AFTER weeks of denying that he broke any rules, and dodging questions about whether he attended any of the numerous parties alleged to have taken place in Downing Street, at PMQs today, and with his job at long last on the line after his repeated contempt for the rules that the rest of us had to follow, often at great personal and emotional cost, we were expected to believe that Johnson is sorry, Peppa Pig sorry, for being present at a bring your own bottle party in the gardens of Downing Street during the height of lockdown in May 2020.

At the time, the regulations prohibited meeting up with more than one other person outdoors. Overly zealous police forces were stopping people out for a walk in the hills and patrolling parks and other public places in order to break up any gatherings of more than two people.

Johnson's defence is that he didn't think he was actually attending the party he'd been invited to attend, as he stood there with his drink and his canapes exchanging small talk, with 30 or 40 more people than the single person his own government's regulations had ruled was the maximum number you were permitted to meet up with. 

He claims that he thought he was at a work event. It's a bit like being tried on a charge of armed robbery and telling the court that yes, you had indeed gone into the bank brandishing a gun and with a stocking over your head, but you didn't realise that you were taking part in a robbery and thought you were actually just helping the bank to test its security measures, so you should really be rewarded for your efforts to assist the financial sector.

Just when you thought that this Conservative government of lying charlatans and hypocrites couldn't find any lower ways of insulting our intelligence, they break through the bottom of the barrel in order to plumb fresh depths of contempt.

Johnson claimed that he only went out into the garden briefly in order to thank staff for all their hard work, and he is sorry that he didn't tell them all to go back inside. It's the Prince Andrew defence. The disgraced royal claimed that when he flew across the Atlantic in order to stay with convicted sex predator Jeffrey Epstein, all he was guilty of was an excess of personal honour as he wanted to break off his friendship with Epstein in person. Johnson, a man who has displayed repeatedly by his actions that he cares about no one but himself, suddenly wants us to believe that all he is guilty of is an excessive consideration for the feelings of his staff, although not sufficient consideration that he's going to buy them a drink rather than expecting them to bring their own.

MPs from the opposition benches responded with fury and incredulity to Johnson's ridiculous excuse. There was a rare moment of unity between Labour, SNP and LibDem MPs as one after another they took to their feet to rubbish Johnson's lies and pathetic attempt to wriggle off the hook.

Meanwhile, Alberto Costa, the Tory MP for Toady on the Make, chose this moment to ask a question about washing machines, which was appropriate since his boss was being put through the wringer.

Johnson batted back all the criticisms and demands for his resignation by insisting that MPs would have to wait for the report into the party – sorry, "work event” – by senior civil servant Sue Gray. He's not out of the woods yet, but this is a prime minister whose career hangs by a thread, he's clearly hoping that the Gray report will follow the long and inglorious tradition of official reports into the alleged misdeeds of powerful British politicians and provide him with enough wriggle room to brazen it out, and crucially to provide craven Conservative backbenchers with sufficient cover to allow them to continue to defend him. If that does happen it will be the final proof that the Westminster system is broken beyond repair.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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