PARTYGATE LOSING ITS IMPACT
I have a feeling the political escapologist that is Boris Johnson is free again. I detect an increasing desperation in the media as each new picture of the Prime Minister partying in Downing Street makes less and less impact.
There is a view that if the Metropolitan Police (taking a break from swopping racist texts) fine the PM, Johnson will have to resign. I’m not so sure. It is far more likely he would characterise the fine as taking his punishment like a good Eton boy and on we go.
The campaign to save the PM has been shameless and effective. Cabinet Ministers sent out to defend the indefensible and most of Johnson’s Downing Street team (except the man himself) sacked.
Meanwhile on the policy front, the PM is taking risks in promising to lift all pandemic measures as he plays to an understandable desire by the public to put restrictions in the rear-view mirror.
The Ukrainian crisis also allows him to parade on the international stage, a welcome distraction used by many politicians.
Steve Barclay, who I got to know as a candidate in Manchester and Lancaster, is a good appointment as Chief of Staff and Guto Hari will bring the sort of experience of the media that Alastair Campbell did for Labour as the new Director of Communications.
All that said, the prospects for the Conservatives in the May elections look grim. The Downing Street parties deeply offend large numbers of voters, even more will be starting to feel the effects of inflation and rocketing energy bills.
Whether a bad showing in May will lead Tory MPs to think that Johnson has finally lost his unique appeal to voters remains to be seen.
IN LAURA’S SHOES
Who is going to replace Laura Kuenssberg as the BBC’s Political Editor? It is a highly sensitive appointment for the Corporation, assailed every day with, largely baseless, claims of bias and wokeness.
Jon Sopel is favourite. He is available after ending his role as North America editor. Other senior men (not always an advantage these days) are Diplomatic Editor James Landale, Newsnight’s Nick Watt, and Any Questions host Chris Mason. The latter must be in contention with his northern roots.
Adam Fleming made his name getting delegates to put balls in boxes to choose policy options at party conferences. He now hosts the excellent Newscast podcast.
If it is to be another woman, Alex Forsyth seems to be the favourite. Her official brief is to work as a political correspondent in the regions, but she has made sure she does a lot of reporting from Westminster, being noticed.
Don’t rule out the ball of energy that is Amol Rajan, although he’s just joined Today. He might lack the diplomatic skills needed for the job, but he would be fun.
There is a strong chance BBC bosses will look outside. What about former BBC Deputy Political Editor John Pienaar.Now at Times Radio, he would be treading a familiar path in leaving the BBC and returning. Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg have done so.
Finally, there’s Paul Brand UK Editor of ITV News and Cathy Newman, host of Channel Four News.