The scandal engulfing Robert Jenrick moved from the serious to the somewhat farcical when Nadhim Zahawi, a Government Minister, told the BBC that if anyone else wanted to lobby their MP then they could pay to attend a Conservative Party fundraiser as well.
With that comment, the Tory mask that Boris Johnson is a man of the people slipped: this is not a Prime Minister or a Government that really cares about the so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda.
I personally think telling everyone that life is fair because they can all come to your party’s expensive fundraisers is a funny and worrying kind of ‘levelling up’.
While the Prime Minister has stated that he views the Jenrick matter as closed, people he claims to represent might have another thing to say about that.
Just as with Dominic Cummings, they believe there is one law for them and another law for us. Frankly, the Conservative Party are insulting the general public by pretending this row is simply a ‘Westminster bubble’ issue. This is about public confidence in the Government.
It is important to remember what is at the heart of this row; a planning decision. The same kind of decision that affects every community across our country on a daily basis. Talk to any MP and they will tell you that few issues fill their postbag quite like a planning issue, especially one like this that appears to be mired in controversy.
We are facing a housing crisis in this country, especially in affordable housing. Indeed, one of the reasons the Westferry project was questioned by the local community was because of the lack of affordable housing in the plan. Robert Jenrick approved it anyway, before later being forced to quash it.
The lack of affordable housing is an issue that plagues almost every community across the country. If the Government really cared about levelling up as much as their press releases claim then they would be taking bolder action on housing, not approving developments that fall short of what we need.
What we have learnt since is the tawdry details of the contact between the developer and the Housing Secretary, that there was a donation to the Conservative party just weeks after the development was approved and that the two sat next to each other at a fundraiser.
Any Minister with a conscience would have resigned by now. Any Prime Minister showing a modicum of leadership would have sacked him. But sadly, we are governed by people who appear to lack both.
The reality is that Boris Johnson continues to stand by Robert Jenrick, just as he did with Dominic Cummings – because he arrogantly does not care what you think. He does not care about levelling-up.
There is no depth Boris Johnson won’t plumb to look after those closest to him, even when their actions fall far short of every basic expectation of those people in power.
Working with other Opposition Parties, Liberal Democrats will work on behalf of the British people to hold this Prime Minister and his Cabinet to account. While millions have sacrificed so much to help others in this pandemic it is not acceptable for this Government to act like the rules don’t apply to them.