A Conservative MP who defended Boris Johnson by saying he hadn’t been to a birthday party but given a “surprise greeting” was told his defence of the Prime Minister was “painful”. Tom Hunt had defended the Prime Minister saying that despite being fined for the event at Downing Street, it was an unintentional breach of the Covid rules.
Ellie Mae O’Hagan is director of Class, the Centre for Labour and Social Studies. She has previously worked with Labour and Greenpeace. In an exchange on BBC Two’s Politics Live, she confronted Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt for defending the Prime Minister.
She told him his defence, that the Prime Minister had unintentionally broken rules before being subsequently being fined by the Met Police, had been “painful”. He then retorted: “Oh it’s been painful again according to you? That’s great to say.” He also told his fellow MP Sarah Jones to let him finish speaking.
Mr Hunt had said that the Prime Minister had not knowingly broken the law and that the event he had been fined for, when he was presented with a birthday cake, came after Mr Johnson almost died, and that “they’ve done a surprise greeting with a birthday cake. I don’t judge that to be a party”. The Prime Minister will be in the Commons to make a statement this afternoon.
Ms O’Hagan said: “I think it’s probably true that the reason that Conservative MPs don’t want to take Boris Johnson down is because there’s no replacement. I think probably Rishi Sunak was the obvious replacement, but now his tax arrangements have come out I think that it makes it very hard for him to be Prime Minister.
“I just come back to this issue of trust in politics. Do we really want a party putting its own interests above the interests of the country? You know, actually, this really matters. What I watched there was really painful listening to you talk about this, watching you flit from from excuse to excuse when actually the people watching this are not stupid. We know what happened, they had lots of parties, they lied about it, they got fined, that’s what’s happened.
“They need to now take responsibility for that and it’s not because Labour should win or score points it’s because actually, people need to believe that the people in power are honest and have their best interests and I’m afraid everything that you just said will make people doubt that even more. And the fact that Tory MPs do not want to get rid of Boris Johnson because they’re looking after their own backs, I’m afraid will damage trust even further and pretty much everybody pays when trust in politics is shattered.”
Mr Hunt replied: “I’m sure she finds a lot of what I say painful, I’m sure I’ll find a lot of what she says painful. If you let me finish that’d be great.”
Ms O’Hagan then cuts in: “It’s going to be painful again” and he responds: “Oh, it’s going to be painful again according to you? That’s great to say. I do not think it’s in the interest of the country right now, to go in.
“The Prime Minister has been singled out more than any other world leader for the exceptional support he’s provided to President Zelensky. It’s incredibly important and I think going into two or three months destabilising leadership election right now, the happiest person would be if Boris went would be Putin. He’s the person who’d be most happy about that, and you guys of course.”
Host Jo Coburn asked if that was “painful” or needed to be considered, she replied.
“Obviously you can support the Ukrainian president and have a party and lie about it. Obviously, you can do that. Yes, it was painful to hear that again and this whole thing of ‘Oh, you guys would love that’. I actually care about politics more than just scoring points with you or with Boris Johnson.
“I’m actually really worried about the state of politics at the moment because, as I said before, I speak to ordinary people all the time as part of my job at CLASS and people are angry and mistrustful and they’re disillusioned about politics thanks to the actions of the people in government at the moment and I don’t want to blame it all on them, there has been a slow decline in trust in politics for many many years. But we’re really in an emergency situation now. And this is making it a whole lot worse, and it’s threatening to our very democracy.”