The Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, was interviewed by Mishal Husain on the Radio 4 Today Programme this morning. At about 08.20 he was pressed on the party allegedly held in Downing Street shortly before Christmas last year. He said that he had been “briefed” in preparation for the interview, and been assured that anything that happened was “within the rules.”
Ms Husain asked him how it could have been within the rules. Mr Malthouse did not explain. He was not an investigator, he said, and if there was a party, which he was neither admitting nor denying, he was not at it. He simply accepted what he had been told which seems to have been the bare fact that it was “within the rules.”
There seems little doubt that a party did take place in Downing Street on 18th December 2020. Although the reports have been described as “unsubstantiated, anonymous claims” by the Deputy Prime Minister, there has been no denial of their substance.
No-one from the government has attempted to explain the basis on which the party could have been lawfully held. That may be because there is no explanation, or it may be because the explanation is more embarrassing than silence.
A “whiteout” is meteorological condition in whichsnow falling from the sky and snow whipped up from the ground is whirled by a gale into a disorientating blanket of whitenessin which there are no visual bearings and it is all but impossible to navigate. It is an apt metaphor for the blizzard of coronavirus regulations which have cascaded out of Whitehall (and of course Cardiff and Holyrood too) since March. A search of the www.legislation.gov.uk website reveals a mind-boggling 133 (albeit each Welsh regulation is counted twice in English and Welsh versions) separate pieces of UK legislation, nearly all of them statutory instruments. Thus we have such delights as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (Amendment No. 7) Regulations, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford) Regulations 2020 and so on. And on and on. It is enormously difficult to find ones bearings amidst all these constantly changing rules and regulations. As David Allen Green put it on August 14th:
“There is not a lawyer or police officer in the land who any longer knows what is legal and not legal under coronavirus regulations. An absolute mess of a legal regime.”