After weeks of mumbled rumours and whispered gossip, this was the week when “Pestminster” (every scandal needs a name) really came out of the shadows. The first casualty was the Defence Secretary who decided to fall-on his sword after some relatively low level allegations of putting his hand on a journalist’s knee, although potentially with much darker rumours about his past yet to come out.
What happens next on Pestminster remains to be seen, but few believe Sir Michael Fallon will be the last person to go. Most people have now seen the spreadsheet of allegations that has been doing the rounds. It is a mish-mash of the completely trivial and the completely fine (one MP is listed for having a child with his actual girlfriend!), alongside appalling abuses of power and serious criminal allegations.
For Theresa May, this is a nightmare scenario. Whilst the misconduct is not purely on the Tory side, with Labour now having suspended Kelvin Hopkins MP, the Government always pays the highest price for Westminster scandals. Just think back to the damage that the MPs’ expenses scandal did to Labour, leading to serious changes in Parliament and long-lasting damage to the reputation of politics overall. It seems likely that Pestminster will have an even higher impact, especially given the current global-mood against high-power figures who abuse their position. An immediate consequence has been Theresa May having to undertake a minor reshuffle of her Cabinet without truly knowing whether the people she is moving around will be the next to face accusations themselves.
Moreover, the PM is already an isolated figure and there are few in the Cabinet she trusts. Michael Fallon was one of them, and Damian Green – who has faced accusations of his own this week – is another. She has lost one ally, and no-one would be surprised if she lost the other before long. Her lonely job is getting lonelier by the day.