The House of Hypocrites: One by one, these MPs berated Boris Johnson over Partygate, and Priti Patel over Rwanda. Yet with supreme irony, they’re guilty of appalling double standards, writes ANDREW PIERCE
Boris Johnson’s enemies have been in full cry in the last few days over Partygate and the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in the Commons on Tuesday when the Prime Minister apologised ‘wholeheartedly’ over the Downing Street parties, and took questions from MPs afterwards.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded Boris Johnson ‘a man without shame’ who should resign over his Partygate fine. The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford joined in the chorus.
And then there were the critics from the PM’s own backbenches, including Theresa May who launched a savage attack on him over the Rwanda asylum plan.
But while Boris’s critics in the House take the moral high ground, a number have themselves broken Covid rules while others have previously backed the ‘offshoring’ asylum seekers.
Here, ANDREW PIERCE investigates those in Westminster who are boiling over with confected outrage, comparing the accusations they are now levelling against Boris and his government with how they have behaved in the past – and highlighting their shameless hypocrisy…
MP for Forest of Dean, Mark Harper, has called for the Prime Minister’s resignation, but has faced controversy in his own career
Former Tory Chief Whip Mark Harper
The accusation: ‘The Prime Minister is no longer worthy of the great office he holds.’
The hypocrisy: Harper was the immigration minister who took legislation through the Commons in 2014 requiring landlords to carry out ‘reasonable checks’ to ensure tenants had the right to live in Britain. If only he had practised what he preached. The Forest of Dean MP had to resign as a minister after it was revealed his private cleaner for seven years did not have permission to work in Britain. His career never really recovered – in the 2019 Tory leadership contest, he received just ten votes out of a potential 317.
Former Theresa May criticised the Rwanda migrant scheme, but herself received criticism while Home Secretary for her similar policies
Former Prime Minister Theresa May:
The accusation: Mrs May launched a bitter Commons attack on her own government, pouring scorn on the Rwanda refugee plan and questioning whether it met the expected standards on ‘legality, practicality and efficacy’.
The hypocrisy: As Home Secretary, Theresa May presided over a disastrous billboard campaign aimed directly at illegal migrants, and telling them to ‘Go Home’. The billboards read: ‘In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest,’ and advertising vans were driven around displaying them with a helpline number for illegal migrants.
The scheme was dropped in 2013 after it resulted in the voluntary repatriation of only one person.
In 2018 May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy claimed she had been opposed to the ‘Go Home’ scheme which had been introduced when she was on holiday. But he was flatly contradicted by a Home Office statement from immigration minister Robert Goodwill in 2016 which said: ‘Theresa May MP was informed of the intention to pilot this campaign.’
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis hit out at Priti Patel’s Rwanda migrant scheme, saying ‘we are better than this’
Former Tory Brexit Secretary David Davis
The accusation: Condemning the ‘moral delinquency’ of the Rwanda plan, Mr Davis said it was ‘fraught with practical problems… and hamstrung by extortionate costs’, adding: ‘We are better than this. Or at least we used to be.’
The hypocrisy: The old bruiser, a long-standing opponent of Boris, drew cheers as shadow home secretary at the 2004 Tory conference when he declared: ‘We will also push ahead with reforms to our asylum system, with a system of overseas processing.’
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper was involved in a government in 2004 that backed the offshoring of asylum seekers
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
The accusation: Describing the Rwanda scheme as ‘unethical and shameful’ she said: ‘Whether or not people are refugees, whether or not they are victims of modern slavery… the Home Secretary is asking Rwanda to do the job that she is not capable of doing.’
The hypocrisy: As a minister in 2004, Miss Cooper was a member of the Labour government which backed the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act, permitting the offshoring of asylum seekers. After Tony Blair promised to halve the 100,000 asylum applications a year, Labour reportedly offered Tanzania an extra £4million in aid if it opened an asylum camp for Somali refugees to have their applications assessed before they made the journey to the UK.
David Blunkett, the then home secretary, presented Labour’s plans to the EU, saying: ‘We had a serious discussion of the challenges we all face in finding a 21st century solution to asylum issues and illegal immigration.’
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has had two instances where he has been accused of breaking Covid rules
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
The accusation: ‘Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been fined by the police for breaking the law. They should be held to account.’
The hypocrisy: Corbyn was pictured breaking the rule of six at a dinner party in London in September 2020. Scotland Yard decided he wouldn’t be fined, saying police would not retrospectively enforce coronavirus laws. In February last year he was spotted in a group of 12. Corbyn’s spokesman said he had been at a funeral, but he was not socially distancing, or wearing a mask, when the rule of six was still in place.
Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock, who himself broke lockdown rules, has called for the Prime Minister’s resignation
Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock
The accusation: There is no question that ‘Boris has to go,’ declared the Labour MP for Aberavon.
The hypocrisy: Kinnock himself broke the rules against non-essential travel when he visited London in March 2020 to celebrate the birthday of his father, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock. His constituency in South Wales is 180 miles from London, and South Wales Police tweeted: ‘Hello @SKinnock we know celebrating your Dad’s birthday is a lovely thing to do, however this is not essential travel. We all have our part to play in this, we urge you to comply with @GOVUK restrictions, they are in place to keep us all safe. Thank you.’ But no further action was taken. Kinnock said he had also been delivering supplies to his parents.
Labour MP Tahir Ali, who attended a funeral in April 2020 which reportedly up to 100 people attended, called for Boris Johnson to resign
Labour MP Tahir Ali
The accusation: Since he broke the rules, ‘Johnson must resign,’ said the Birmingham Hall Green MP.
The hypocrisy: Tahir Ali attended a funeral in Sutton Coldfield in April 2020 where there were reports of up to 100 people. Ali said he was attending as ‘an observer’, which was in breach of guidance on funerals at a time when Birmingham City Council limited the number of mourners to six. West Midlands Police said they had spoken to Ali and ‘warned’ him about his behaviour. He was criticised as ‘totally irresponsible’ by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson. Ali apologised but no fine was issued.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner criticised the PM and Chancellor, but attended a Black Lives Matter protest – which was against lockdown rules
Labour MP Barry Gardiner
The accusation: Revelling in the PM’s and the Chancellor’s predicament after being given fines for Partygate, the Brent North MP said: ‘The Prime Minister and Chancellor will now wriggle to stay in office.’
The hypocrisy: He boasted on Twitter that he had broken social distancing rules to attend a Black Lives Matter protest outside Parliament last year. He said he ‘took the knee with thousands of brave young people fighting for justice’. No action was taken.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has repeatedly called for Boris Johnson to stand down as Prime Minister over Partygate, but drove from London to Scotland during the first lockdown
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford
The accusation: ‘The public know the difference between the truth and lying, and they know that the Prime Minister is apologising for one reason, and one reason only, and it is the only reason he ever apologises: because he has been caught.’
The hypocrisy: He drove 600 miles from London to his Isle of Skye home three days after lockdown was introduced and people were told to ‘stay at home and save lives’. This is the same Blackford who called for Boris’s then senior adviser Dominic Cummings to quit after he drove from London to Durham and then Barnard Castle during lockdown.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was spotted drinking a beer (pictured) in April 2021, but denies that there was a breach of rules
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
The accusation: ‘If the Prime Minister had any respect for the millions who sacrificed everything to follow the rules, he would resign. But he will not, because he does not respect the sacrifice of the British public. He is a man without shame.’
The hypocrisy: Back in April 2021, Starmer was pictured drinking a bottle of beer in a Durham constituency office with other Labour campaigners. He argued ‘it was perfectly lawful to meet for work’ and added: ‘No party, no breach of the rules.’ He is now calling for the PM to resign for a remarkably similar-sounding incident, although Durham police decided no offence had been committed.
The accusation: Referring to Boris’s £50 fixed penalty notice for joining the No 10 gathering, Starmer criticised those who said it was no worse than a speeding ticket. ‘No, it is not,’ he insisted. ‘The last minister who got a speeding ticket, and then lied about it, ended up in prison. I know, because I prosecuted him.’
The hypocrisy: Starmer was, indeed, Director of Public Prosecutions in 2012 when the Coalition’s LibDem cabinet minister Chris Huhne was charged with perverting the course of justice.
He lied about driving the car he was caught speeding in, so his then wife could take his penalty points. Starmer was not directly involved in the case, though he was very happy to take credit for it in the Commons.
It was a very different story when, earlier this year, Boris Johnson pointed out that Sir Keir was DPP when the decision was made not to charge Jimmy Savile.
On that occasion, Starmer was appalled at the suggestion that he should be connected directly to a case – and called Johnson’s comments a ‘ridiculous slur’.
P.S. And it’s not just the MPs
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
The accusation: ‘Boris Johnson must resign. He broke the law and repeatedly lied.’
The hypocrisy: She was investigated by Scottish police after being reported for not wearing a face mask on a visit to a barber’s shop at the weekend in a breach of laws set by her own government.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford
The accusation: The Labour politician demanded Boris should quit. ‘You can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker.’
The hypocrisy: He refused to sack his health minister Eluned Morgan, who last month was fined £800 and banned from driving for six months.
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