For a man who believes he has already been vindicated by the privileges committee, Boris Johnson and his allies are putting in a lot of effort to discredit the inquiry and change the narrative.
First was a lengthy statement from the former prime minister, then a rare on-camera interview to address the claims, and now a parliamentary ally dialing in at 7am on a Saturday morning from his holiday in Bulgaria to issue an at-times reality-stretching rebuttal.
Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said the current probe was “relying on evidence” from Sue Gray – the senior civil servant who investigated lockdown breaches and is now set to join Labor as Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.
The privileges committee – which is majority Tory – has already said it is not relying on the previous inquiry and is running its own.
But even if that wasn’t the case, mr johnson claimed last May that he was vindicated by the conclusions of the Sue Gray report.
If that’s correct – why the push now to recast the investigation as an undercover Labor plot?
Indeed, eyebrows were sent skywards this week at the fact the news Ms Gray is set to become Sir Keir’s chief of staff leaked just days before the privileges committee update emerged, with some suspecting a Johnson dark arts operation designed to undermine the inquiry.
On the core allegations, Mr Bristow also claimed that anyone who looked at the party gate issue “independently” would see it was “ridiculous”.
Reminded of the fact that the police had independently investigated and issued 126 fines for lockdown breaches, the backbencher accused officers of taking an “inconsistent” approach.
The nub of the issue for those still loyal to the former prime minister though came in Mr Bristow’s suggestion that their man was pushed out of power “because of a few soggy sandwiches from Sainsburys”.
This goes to the center of the narrative that Mr Johnson and those around him have been weaving in recent months – that there was no solid reason for him to be ejected from power beyond political conspiracy among his Westminster enemies.
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Again though, this ignores the persistent run of scandals that characterized the Johnson administration culminating in his botched handling of sexual harassment allegations connected to a close political ally.
Yes, Partygate hobbled the former prime minister, but it was the Chris Pincher affair – and the sense among MPs that Downing Street could no longer be trusted to tell the truth – that finished him off.
This all leads to a broader question – why is “Team Johnson” going to quite so much effort to man the barricades ahead of his appearance in front of MPs later this month?
One ally disagrees that it’s because they sense political danger. There have been real concerns from the start about the process and the membership of the privileges committee. they insist.
The potential for an ignominious ending to Mr Johnson’s frontline career hangs heavy, though.
If the probe ends in a lengthy suspension, then a recall petition and an embarrassing by-election may follow.
For Rishi Sunakthe removal of Mr Johnson from the Westminster stage may hold some advantages in reducing the chances of rebellions or a leadership challenge.
In the short term though, a return to rows about lockdown parties has shifted attention from some of the tangible progress the prime minister has made in areas like Brexit.
For more moderate MPs too, there’s a sense of exasperation. One said that “no one sensible really wants to go through all this again”.
The risk for Mr Johnson is that even if he comes through all of this, the abrupt return of political drama and intrigue may just remind Tories why they forced him out in the first place.