Marr: Boris is an albino gorilla next to timid little Tories who'd rather hide than face him

25 May 2022, 18:21 | Updated: 25 May 2022, 18:41

Andrew Marr branded Boris Johnson an "albino gorilla"
Andrew Marr branded Boris Johnson an "albino gorilla". Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Andrew Marr says Sue Gray's report confirms Boris Johnson's past assertion that no rules were broken in the Partygate saga is "nonsense".

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The damning report, with its tales of spilled wine, sick and abuse of cleaning and security staff, has once again got the Prime Minister fighting for his job.

But comparing him to an albino gorilla in the face of timid Tories, Andrew said nobody managed to lay a glove on the "beast" who just wants to be Prime Minister more.

Speaking at the start of Tonight with Andrew Marr after the Sue Gray report was published, he said: "It's been one heck of a day in the story of Boris Johnson's government and I'm going to start today's show slightly differently. There is no more formidable weapon in modern life, no greater gift, than an open microphone.

"And with your permission, today I'm just going to use it.

"Some of you will be in the car, wondering when those lights are going to change.

"Some will just have shuffled some beans or fish fingers down the kids and - I can see you - are about to surreptitiously finish up what they haven't eaten.

"Some of you jogging on this sticky, sweaty evening, are listening on little earbuds. Some are watching on your computers, a beer lined up alongside.

"But I assume and I hope - you're all interested in the Boris Johnson story. So what, tonight, do you really need to know? First thing, obviously, you're not going to get a new prime minister anytime soon.

Nobody managed to lay a finger on Boris, Andrew Marr says
Nobody managed to lay a finger on Boris, Andrew Marr says. Picture: Alamy

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"Now might think that's, frankly weird, since for weeks and months he's been telling us and the House of Commons no rules were broken in those parties which didn't happen.

"And now today we have it, in black and white - not just that the rules were broken but those broke the rules at the parties knew it at the time - they discussed it - some at least thought were taking a lead from the Prime Minister… and what followed is laid out in gruesome detail in the Sue Gray report – the wine stains on the walls, the vomit, the boozy rudeness to staff. Frankly, What he'd told us before is nonsense.

"So how come he is still there? Well, here's the second thing you need to know - his defence. He says he turned up to thank staff who were leaving, he left again and he had no idea about the parties that were going on in his absence. Here he is in the Commons.

"That presupposes two things. First, that it's a very well insulated building - somehow he couldn't hear and missed all the partying going on around him, and he was genuinely shocked to read about it when Sue Gray dug it out much later.

Next to the Tory MPs, Boris Johnson is an albino gorilla says Marr
Next to the Tory MPs, Boris Johnson is an albino gorilla says Marr. Picture: Alamy

"Well that's just plausible - No10 is indeed a very big and rambling place. But it also suggests a strangely incurious Prime Minister. I mean, when all those stories came out why didn't he just turn to all the people around him and ask what had been going on?

"At a press conference in Downing Street after he’d left the Commons I asked him just that.

"But as the inquiry was beginning to grind on, he was still telling everyone, with confidence, as prime minister, that no rules had been broken. It was nonsense. I say again, why didn't he just ask? This lack of crucial knowledge is very important to the prime minister's future because if you lie to the Commons, under our system, you are out.

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"The next thing you need to know, however, is that politics is an animal business. Johnson just wants it more, wants to stay there more, than any of his Tory opponents. He is a big, sometimes charismatic, sometimes ferocious beast, the albino gorilla.

"The rest of them by comparison are timid little vegetarian things who constantly run off into the undergrowth when a confrontation seems to be coming. They don’t have the glossy, lower organs, as it were, to take him on. And today the big beast had found a new formula - words which sounded as if he had learnt his lessons and was, possibly, contrite.

"He took full responsibility, by my count around 12 times during his Commons statement and then several times more during the press conference afterwards.

"But what does taking responsibility mean these days? Is it just a verbal flourish? What follows from it? In the old days, taking personal responsibility was almost a synonym I'm about to resign. I don't know what it means now.

Read more: 'You can't be lawmaker and lawbreaker': Keir tells Boris 'game is up' after Gray report

"Anyway, this extraordinary day has started with an almost festival atmosphere in the coffee bars around Westminster – the kind of slightly hysterical brittle cheerfulness I imagine you saw in on the cobbled streets in the old days before a public hanging.

"No nobody actually thought this time the chief culprit would consent to be hanged, we all knew you would hand back the rope with a smile and a bold admission of personal responsibility. But we felt something would happen – some kind of reckoning after all this time and hoo-ha. And my friends, we were all wrong.

"The Labour leader stuck to economics in Prime Minister's Questions, which meant it turned into a competition about tax policies, the kind of wham-bam verbal electioneering Boris Johnson excels in. After 40 minutes, I have to tell you, for all the opposition rhetoric, nobody had laid a finger on him. But Keir Starmer who loathes the idea that politicians are all the same and that he is somehow similar to Boris Johnson, sounded properly stern.

"Boris Johnson, remember, is supposed to be in full apology form. Humble pie, grovel sauce. Sorry, sorry, sorry. But - oops, he seemed to forget all that as he exploded delightedly at the Labour leader.

"As I've said before, politics is often more like cage wrestling than sophisticated exchange of arguments. Quite soon the Tory benches made a noise which sounded like Shrek being sick, quite possibly after a leaving party, and which is meant to signify their approval.

"After about 10 minutes of Johnson's explanation they started to leave the chamber for lunch. Nothing more to see here. A very few were bold enough to stand up and to tell him what they really thought of him. One of them, who’ll join me later on was Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee.

"And he's not alone. Quite a few Tory MPs both say today that Boris Johnson is safe as prime minister and that this whole sorry saga will help cost them power in the election whenever it comes. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty strange proposition.

"As I said before, the biggest problem for him in the short-term is whether he can be proved to have lied to Parliament. In the first week of June, a committee, the privileges committee, will start to look at that.

"There are Tory MPs in the majority but, having looked at them in detail, I can tell you they are likely to be pretty tough. After that will come some by elections and then one day – it's over to you, to all of you, in a general election. Now, we are all busy, we've all got quite short attention spans. But still, my friends, don't forget what didn't happen today."