HENRY DEEDES: The tangible rage, the tears and the rancid smell of the last days of the empire

Tangible rage, tears and the rancid smell of the last days of the empire: HENRY DEEDES watches MP tell his mother-in-law alone during the lock-up, and concludes that Boris cannot hide forever










For the past 18 months, the government has been looking for storm after storm. Yesterday was something completely different. There was a rancid smell in the political cauldron, a breath of dry rot, the feeling of the last days of the empire.

In this outburst of anger, the atmosphere spat and bubbled like magma and really boiled. Those who were invited to speak on the latest and most damaging downing party scandal did not hold on.

Boris did not come to this public roasting, and his failure to do so only gave the deputies even more reasons to shout their indignation. At one point, tears flowed.

The scapegoat came in the form of Paymaster General Michael Ellis, whose enduring feature is that it will lie down in the fast lane of the M25 for the Prime Minister's offer.

The scapegoat came in the form of Paymaster General Michael Ellis, whose enduring feature is that it will lie down in the fast lane of the M25 for the Prime Minister’s offer.

The most painful moment came when Jim Shannon (DUP, Strangford) collapsed to tell how his mother-in-law had died alone.  Shannon tried desperately to finish his question, but the words just didn't come, his fist pounding in frustration.

The most painful moment came when Jim Shannon (DUP, Strangford) collapsed to tell how his mother-in-law had died alone. Shannon tried desperately to finish his question, but the words just didn’t come, pounding his fist on the script in frustration.

The scapegoat came in the form of Paymaster General Michael Ellis, whose permanent advantage is that he would lie down on the M25 fast lane at the Prime Minister’s offer.

He arrived solo. That in itself was telling. Usually a minister or an older whip could come to pump his shoulders, but behind him sat only a few Tories, offering about as much encouragement as a provincial cricket crowd on a rainy day.

More from Henry Deeds for the Daily Mail …

Poor Ellis. He was stuck in the hectares of empty green leather, adjusting his ice-cube glasses and rearranging his pickpocket, in the manner of an over-eager young man who arrived early for the wedding.

Everyone had a question on their lips as to whether Boris had attended the party. Or “gathering,” as Ellis preferred. He didn’t want to say it. Sue Gray, the permanent secretary of the Office of the Government, will investigate all this. If you don’t know, Ellis is a lawyer and he’s proud of it. As such, he speaks an irritating legal language and offers insane answers. This only inflamed the crowd.

The treatment Ellis received during the first half hour was really rough. Every answer was met with a mischievous growl. The anger was palpable.

In the end, spokesman Sir Lindsay Hoyle took pity on him. “Please,” Sir Lindsay urged the members. “That’s a lot of hard work.”

Many stories about those who sacrificed themselves during the lock-up. Missed births, abandoned funerals. Afzal Khan (Laboratory, Manchester, Gorton) spoke touchingly of his “beautiful mother”, who died in March 2020 while sitting in front of the hospital in his car to be as close to her as possible. The most painful moment came when Jim Shannon (DUP, Strangford) collapsed to tell how his mother-in-law had died alone.

Shannon tried desperately to finish his question, but the words just didn’t come and his fist pounded in frustration. Opposition MPs waved their hands at Ellis, as if to say, “See what you did?” It was a brutal testimony and a thing that should be etched in the minds of every Downing Street employee who was confused with wine.

The inevitable calls came for Boris to resign. “For God’s sake, man, go!” asked Pete Wishart (SNP, Perth). I should add that the Scots Nat demanded this from the Prime Minister from his first week in office.

None of the government desks spoke for their boss. The only Conservative to join Mr Ellis’ lone defense was Suzanne Webb (Con, Stourbridge), who boldly suggested that the House have better things to discuss: a government settlement program, for example.

Mrs. Webb, no doubt persuaded by the whip office, even managed to squeeze Boris’s slogan “build back better.” One must be amazed at such cheeky ambitions.

Of course, Boris wouldn’t be able to hide forever. Today, he has to face his opponents on PMQ, which promises a torturous half hour. Make a note of my words: this will not end well.

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