There is a calculated coup against the PM, writes STEPHEN ROBINSON

STEPHEN ROBINSON: This drip-drip of leaks is nothing less than a calculated coup against an elected Prime Minister, led by the worst lockdown liar of all Dominic Cummings

About 100,000 Russian troops are massed on the Ukraine border, poised to trigger a terrifying and unpredictable ground war on European soil.

The Biden administration, led by a cognitively impaired 79-year-old incumbent, dithers and sends mixed messages about how the US might react to a Putin invasion.

British businesses and consumers tremble as they work out how they will budget for rocketing fuel bills along with a monstrously ill-timed national insurance hike.

These are titanic challenges, though you wouldn’t think so to read much of our media, or listen to the BBC.

Instead, we are invited to share in the public outrage over news that in June 2020, 30 or so Downing Street staff attended a low-key gathering with a cake presented to the Prime Minister on his birthday by his future wife Carrie.

Dominic Cummings, pictured, was responsible for the most blatant lockdown lie in Downing Street

We have been invited to share in the public outrage over news that in June 2020, 30 or so Downing Street staff attended a low-key gathering with a cake presented to the Prime Minister on his birthday by his future wife Carrie

The event has widely been billed as a lockdown-breaching ‘party’, suggesting that guests made their way across London for a boozy session of cocktails and canapes.

Rather, it was a brief gathering of staff already forced to mix because they were working together in the same building. And Boris Johnson attended for just ten minutes.

Even under the draconian and badly-framed Covid regulations, it is difficult to see how the attendees could conceivably be prosecuted because they were legally in their place of work.

Not that this did anything to curb the hysterical reaction to the news. Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police – who appear too busy to examine rampant misogyny and even sex crimes within their own ranks –launched their own investigation into ‘Partygate’.

Isn’t this an absurd over-reaction to what has been going on? Of course I understand that many will have been deeply offended by any breach of the rules in Downing Street. But we must surely keep things in perspective.

Public breaches of Covid rules are comparatively trivial offences which merit fixed penalty notices similar to those for dropping litter or parking on a yellow line. Is it really appropriate to send in a Met investigation unit at heaven knows what cost to establish how many penalty notices should be handed out?

Boris’s enemies are breathless with the excitement of it all. Even though the source of most of the stories is the one person they once used to hate even more than the Prime Minister.

If it were not so serious, it would be hilarious that former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings was the self-appointed moral enforcer behind the plot to destroy Boris Johnson.

Cummings, it may be remembered, told the most brazen lockdown lie of all when he claimed he had driven to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Nor could he get his wider story straight, first arguing he had driven from London to the north-east during severe Covid restrictions for childcare reasons, then suggesting he was anxious about personal security.

Cummings is a sinister but mostly ridiculous narcissist, whom Johnson should have sacked after the frankly embarrassing Barnard Castle whopper.

We should all be worried about this assault on our elected government and constitutional traditions, whatever our view of the current Prime Minister 

Eventually, he proved so destabilising to the Downing Street operation that he had to go.

He left behind a trail of chaos and rancour and, bent on revenge, has been masterminding Johnson’s demise with a chillingly determined zeal.

We need to be clear about what is going on here. His drip-drip release of damaging information is part of a calculated coup against an elected government.

The weaponry of choice is not hand grenades or rifles, but a cache of saved emails fed to credulous journalists who never reveal their sources. The release of emails is cunningly timed to cause maximum damage.

One hesitates to blame the messenger, but these journalists, and some of the dimmer anti-Boris backbench Tory MPs, are this coup’s ‘useful idiots’, to borrow a phrase attributed to Lenin. We should all be worried about this assault on our elected government and constitutional traditions, whatever our view of the current Prime Minister.

Certainly, Boris Johnson has been reckless, and tin-eared to those who have lost relatives they could not visit when they were dying because of lockdown restrictions.

It may very well be that he does not deserve to emerge from the ditch into which he has driven.

Because I have known him as a journalistic colleague for a long time – though we are not close friends – I hope he survives.

It is worth remembering that he very nearly died of Covid two months before the so-called birthday party.

Given that context, is it not forgivable that Carrie Johnson might have wanted to mark his achieving the age of 56 when she had feared he would die?

Is it truly scandalous that she might choose to do so in front of a few colleagues who had also been through the Covid mill?

Sadly, people who should know better are falling in line with the coup plotters’ intentions. An obscure Tory backbencher is so distressed by his encounters with Tory whips – whose job, remember, is to protect the party and its leader whether through bullying or cajoling – that he feels the police should investigate their behaviour too.

One hopes he gets the appropriate victim support pamphlet after his interview with the Met.

The truth is that sections of the Conservative Party are behaving like painfully woke media studies students at a third-rate university.

Meanwhile, distant observers of this Westminster village pantomime are invited to join in the mass condemnation.

The Guardian newspaper’s front-page headline yesterday spoke of ‘outrage’ triggered by the cake presentation. Perhaps what really enraged them was the detail that the cake was decorated with Union flag icing.

At the BBC all pretence of actually reporting the story, or putting it in its proper context, seems to have been abandoned. The presenters of Radio 4’ flagship Today programme act as Puritan enforcers, obsessively clucking away and tut-tutting at the Prime Minister’s alleged transgressions.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, appeared on Today yesterday morning. Perfectly reasonably, he wanted to talk about the blessedly welcome lifting of travel restrictions.

But the BBC interviewer simply could not accept that listeners might wish to know whether they could take their children abroad for half term.

Again and again, Mr Shapps was forced to return to speculating about what might or might not be in the report being prepared by the senior civil servant Sue Gray.

The coup against Downing Street might have been motivated by personal animus, but the cause has been adopted by those who wish to reverse Brexit. This is why the Leftish, Remainer media embrace every Downing Street transgression, however trivial, however explicable on a human level.

The arch anti-Brexiteer Lord Heseltine was revealing yesterday when he sought to add to the ordure being poured over the Prime Minister’s head.

He told Sky News that if Mr Johnson is shown to be a liar, that would ‘open a can of worms’ that might lead to Brexit being reversed.

His lordship can dream on about that. But such comments, from a man whose prime ministerial ambitions were sadly disappointed, revealed the real agenda of many who are flaunting their outrage today.

Boris Johnson has bungled and fumbled, and squandered almost all the political capital he earned by leading his party to a landslide general election victory.

But his Conservative critics should ponder deeply whether they want to reward those who seek to destroy Boris simply because they can never forgive him for Brexit.

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