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Could a house party topple a Prime Minister?

The idea of the people who set the rules not playing by them is always infuriating to the public

Surveying the tumultuous few days which led to the October revolution and the formation of the USSR in 1917, the new country’s first leader, Vladimir Lenin observed: ‘There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.’

As someone who put the party at the centre of things, Lenin may have appreciated the irony of a party being at the centre of Boris Johnson’s dramatic fall from grace, albeit a different kind of party. The Prime Minister has attracted the ire of the public, usually loyal newspapers and even his own MPs for not quite confirming, or denying, that a Christmas party took place at 10 Downing Street while the rest of the country was under lockdown last year. Now reports are emerging of other parties that may have taken place; which combined with the re-emergence of Tory sleaze stories threaten to take down a once-Teflon politician.

Even his most stalwart defenders would concede that the PM has sailed too close to the wind before, so why does this one matter so much? Well firstly, politics is often a close-to-zero sum game. From every policy some people win, some lose and many are indifferent. But COVID leaves no room for disinterest: everyone is affected somehow, and the idea of the people who set the rules not playing by them is infuriating.

Secondly new restrictions have been introduced to deal with the Omicron variant. Their success requires the buy-in of the public, and thus the kind of moral authority from the Government which is currently lacking. Hard choices, including sacrifices, may have to be made in the coming weeks, if this vital public health initiative is to work.