson claimed it had already been “submitted for investigation”.
The PM had been hoping for a stress-free few days before Parliament goes into recess. But Sir Keir Starmer – who on Monday was herded into a police car after protestors echoed the PM’s claim that Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile while Director of the Crown Prosecution Service – made life doubly difficult for Johnson by questioning him on the rise of fraud under his premiership.
The Labour leader called the Treasury’s financial support scheme for people with energy bills “a buy now pay later scheme, a dodgy loan, not a proper plan” and said the PM had been “distracted” for weeks.
Despite the well-rehearsed taglines, Johnson was unable to rouse the support of his backbenchers. There were some tough questions from his Conservative colleagues. Mark Harper asked whether the Sue Gray report would be published in full. Stuart Anderson put pressure on Johnson to honour veterans. And following Naz Shah’s question on HS2, the PM appeared to confuse Bradford with Leeds when discussing the eastern leg.
Johnson will be delighted to hear that PMQs does not return until 23 February.