Well, this at least solves the conundrum. They obviously did have a party. Then, they childishly chose to deny it, laughing as they did so. The bigwigs, including the Prime Minister who was upstairs, presumably all knew perfectly well that it had happened and the Chief of Police decided to be lenient about it. It puts them all in a big hole for a monster cover-up.
There is something faintly fascinating in observing the responses to the reports of the Christmas party held on December 18th.
1. It did not happen.
This is the line pursued by the Downing Street press office, who should know.
2. If it happened, it followed the rules.
This was the Prime Minister’s version in the House of Commons, although how it could have followed the rules has not been explained.
3. If it happened, it is too long ago to investigate.
This, the least plausible version, is the one adopted by Dame Cressida Dick and the Minister of Justice, who must both know that the police are constantly required to investigate incidents which took place in the distant past. Also, it would be elementary to substantiate as the police will already hold records of who was there (if it happened).
4. It may have happened, but there are more important things to worry about.
This is the line now being peddled by MPs.
All of this would be fine, assuming that it did not happen. But it appears increasingly obvious that it did, as more details of it emerge. So, how does the government extricate itself ? I look forward to the answer.
Like lots of people, I have been pondering the fact that while we were all locked up indoors this time last year under strict government orders not to meet anyone outside a bubble, members of the Downing Street staff were themselves having a big Christmas party. The thing I find odd about this is not whether or not the Prime Minister was there or whether or not the police are in a position to investigate retrospectively, but the fact that forty or fifty civil servants and senior policy advisors thought that it was appropriate to do precisely the opposite of what everyone else had been instructed to do, not least by those people who were themselves in the room. Did they not think it might look a bit odd if and when it came to light as it was almost bound to do ? In fact, what seems particularly odd is that it did not come to light at the time and that the press decided to keep quiet about it, as well as the police standing outside the door as guests rolled out drunk into the night.
I thought that my article about what the Ruffers are doing in Bishop Auckland was not appearing till next weekend, but it seems already to be online (see below). As readers of my blog will already know, I greatly admired not just the new Gallery of Spanish Art in the town square, but the whole way that culture is being used very creatively as an instrument of civic regeneration. Perhaps most impressive of all is the building of the forthcoming Faith Museum designed by Niall McLaughlin. It is one of the best and most impressive places I have seen in 2021.
I read this account of the historic significance of the Bevis Marks Synagogue and felt it conveyed very clearly not just its significance as a building per se, but also the way that it symbolises the role of Jewry in the life of the City and the country as whole:-
I have been mildly castigated for being rude about Owen Paterson, who suffered the suicide of his wife. But at the moment, it seems that everywhere one looks the government is tearing up the rule book. I’m afraid that I find one of the more repugnant is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, taking loans from his own company – a mere £6 million – without bothering to declare them. I find this particularly offensive because a) he is the Leader of the House. If anyone should be setting standards, he surely should. He is not some backbench rascal, trying to top up his income. b) he presents himself as a parody of Victorian probity and this is now revealed to be a total sham. He’s a crook, dressed up to look like a gentleman.
I missed the attached review of the Garden Museum Café (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/garden-museum-cafe-lambeth-restaurant-review-b1919120.html). I am posting it because it says everything I think and feel about the café – the quality of the food and of the surrounding environment, which is so therapeutic post-COVI when you don’t necessarily want to eat hugger mugger. And you can talk.
I should have pointed out that there is a very full description of Orchard House in the recently published volume of the Survey of London (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/sites/bartlett/files/sol_oxfordst_chapter11.pdf). It would be entirely characteristic that a building should be demolished just at the moment when its history is properly appreciated.
I have been following with interest the debates round the plans to demolish the Marks and Spencer building on Oxford Street and replace it by a very standardised and totally undistinguished building by Pilbrow and Partners (who ?), instead of refurbishing it. The case is well put by Nicholas Boys Smith in the article below. The current building is not especially important, but representative of thoughtful, somewhat classical design of the 1920s, which has not been much studied or esteemed, but is not without historical interest; and isn’t it better and more interesting than the planned replacement ? I don’t think it’s Euston Arch, but Westminster should be doing more to promote refurbishment than needless and environmentally damaging demolition. And so too should Marks and Spencer.
I am sometimes inordinately grateful to Google. At the moment, my news feed intersperses bad news with occasional repostings of reviews of my museums book. Most I have seen before, but it is still (normally) a treat to read them at leisure. Today, they selected one I had nor seen ny someone who bought the book by mistake. All the greater was my pleasure to discover how much she had enjoyed it and how thoughtfully she summarises its themes and issues, including a quotation I had forgotten from Renzo Piano: ‘There’s no such thing as neutral space. Neutral architecture is pointless architecture, like soup that tastes like nothing, or a boring novel. But it’s equally clear that a museum should let the work of art take centre stage’.